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Books on Black Germans

Black Germany: The Making and Unmaking of a Diaspora Community, 1884-1960 (2013)
by Robbie Aitken and Eve Rosenhaft 
ISBN: 9781139649575

“This groundbreaking history traces the development of Germany’s black community, from its origins in colonial Africa to its decimation by the Nazis during World War II. Robbie Aitken and Eve Rosenhaft follow the careers of Africans arriving from the colonies, examining why and where they settled, their working lives and their political activities, and giving unprecedented attention to gender, sexuality and the challenges of ‘mixed marriage’. Addressing the networks through which individuals constituted community, Aitken and Rosenhaft explore the ways in which these relationships spread beyond ties of kinship and birthplace to constitute communities as ‘black’. The study also follows a number of its protagonists to France and back to Africa, providing new insights into the roots of Francophone black consciousness and postcolonial memory. Including an in-depth account of the impact of Nazism and its aftermath, this book offers a fresh critical perspective on narratives of ‘race’ in German history.”

Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender, and Memory in the Third Reich (2005)
by Tina Campt
ISBN: 9780472031382

“It’s hard to imagine an issue or image more riveting than Black Germans during the Third Reich. Yet accounts of their lives are virtually nonexistent, despite the fact that they lived through a regime dedicated to racial purity.

Tina M. Campt’s Other Germans tells the story of this largely forgotten group of individuals, with important distinctions from other accounts. Most strikingly, Campt centers her arguments on race, rather than anti-Semitism. She also provides an oral history as background for her study, interviewing two Black German subjects for her book.

In the end the author comes face to face with an inevitable question: Is there a relationship between the history of Black Germans and those of other black communities?

The answers to Campt’s questions make Other Germans essential reading in the emerging study of what it means to be black and German in the context of a society that looked at anyone with non-German blood as racially impure at best.”

Hitler’s black victims: the historical experiences of Afro-Germans, European Blacks, Africans, and African Americans in the Nazi era (2002) 
by Clarence Lusane
IBSN-13: 9780415932950

“Drawing on interviews with the black survivors of Nazi concentration camps and archival research in North America, Europe, and Africa, this book documents and analyzes the meaning of Nazism’s racial policies towards people of African descent, specifically those born in Germany, England, France, the United States, and Africa, and the impact of that legacy on contemporary race relations in Germany, and more generally, in Europe. The book also specifically addresses the concerns of those surviving Afro-Germans who were victims of Nazism, but have not generally been included in or benefited from the compensation agreements that have been developed in recent years.”

Showing Our Colors. Afro-German Women Speak Out (1991)
by May Opitz (Editor), Katharina Oguntoye (Editor), Dagmar Schultz (Editor), Anne V. Adams (Translator), Audre Lorde (Foreword)
IBSN-13: 9780870237607

“Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out is an English translation of the German book Farbe bekennen edited by author May Ayim, Katharina Oguntoye, and Dagmar Schultz. It is the first published book by Afro-Germans. It is the first written use of the term Afro-German.”

Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany (2001)
by Hans J. Massaquoi
IBSN-13: 9780060959616

“This is a story of the unexpected.In Destined to Witness, Hans Massaquoi has crafted a beautifully rendered memoir — an astonishing true tale of how he came of age as a black child in Nazi Germany. The son of a prominent African and a German nurse, Hans remained behind with his mother when Hitler came to power, due to concerns about his fragile health, after his father returned to Liberia. Like other German boys, Hans went to school; like other German boys, he swiftly fell under the Fuhrer’s spell. So he was crushed to learn that, as a black child, he was ineligible for the Hitler Youth. His path to a secondary education and an eventual profession was blocked. He now lived in fear that, at any moment, he might hear the Gestapo banging on the door — or Allied bombs falling on his home. Ironic,, moving, and deeply human, Massaquoi’s account of this lonely struggle for survival brims with courage and intelligence.”

Black German: An Afro-German Life in the Twentieth Century (2017)
by Theodor Michael, translated by Professor Eve Rosenhaft
IBSN-13: 9781781383117

“This is the first English translation of an important document in the history of the black presence in Germany and Europe: the autobiography of Theodor Michael.

Theodor Michael is among the few surviving members of the first generation of ‘Afro-Germans’: Born in Germany in 1925 to a Cameroonian father and a German mother, he grew up in Berlin in the last days of the Weimar Republic. As a child and teenager he worked in circuses and films and experienced the tightening knot of racial discrimination under the Nazis in the years before the Second World War. He survived the war as a forced labourer, founding a family and making a career as a journalist and actor in post-war West Germany. Since the 1980s he has become an important spokesman for the black German consciousness movement, acting as a human link between the first black German community of the inter-war period, the pan-Africanism of the 1950s and 1960s, and new generations of Germans of African descent. Theodor Michael’s life story is a classic account of coming to consciousness of a man who understands himself as both black and German; accordingly, it illuminates key aspects of modern German social history as well as of the post-war history of the African diaspora.”

Hitler’s African victims: the German Army massacres of Black French soldiers in 1940 (2006)
by Raffael Scheck
IBSN-13: 978-0521730617

“During its campaign against France in 1940, the German army massacred several thousand black POWs belonging to units drafted in France’s West African colonies. Documenting these war crimes on the basis of extensive research in French and German archives, Raffael Scheck advances a nuanced interpretation of the motivation for the massacres. Reviving traditional images of black soldiers as mutilating savages, a massive Nazi Propaganda offensive approved by Hitler, created their rationale. The treatment of black French POWs remained, however, suprisingly inconsistent, with abuses often triggered by certain combat situations.”

My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past (2016)
by Nikola Sellmair, Jennifer Teege, translated by Carolin Sommer
IBSN-13: 9781615193080

“At age 38, Jennifer Teege happened to pluck a library book from the shelf―and discovered a horrifying fact: Her grandfather was Amon Goeth, the vicious Nazi commandant depicted in Schindler’s List. Reviled as the ‘butcher of Plaszów,’ Goeth was executed in 1946. The more Teege learned about him, the more certain she became: If her grandfather had met her―a black woman―he would have killed her.

Teege’s discovery sends her into a severe depression―and fills her with questions: Why did her birth mother withhold this chilling secret? How could her grandmother have loved a mass murderer? Can evil be inherited?

Teege’s story is cowritten by Nikola Sellmair, who also adds historical context and insight from Teege’s family and friends, in an interwoven narrative. Ultimately, Teege’s search for the truth leads her, step by step, to the possibility of her own liberation.”

Clifford’s Blues (1999)
by John A. Williams
IBSN: 9781566890809

“If there is an undiscovered aspect of the black experience, it will be found by John A. Williams, one of the founding members of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. In his newest of twelve novels, Williams presents the fictionalized narrative of a black jazz musician imprisoned in Dachau who keeps himself alive by working as the band leader of a group of prisoners who play jazz at a nearby officers’ club. Clifford’s Blues penetrates a hidden portion of African American history, and the hidden reserves of the heart.

Told in journal form, this novel is the story of Clifford Pepperidge, a gay musician performing in Europe during the thirties. After he is caught in a compromising situation with a American diplomat, Clifford spends the duration of Hitler’s reign in Dachau. He escapes the worst horrors of the camp by working as the house servant to an SS officer. This novel explores the resilience of the human will, as well as the instincts and tools we draw on to survive persecution. On witnessing one day the execution of a friend, Clifford later writes: “I thought of Revelations: ‘I was dead and now I am to live forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and of the underworld.’ Now write down all that you see of present happenings and ‘things that are still to come.’””