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Fehrenbach, book cover

The Life of Afro-German Occupation Children

Book Essay on: Heide Fehrenbach, Race After Hitler: Black Occupation Children in Postwar Germany and America
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 263 pages. UCSB: Amazon: see below

by Andrea Small
December 10, 2008

for Prof. Marcuse's lecture course
Germany, 1945-present
UC Santa Barbara, Fall 2008

About the Author
& Abstract
and Links
Plagiarism Warning & Links
Amazon.com page

About Andrea Small

I am a senior History major who has been studying the politics and racism of war in the 20th century. Although I did not have much knowledge of German politics, I continued to research the affects of occupation children in Germany following the defeat of Hitler and the end of World War II. I was also interested in the psychological reasoning many Afro-German occupation children endured as they grew up in a pure race society.

Abstract (back to top)

Both Ika Hugel Marshall's Invisible Woman: Growing Up Black in Germany and Heide Fehrenbach's Race After Hitler: Black Occupation Children and America, show how the United States attempted to democratize, demilitarize, denazify by reeducating West Germans on racial hierarchy and desegregation, while at the same time hypocritically implementing Jim Crow segregation in the United States and within their military troops. The United States' attempt to promote equality amongst West Germans was not initially effective because of the racist actions towards Aryan German women and Afro-German occupation babies. Both authors vividly tell of the struggle of identity of Afro-German occupation babies and the racism they endured because of their family lineage.

Essay (back to top)

Racism, often unspoken of, is a method of oppression implemented on one racial group by another racial group. During the years after World War II, the United States fought to stop the spread of communism and attempted to democratize all nations the Allies occupied. Democratization was no exception for American occupation in Germany after 1945. Attempting to reform the West German government and end racism in Germany after Hitler, they also implemented a form of Jim Crow separation among African American G.I. and amongst Afro-German occupation babies. Although the United States believed that the spread of democracy was good, the American military forces created a new form of separation and racism amongst white Germans and biracial German occupation children. In comparing Ika Hugel Marshall's Invisible Woman: Growing Up Black in Germany and Heide Fehrenbach's Race After Hitler: Black Occupation Children and America, the United States attempted to democratize, demilitarize, denazify by reeducating West Germans on racial hierarchy and desegregation, while the United States hypocritically implemented Jim Crow segregation in the United States and in their military troops. The United States' attempt to promote equality amongst West Germans was not initially effective because of the racist actions towards “Aryan” German women and Afro German occupation babies.

Fighting against communism and fascism in the world, the United States hypocritically allowed racism within their troops and at home. According to Heide Fehrenbach's Race after Hitler: Black Occupation Children in Post War Germany and America, the United States was “undergoing an uneasy period of challenges and adjustments to entrenched racial ideology after 1945.” (19) Fehrenbach argues, that despite the United States' goals of occupying Germany to democratize, denazify and demilitarize the land, the United States was experiencing racial turmoil at home and within their troops. Jim Crow segregation was a major issue debated widely by many African Americans such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People throughout the early and mid 1900s. Racial segregation and racial hierarchy was a key political issue in America, as well as in the military troops.

The Afro-German Occupation Baby Dilemma

Although the United States intended to reeducate about racial equality in Germany after Nazism, they failed to implement desegregation amongst themselves and Mischlinges or mixed blood occupation children and other pure German citizens.Fehrenbach offers the views of the condition of the Mischlinge children in Germany. The first view was for the Mischlinge children to “stay in Germany and be raised by their families or in orphanages with other white children so they could cope with like struggles from an early age.” (1) The second view was that any children that “showed physical signs of their father's racial inheritance” should be sent to America. (2) The final view was that the Mischlinge children should be “segregated into group homes in Germany where they were educated with an eye to their future emigration.” (2)

Segregation of Afro-German Children: Life of Ika Hugel Marshall

Ika Hugel Marshall was an example of a Mischlinge child being segregated into a group home away from her family because of her African lineage from her African American G.I. father. Born in Bavaria, Germany in 1947 to a German woman and African American G.I., Ika became one of many occupation children that were considered to be towards the bottom of the German racial hierarchy and destined to experience segregation and racism throughout their life as German citizens. Ika wrote that on September 12, 1944, a so called Fraternization Ban was announced to keep United States soldiers from being interfered by Nazi Germans. (3) Although the Fraternization Ban forbade Ika's parents from seeing each other, they along with other Aryan German women and American G.I's, snuck around to continue their relationships and bore children.

Over the years, the fraternization ban was relaxed but racism still remained in West Germany. Many Aryan German women who were in relationships with American G.I. were often called Ami sweethearts, Ami whores, or Nigger whores if they were in a relationship with an African American man. (4) Although the fraternization ban laws were relaxed, American G.I and African American men were not able to visit German households and marry German women. West Germany slowly lifted its social hierarchy beliefs as integration was slowly applied in the United States army.

Like many American soldiers, Ika's father was re-stationed by the time her mother found out she was pregnant. Many Afro-German occupation children were left in single parent homes because of the military reassignment of their fathers before their births. By 1952, there were approximately ninety-four thousand occupation babies, with approximately three thousand of them of mixed race. (5)

Many West Germans believed that the best way to protect Negermischling, or mixed race Negro children from racism in Germany was to segregate them in schools away from their families and mainstream German culture. In Ika's story, she wrote that a representative from the Pentecostal Society and the Independent Protestant Association came to visit her mother to persuade her to allow Ika to move into their children's home for disabled. (7) The group home director told Ika's mother:

This is no reflection on your abilities as a mother, Frau Popp. But surely you know how people are in small towns, how they talk. Please permit me to give you some very sound and serious advice, and please I recall that I am the director of Youth Services here and in charge of such things. In short, I urge you to let your daughter go. It's the right thing. Send her to a place where she can grow up without the burdens she would face here.(7)

The director also made statements that Ika would never amount to anything if she stayed at home. Many group home directors felt that the harshness of racism would corrupt Negermischilng children to where they would end up with low paying jobs and having children out of wedlock.

Although the group home director wanted to make it appear that they were trying to help Ika and protect her from the racism she was destined to receive in West Germany, they were implementing the American Jim Crow system by separating her from her Aryan German family, and placing her in a home to receive the level of education and discipline they provided. While attending the group home away from her family, Ika wrote that she was forced to do chores. She also wrote that she initially was not taught to write, mail a letter, how to shop, to cook, or even make a phone call. (13) The institution that was advertised to help mixed blood children learn basic skills and to protect them from the racism of West Germany, acted similar as slavery in the United States by not teaching Ika the skills she needed to be independent and brutalizing her, for example by force feeding her vomit. Although Ika lived in the group home, she experienced ample amounts of racism outside of the home in her small village during breaks and at school where she became conscious of the color of her skin.

Although Ika's early life at the group home was slave-like, there were groups in Germany to start reeducation programs to fight racism and prejudices. Heide Fehrenbach wrote that in 1948, the West German chapters of the Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation, with the assistance of the American Military Government's Office of Religious Affairs created a mission to “analyze and eliminate existing prejudices…strengthen the social order, and promote justice, understanding, and cooperation between Protestants, Catholics, and Jews.” (92) The Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation worked towards the reeducation programs in West German schools. The SCJC was modeled after the National Council of Christians and Jews in the United States which fought against anti-Semitism and racial violence caused by the Ku Klux Klan. (92)

Afro-German as a Curse

Being a Negermischling, Ika was given many stereotypes such as a demon child while living in the group home. In 1957, Ika wrote that a gray station wagon was there to take her to another home in Hamburg, where she will have the Devil exorcised from her. (25) Ika was stereotyped because of her mother's relationship with an African American G.I. The nun asked Ika if she wanted to be a “good girl because they all knew her mother was an unnatural hussy and let some Negro have his way with her…This was a grave sin, and it means that your blood is impure. You have a great deal of the Devil in you child…Write down all of your sins on a piece of paper for me.” (25) The nuns at the group home passed judgment upon Ika because of her parents relationship, and was seen to be impure and immoral to Aryan Germans. Ika was initially sent to the group home for her protection from racism in West Germany, and received just as harsh judgments by the nuns for being an Afro-German.

Ika's experience of being punished for the color of her skin and for her mother's actions with a black man, can be compared to the treatment of African slaves in the Jim Crow South. White Americans believed that black was the color of darkness and sin, and African slaves needed their souls saved by God. Slave masters treated their slaves as lost children that needed to be saved by God. The nuns at Ika's group home gave her plenty of reasons to hate the color of her skin and hate her father for cursing her with his heritage, but Ika remained curious to who and where her father was.

Ika later wrote about how racism controlled her marriage with Alexander. She stated that Alexander loved her, but did everything possible to avoid public intimacy after two years of their marriage. (75) Increasingly realizing he was ashamed of her, Ika lived in constant fear of displeasing him because she was his Black wife. When asked about children, Alexander responded that he did not want to have children with her. After six years of marriage, Alexander and Ika got a divorce and she joined the cause for women's rights in West Germany.

Afro-Germans in Social Movements

While participating in the women's suffrage movement, Ika realized that they only saw sexism and not racism as a political issue. When meeting with the women's suffrage group, Ika stated “As a black woman, I feel that our struggle for equality against sexism and oppression has overlooked the problem of racism.” (82) The women in the room did not feel that they were racist towards Blacks, but avoided the issue. One woman stated, “Come on, you know we're different from other women. How could we, as feminists, have anything against Blacks? If you have a specific problem to raise, okay, but try to leave skin color out of it.” (82) Ika saw that Aryan Germans did not even realize that they were being racist by attempting to avoid the issue of race being oppressive more than sexism.

Ika then found an Afro-German support group that she completely identified with. Within the group, Ika gained self pride in her German and African American heritage. She was motivated to find her African American father by hiring an investigator in America. Ika and her father wrote many letters to each other until she flew to Chicago, Illinois to see him. Upon seeing him, Ika inherited an entire family of African Americans that she would relate to in oppression and racism by whites. Many Afro-German occupation babies sought out to find their birth fathers that were relocated from Germany to other parts of the world.

Many Afro-German occupation babies found their biological fathers, while others were adopted by Americans and given the families they deserved. After viewing the Toxi films, which was used as a reeducation tool, the story of how Afro-German occupant babies came to be and the hardships they have was told, many Americans decided to adopt the Negermischilng children. By 1968, approximately seven thousand black children were adopted by American families. (133) Although it was not until Jim Crow was ruled illegal in the United States for racial segregation, that many Afro-German children were brought to America to start a new and promising life.

Bibliography and Links (back to top)(links last checked 12/x/08)


  • Aiken, Robbie. “Afro-German Occupation Children and Reformulations of Race in Postwar Germany.” H-Net Reviews in Humanities and Social Sciences. February 2006. www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=11440
    Robbie Aiken's review Afro-German Occupation Children and Reformulations of Race in Postwar Germany,” focuses more on the aspect of Afro-German Occupation children within Fehrenbach's book Race After Hitler. Aiken's review spoke of the “transitional constructions and articulations of race, gender, and ethnicity as well as about the post war democratization and transformation of West Germany.” Aiken's review gives a vivid breakdown of the main themes in Fehrenbach's book.
  • Mason, Patricia. “Book Review: Heide Fehrenbach- Race after Hitler: Black Occupation Children in Postwar Germany and America.” The American Historical Review. 112:1 (02/2007) http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jah/93.2/br_104.html
    Patricia Mason's review begins with a brief biography of Dr. Heide Fehrenbach. Mason describes Fehrenbach's book as an “interesting story of race, gender, and foreign policy and has ingeniously combined social and cultural history.” She states that Fehrenbach gives testimonies to her experiences as an Afro-German Occupation child and as a woman in Germany after Hitler. Fehrenbach gives a good description of racial conditions in Germany during the post WWII and Cold War eras.
  • Allison Capozzoli's UCSB Hist 133c review of Fehrenbach (2008)
  • Caitlin Rolla's UCSB Hist 133c review of Fehrenbach (2008)

Related Books

  • Daumke, Aija Poikane. African Diasporas: Afro-German Literature in the Context of the African Amereican Experience. LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster, 2006. Black Studies PT149.B55 P65 2006
    Aija Poikane Daumke's dissertation on Afro-German literature focuses on the Afro-German perspective during the 1980s. The activists of the movement were products of African American and German relationships during the war in Germany. Daumke further explains how Afro-German occupation children were considered a “racial disgrace” in German society and set as outcasts or treated as invisible. Aija Poikane Daumke's dissertation book gives a different insight into Afro-German feelings in post war Germany.
  • Opitz, May. Showing Our Colors. Univ of Massachusetts Press, 1992. Black Studies DD78.B55 F3713 1992 
    May Opitz book Showing Our Colors gives the female perspective to the racism and sexism within Germany after the war.


  • “Black History and Germany.” http://german.about.com/od/culture/a/blackhistger_4.htm [2006]
    This site gives examples of Afro-German accomplishments in building identities and careers despite being discriminated against as occupation children. This site also gives a vivid description to the terminology used to define Afro-Germans in the twentieth century.
  • “Afrodeutsche – Black Germans”[03/15/2008]
    This site gives insight into the aspects of being Afro-German during Nazism and post Nazism. It uses the lives and viewpoints of different Afro-Germans such as Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi, who is the retired managing editor of Ebony magazine. This article gives the perspective of Afro-Germans who immigrated to the United States. Wikipedia.“Afro-Germans” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afro-Germans
    This website gave me an understanding of the origins of Afro-Germans. It also stated that the next worse thing than being Afro-German during the Nazi era was being sterilized or sent to concentration camps. The site also states that many Afro-German families immigrated to other lands such as the United States in search of equality.

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Any student tempted to use this paper for an assignment in another course or school should be aware of the serious consequences for plagiarism. Here is what I write in my syllabi:

Plagiarism—presenting someone else's work as your own, or deliberately failing to credit or attribute the work of others on whom you draw (including materials found on the web)—is a serious academic offense, punishable by dismissal from the university. It hurts the one who commits it most of all, by cheating them out of an education. I report offenses to the Office of the Dean of Students for disciplinary action.

prepared for web by Harold Marcuse on 12/13/08; last updated:
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