UC Santa Barbara > History Department > Prof. Marcuse > Courses > Hist 133c Homepage > 133c Book Essays Index page > Student essay
The Life of Afro-German Occupation Children
Book Essay on: Heide Fehrenbach, Race After Hitler: Black Occupation Children in Postwar Germany and America
by Andrea Small
for Prof. Marcuse's lecture course
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:
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)
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: