Thousands Of Black Victims Of Holocaust Show It Really Happened
We are living in a time when truth and fact are intentionally twisted and woven in vicious lies and fiction, an ascendant time for far right neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Christian nationalists.
It is a time when a violent insurrection at the nation’s Capitol by supporters of a traitorous president is termed normal civil discourse by those who would rewrite history to their own vile benefit. It is a time when African American history is being discredited in schools around the nation, when transgender and other members of the LGBTQ+ community are branded as sick and dangerous.
And it is a time of a metastasized version of deadly anti-Semitism where Adolf Hitler is revered. It is fertile soil for those who believe in the obscene lie that the Holocaust either never occurred or has been grossly exaggerated. Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a date designated in 2005 by the U.N. General Assembly to honor the victims of Nazism. The resolution supports the development of educational programs to remember the Holocaust and to prevent further genocide.
The date marks the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, one of many camps where millions of Jews and others were systematically murdered.
Jews were the principal victims of Adolf Hitler’s diabolical plan for racial purity but they were not the only groups who were murdered en masse.
The Nazis also targeted political opponents, trade union activists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Roma, Poles, Soviets, people with disabilities and Afro-Germans.
The Nazis did not have an organized program along the lines of the “final solution” for Afro-Germans but an unknown number were sterilized, imprisoned or murdered. There were an estimated 25,000 black and mixed race people in Germany during the war. They were known by the derogatory term, “Rhineland Bastards,” and most were the progeny of black, French colonial troops from Africa that were stationed in the Rhineland region after World War I. Some were children of black French police who patrolled areas of Germany’s borderlands controlled by France after World War I.
Racist Nazi propaganda depicted them as rapists of German women and carriers of venereal and other diseases. Afro-Germans were children with one African parent and one German parent. Hitler referred to them in his autobiography, “Mein Kampf,” when he wrote, “the Jews had brought the Negroes into the Rhineland with the clear aim of ruining the hated white race by the necessarily-resulting bastardization.”
German newspapers ran stories about the alleged “Black Horror on the Rhine,” accusing black Senegalese soldiers of routinely gang-raping thousands of German women and girls on a daily basis. Author Guido Kreutzer wrote in his 1921 novel, “Die Schwarze Schmach: Der Roman des geschändeten Deutschlands (The Black Shame A Novel of Disgraced Germany),” that all mixed race children born in the Rhineland are born “physically and morally degenerate.”
Their skin color made it impossible for Afro-Germans to hide from Nazi persecution. They were isolated and were prohibited from attending universities and seeking most jobs. By the end of 1937, the Gestapo had rounded up and forcibly sterilized many Afro-Germans. Some were subjected to medical experiments and others just vanished.
Among the early Afro-German martyrs was Hilarius “Lari” Gilges, an actor, dancer and Communist activist from Düsseldorf, Germany. He was 24 when the Nazis murdered him on June 20, 1933, for his politics, and his race.
Gilges’ mother was a white textile worker and his father was black. He grew up in the working class section of Düsseldorf and joined the German Communist Youth in about 1925 or 1926. He became an amateur actor with the communist agitprop theater group “Nordwest ran.” Gilges was arrested in 1931 and sentenced to a year in prison because of his radical politics. After his release in 1932 he continued as an active communist agitator.
By 1933, the Nazis were in power and Gilges tried to hide but he was caught in his apartment. His mutilated body was found under a bridge the next day. Gilges had been stabbed 37 times and shot through the head, apparently murdered by six members of the Gestapo and Secret Police. Even after the war, none of the alleged killers were prosecuted.
In 2003, the city of Düsseldorf named a plaza after Gilges, in the vicinity of the Düsseldorf Academy of Arts.
Another victim of the Nazis was jazz musician Valaida Snow, known as “Little Louis” after the legendary Louis Armstrong. She performed around the world and toured Europe in the 1930s. While in German-occupied Denmark, Snow was arrested and imprisoned. She was released in a May 1942 prisoner exchange, but never recovered from the trauma of imprisonment. Snow resumed performing in the U.S. and died in 1956. She was 51.
African American horn and piano player Freddy Johnson was on tour in German-occupied Amsterdam when he was arrested in December 1941 and interned at the Tittmoning prisoner-of-war camp. In February 1944, Johnson was released from the camp in a prisoner exchange.
Josef Nassy was a black portrait artist of Jewish descent. Nassy had a U.S. passport and in 1942, he was arrested in German-occupied Belgium as an enemy alien. He was interned and held for seven months in the Beverloo transit camp in Belgium. Nassy was transferred to Germany, where he spent the rest of the war in the Laufen internment camp and its subcamp, Tittmoning.
Hans Hauck was an Afro-German who served in the Wehrmacht during the Nazi regime. He was the son of an Algerian soldier of black descent who served in the French Army. During 1935 or 1936 Hauck was sterilized under the Nazi racial purity measures. Hauck joined the Wehrmacht in 1942, a time when Germany was desperate for soldiers. He was wounded five times, and captured by the Red Army in 1945 and released in 1949.
Theodor Wonja Michael was a German child actor, journalist and public servant, as well as a prominent speaker on living as an Afro-German and as a prisoner in Nazi forced labor camps during Nazi Germany. Michael’s father worked in human zoos where his son also had to perform in stereotypical African dress.
Michael earned his living as a circus actor and as an extra in colonial movies made by ufa, a German company that made propaganda films for the Nazis. Until 1942 he made about 100 colonial movies on behalf of the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda which glorified the German colonial era. In 1943 Michael was imprisoned near Berlin and forced to labor until the labor camp was liberated by the Red Army in May 1945.
Black soldiers of the American, French, and British armies who were captured were worked to death on construction projects or died in concentration or prisoner-of-war camps. Others were immediately killed by the SS or Gestapo.
More than one million African Americans served in the segregated military during World War II. Among them was the 761st Tank Battalion, an all-African American tank unit, under the command of Gen. George Patton. The battalion participated in the liberation of Gunskirchen, a subcamp of the Mauthausen concentration camp, in May 1945.
The 761st was known as the Black Panthers after their unit’s insignia, which featured a black panther’s head. The battalion received a Presidential Unit Citation and many individual members received medals, including one Medal of Honor, 11 Silver Stars and about 300 Purple Hearts.
The most famous member of the 761st was the future baseball hall of famer, First Lieutenant Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson. During basic training, a white bus driver told Robinson to move to the back of the bus but Robinson refused and was arrested. Robinson was later acquitted of all charges.
Another member of the 761st was Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1997.