Germany’s “Brown Babies”
Out of the 95,000 U.S. Occupation babies born in Germany in the 1950s – 60s there were approximately 5000 of us, Post WWII Afro-German children or so-called Negro mulatto babies, better known in the United States as Germany’s “Brown Babies.” In 1952, the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany) deemed that we formed a special group, presenting a human and racial problem of a special nature. Our national and cultural heritage; perhaps even our religious birthright, were seen to be in direct contrast to our skin color.
Brown Babies: The Mischlingskinder Story Wins Best Documentary African American Film Festival 2011
Two nations ashamed of their own: Nazi Germany and Jim Crow America. This is the true story of the children born in post-war Germany to black American soldiers and white German women, and the African-American socialite who took it upon herself to rescue hundreds of the children when armies and nations did nothing.
The use of the term “Mischlingskinder” is derogatory, but significant in its historical context. It was employed as legal classification during the Third Reich to demote German citizens to subjects on the basis of race. The uncontested retention of this term after 1945 was surprising; nonetheless, its meaning had changed. First, it was stripped of legal significance and returned to its pre-1935 use as social marker. Second, while it was earlier applied primarily to the children of Christian-Jewish unions, after 1945 this usage was dropped, and Mischling was employed exclusively to designate German children of color, usually of African or African American paternity, but also occasionally Puerto Rican and French Indochinese. Thus the term marked the children’s racial and national difference from white German children.
Article: Germany’s Brown Babies: The Difficult Identities of Post-War Black Children of GIs by Stephanie Siek
Born in an era when Germany was still grappling with its responsibility for the Holocaust and when the US Army had a policy of not acknowledging paternity claims brought against its soldiers stationed abroad, some of these children were put up for adoption in the United States. At the time, Germany judged itself incapable of absorbing these “brown babies” — as they have come to call themselves. In the late 1940s and 1950s, efforts were made to match them with African-American military families, many of whom were stationed around Germany at the time.
Forbidden to Speak German
The adoptees grew up in the United States, many with no idea they were adopted or that they were half-German (for information on the difficulties encountered by black GIs wanting to stay with their German girlfriends, read the sidebar on the left). Scattered across the country, many of the children were forbidden to speak German in their new homes. At the time, it was believed that continuing to speak German would damage their ability to learn fluent English.
BGCS, Inc. is a non-profit organization of Black Germans living in the United States of America, Germany and abroad who are dedicated to honoring, embracing, and preserving the dual cultural heritage of being both African American and German. Find us on Facebook & Twitter@BGCSinc.
Many of our constituents are children who were born to German mothers who were abandoned by African American soldiers during the U. S. Occupation following World War II. While some remained in Germany, many were raised in orphanages or with foster families; a few remained with their natural mothers. Many were offered for International Adoption to African American Families and accepted into the US under the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 (amended June 16, 1950) , where it was assumed that they would “more easily assimilate into the culture.”
This result is a generation of culturally displaced persons who remain disconnected and alienated from the mainstream of the societies in which they lived and from both ethnic communities to which they belong.
Adoption is a wonderful concept and is generally accepted as an ideal social mechanism for improving lives and circumstances for abandoned or orphaned children. However, recent psychological and sociological research has determined that these children often suffer significant lifelong emotional and social problems such as identity deficits, separation and attachment disorders, and chronic depression, as well as other problems as a result of separation trauma and what has been identified as “the primal wound.”
The issue is magnified and the outlook becomes ever more complicated when we explore the international adoption and abandonment of interracial children who were created by opposing forces following a major global war. For the most part, there was no professional follow up in terms of the physical, social and emotional well being of these children once they were placed.
Historians in the last decade have begun to study and write publications about the Brown Baby Plan and the cooperative attempt between the two governments to place and provide for these unwanted and displaced children. Autobiographical Interviews and publications have given voice to the trauma and lifelong suffering stemming from the dramatic loss of identity and heritage and the cultural alienation that these children faced, particularly while growing up both in post war Germany and in the US during the Civil Rights era, a period when intense racism and discrimination was under scrutiny and identified as a major problem in both societies.
“We struggled through childhoods filled with confusion, fear, anger, and feelings of inferior self-esteem. Navigated adolescence in extreme conformity to perceived structures of authority, in order to redeem our existence, or in defiance to them in utter rebellion. Adulthood was either accomplished successfully by integrating the powerful nuances of our diversified selves, or postponed until safety could be found in the distanced wisdom of experience. Some of us didn’t make it. Some of us are just now coming of age.” ~ Rebekka White, Black German
American Homes For Germany’s Brown Babies Are Scarce – Jet Mag, May 15, 1952
Brotherly Love – Jet Magazine, December 18, 1952
Tan Tots Attend German Schools – Jet Magazine, July 24, 1952
German Brown Baby in a Water Lily – Hue Magazine, January, 1955
Brown Babies Adopted by German Families – Jet Magazine, November 8, 1951
Brown Babies Become Americanized – Jet Magazine, May 21, 1953
Brown Babies Find New Homes In America – Jet Mag, Oct 8, 1953
Small Talk in Mannheim, Germany – Hue Magazine Mar, 1954
Other International Brown Babies:
Heartbroken Brown Babies in Japan – Jet Magazine, December 13, 1951
The Red Cross Greets New American – Jet Magazine, July 24, 1952
Piggyback on a Bike – Hue Magazine June 16, 1954
First Brown Baby Adoption by a Single Parent – Jet Magazine June 16, 1955
Korea’s Ostracized Brown Babies – Jet Mag, Mar 24, 1955
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