Race after Hitler
Black Occupation Children in Postwar Germany and America
When American victors entered Germany in the spring of 1945, they came armed not only with a commitment to democracy but also to Jim Crow practices. Race after Hitler tells the story of how troubled race relations among American occupation soldiers, and black-white mixing within Germany, unexpectedly shaped German notions of race after 1945. Biracial occupation children became objects of intense scrutiny and politicking by postwar Germans into the 1960s, resulting in a shift away from official antisemitism to a focus on color and blackness.
Beginning with black GIs' unexpected feelings of liberation in postfascist Germany, Fehrenbach investigates reactions to their relations with white German women and to the few thousand babies born of these unions. Drawing on social welfare and other official reports, scientific studies, and media portrayals from both sides of the Atlantic, Fehrenbach reconstructs social policy debates regarding black occupation children, such as whether they should be integrated into German society or adopted to African American or other families abroad. Ultimately, a consciously liberal discourse of race emerged in response to the children among Germans who prided themselves on--and were lauded by the black American press for--rejecting the hateful practices of National Socialism and the segregationist United States.
Fehrenbach charts her story against a longer history of German racism extending from nineteenth-century colonialism through National Socialism to contemporary debates about multiculturalism. An important and provocative work, Race after Hitler explores how racial ideologies are altered through transnational contact accompanying war and regime change, even and especially in the most intimate areas of sex and reproduction.
Heide Fehrenbach is Professor of History at Northern Illinois University. She is the author of Cinema in Democratizing Germany: Reconstructing National Identity after Hitler and coeditor of Transactions, Transgressions, Transformations: American Culture in Western Europe and Japan.