Black Survivors of the Holocaust also titled Hitler's Forgotten Victims Afro-Wisdom Productions is a documentary about the offspring of African soldiers who stationed in Germany’s Rhineland, intermarried with German women and reared their Afro-German children as Black Germans. When Hitler came to power, many of these children were involuntarily sterilized as teenagers. The shame and humiliation haunted them throughout their lives. In addition, the documentary tells...Blacks who were actually interned in particular concentration camps in Germany during the war. Concentration camps set up by the Nazi regime also contained Black prisoners of war (continental Africans and Americans of African descent).
Dr. Edward Kissi looked at the experiences of Black people in Nazi Germany and Nazi concentration camps. He argued that the traditional view of the Holocaust as an exclusively Jewish experience has, inadvertently, relegated the similarly excruciating experiences of Black people in Nazi concentration camps to the margins of Holocaust history. Thus Blacks have become the hidden victims of the concentration camp horrors whose experiences are yet to be excavated from the camp archives and integrated into Holocaust historiography.
The idea that Black people died with Jews in the Dachau, Neuengamme and Mauthausen concentration camps in Germany has often been met with disbelief and skepticism. Dr. Kissi acknowledged the difficulties of conducting archival research on the subject of Blacks in the Holocaust. While the Nazis kept detailed records of the number of Jews sent to particular concentration camps, and how they were killed, concentration camp records have very little traces of the presence of Blacks. One reason, Kissi argued, is the refusal of the Nazi regime to admit that Germany's predominantly White population also included Blacks. By eliminating the notion of "Black Germans" in their concept of German nationality or citizenship, the Nazis made Blacks "the invisible Other" in German society. Thus, it is possible that the Nazis did not keep any meticulous records on Blacks in the concentration camps. A researcher looking for records pointing to the skin color of camp inmates may not find some. That researcher will need carefully-thought-out research methodology to discover and document the fate of some of the concentration camps' hidden victims (Blacks).
Dr. Jessica Rausch-Medina cautioned against painting people with a broad brush. Just as race is a constructed and artificial category, Jewish people are not all the same and differ depending on where they come from. When applied to the interracial people featured in the film, it is literally impossible to tell who is Black. Her second point was that history is remembered by individuals and societies whether through conscious effort or not and is evoked and mobilized during periods of natural crisis. She provided the example of the way Jews were treated during Argentina’s “dirty war” in the late 1970s in which Jews were treated as concentration camp victims had been treated in Auschwitz and then the Jewish citizens were “disappeared.”
Sheldon Wykell shared Dr. Rausch Medina’s view that race is and ethnicity are constructs that are used by regimes to manipulate reality to appear to resemble how they want it to seem. Mr. Wykell was moved by the similarities in suffering of the Black survivors and other survivors of the Holocaust who believed because they were Germans first that nothing adverse would happen to them. Both Mr. Wykell and Dr. Rausch Medina called for the need for reparations for the Black survivors.
From watching the film, Kim Vaz was struck by the fact of there are no ‘simple’ questions. For the Afro Germans who were sterilized in their youth, the seemingly simple question of “do you have children” is loaded with human rights violations. For this simple question contains personal, family, community, state and international implications of a child’s fundamental right to control her or his own body. The violation of the body that prevents a child from reproducing not simply a new physical life is at issue but more importantly is, the distortions done to the ability of individuals to give birth and rebirth to their own subjective experience over the course of an entire life. For Dr. Vaz, perhaps no one captured this idea better than Imre Kertesz, the Hungarian Noble Prize winner for literature in his autobiographical novel of his experience in the concentration camp he called Kaddish for an Unborn Child.
Edward Kissi is a historian who studies Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa and also genocide, from a global and comparative perspective. He is the author of Revolution and Genocide in Ethiopia and Cambodia, published by Lexington Books, in 2006. Edward has been teaching courses on African history and the history and theory of genocide in the Department of Africana Studies since Fall 2003. He was granted tenure and promotion to Associate Professor this past Summer. As a genocide scholar, Edward has always been interested in the Holocaust. In recent years, he has been looking at “Blacks in the Holocaust” as well as “Blacks and the Holocaust.” He is currently working on a second book which examines what people on the African continent, especially Ethiopian Jews, knew and thought about the annihilation of European Jews in the course of World War II. He, therefore, has knowledge about our theme today.
Kim Vaz, Ph.D., LMHC coordinated the Film Series: Fears of Difference, Diversity of Holocaust Experiences.
Jessica G. Rausch-Medina, M.D. Child, Adolescent Adult Psychiatrist, in private practice in Tampa since 1984, was at U.S.F. until 1992, completed all her training in Philadelphia, at Hahnemann Medical College. Went to Medical School in Argentina at the National University of Buenos Aires. Has very lose ties to the Holocaust, this has been an integral part of who she is.
Sheldon Wykell, MSW, LCSW graduated from the Jane Addams School of Social Work at the University of Illinois Chicago. He has 35 years in the field of clinical social work and social services administration. He is the former Executive Director of Jewish Family Service of Sarasota-Manatee. While at the Jewish Family Service in Chicago he directed Chicago office of HIAS, the immigrant resettlement program that historically has sponsored and managed the resettlement of Jews in America for over 100 years including before, during and after the Holocaust. Clinical practice includes work with a wide range of clients in individual and group therapy including couples, families, children, elderly, and chronically mentally ill. Currently in private practice in downtown St. Petersburg. Sheldon is a major film fanatic. He sees everything and feels the only thing missing from life in the St. Pete-Tampa area is an independent film house to see films like this.