The Birth of a Nazi

The history of Africans in Germany is long and nuanced. For many people, it is presumed to be non-existent. This is not true. The birth of the Nazi Party has been summarized and reviewed by scholars for decades. Few, though, have given much thought or attention to the connection between German colonies in Africa and the refinement of extermination techniques used generations later in Germany. It was in German SouthWest Africa (now known as Namibia) where the fathers of the founders of the Nazi honed their skills as executioners. It’s where their first concentration camps were built.

Blacks Under the Swastika

Hannah Arendt, a well-known chronicler and a victim of Nazi persecution, states that the seed of totalitarian terror (fascism) were contained within the policies pursued by Europeans in Africa. Her hypothesis became controversial among other historians who believed she had no proof while others either partially or fully concurred offering evidence to support their arguments. Helmut Bley, a well-known historian of SouthWest Africa and a supporter of a prototype-Nazi policy toward people of African descent, argued that pervasive racism animated the German colonial settlers to expropriate the property of some of the African tribes, exploited and enslaved black laborers, legalized a state of lawlessness and pressured the government to sanction genocide against blacks who resisted.(2) Historians like Bley have written about anti-black racism during the Imperial and Weimar periods and a few have touched upon the Nazi period, but no one has attempted to show a tradition of anti-black racism in Germany which extended from 1885 to 1945 and possibly beyond.

The Story of T. Wonja Michael:

T. Wonja Michael was born in Berlin. In early 1943, Michael was marched with other Afro-Germans into a forced labor camp near Berlin. Theo survived the Nazi terror and is still alive…He was there until the camp was liberated by Russian soldiers in June 1945. His three siblings fled to France after “Negroids” were declared “undesirable” in 1936, but Michael chose to remain apparently out of sheer stubborness.

Theophilus Wonja Michael - Holocaust Survivor

Please click the link to this story. It’s an amazing, in-depth tale worth reading.

He was also an aspiring actor and eventually found work. The Nazis cast him in a tiny but very visible role in Germany’s first color film released in 1943–“Muenchhausen”–which showed him cooling dignitaries with a feathered fan. Later he learned that the movie had been commissioned by propaganda minister Josef Goebbels and would be used against blacks. “They trained me–and it is, of course, extremely ironic that it was the Nazis who gave me my big break!”

Michael says, his laugh nervous and unconvincing. He was 18 when he was sent to the labor camps. Michael had actually been conscripted, but when officials saw him he was immediately rejected. In early 1943, Michael was marched with other Afro-Germans into a forced-labor camp near Berlin, where he was effectively enslaved,working 72 hours a week at a munitions factory. He was there until the camp was liberated by Russian soldiers in June 1945. In 1998, he told a German Life magazine: “One must remember that the Damocles’ sword of sterilization always dangled above us blacks in those years. It’s why I was so afraid of going to the hospital. “Escape was not possible, certainly not if you looked like me.

Anton Wilhelm Amo:

Amo was a Nzema (an Akan people). He was born in Awukena in the Axim region of Ghana, but at the age of about four he was taken to Amsterdam by the Dutch East India Company. Some accounts say that he was taken as a slave, others that he was sent to Amsterdam by a preacher working in Ghana. Whatever the truth of the matter, once he arrived, he was given as a present to Anthony Ulrich, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, to whose palace in Wolfenbüttel he was taken.

Amo was baptised (and later confirmed) in the palace‘s chapel. He was treated as a member of the Duke’s family, and was educated at the Wolfenbüttel Ritter-Akademie (1717–1721) and at the University of Helmstedt (17211727). It is also believed that he would have met Gottfried Leibniz, who was a frequent visitor to the palace.

He then went on to the University of Halle, whose Law School he entered in 1727. He finished his preliminary studies within two years, his dissertation being: “The Rights of Moors in Europe”. For his further studies Amo moved to the University of Wittenberg, studying logic, metaphysics, physiology, astronomy, history, law, theology, politics, and medicine, and mastered six languages (English, French, Dutch, Latin, Greek, and German). His medical education in particular was to play a central role in much of his later philosophical thought.

He gained his doctorate in philosophy at Wittenberg in 1734; his thesis (published as On the Absence of Sensation in the Human Mind and its Presence in our Organic and Living Body) argued against Cartesian dualism in favour of a broadly materialist account of the person.

St. Maurice:

Saint Maurice became a patron saint of the Holy Roman Emperors. In 926, Henry I (919936), even ceded the present Swiss canton of Aargau to the abbey, in return for Maurice’s lance, sword and spurs. The sword and spurs of Saint Maurice was part of the regalia used at coronations of the Austro-Hungarian Emperors until 1916, and among the most important insignia of the imperial throne. In addition, some of the emperors were anointed before the Altar of Saint Maurice at St. Peter’s Basilica. [2] In 929 Henry I the Fowler held a royal court gathering (Reichsversammlung) at Magdeburg. At the same time the Mauritius Kloster in honor of Maurice was founded. In 961, Otto I was building and enriching the cathedral at Magdeburg, which he intended for his own tomb. To that end,

in the year 961 of the Incarnation and in the twenty-fifth year of his reign, in the presence of all of the nobility, on the vigil of Christmas, the body of St. Maurice was conveyed to him at Regensburg along with the bodies of some of the saint’s companions and portions of other saints. Having been sent to Magdeburg, these relics were received with great honour by a gathering of the entire populace of the city and of their fellow countrymen. They are still venerated there, to the salvation of the homeland. [4]

20 comments

  1. mmmmmmmm…….maybe, but I think this is a bigger stretch than the linear facts on the ground re “Nazi” (as distinct from German colonial) development and implementation of industrial genocide will support.

  2. Not really.

    http://ehq.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/35/3/429

    Madley’s piece makes a very strong case for the relationship.

    “The German terms Lebensraum and Konzentrationslager, both widely known because of their use by the Nazis, were not coined by the Hitler regime. These terms were minted many years earlier in reference to German South West Africa, now Namibia, during the first decade of the twentieth century, when Germans colonized the land and committed genocide against the local Herero and Nama peoples. Later use of these borrowed words suggests an important question: did Wilhelmine colonization and genocide in Namibia influence Nazi plans to conquer and settle Eastern Europe, enslave and murder millions of Slavs and exterminate Gypsies and Jews? This article argues that the German experience in Namibia was a crucial precursor to Nazi colonialism and genocide and that personal connections, literature, and public debates served as conduits for communicating colonialist and genocidal ideas and methods from the colony to Germany.”

  3. Craig:

    “the refinement of extermination techniques used generations later in Germany”

    That fits your model. Great addition – thanks. Madley is principally concerned with the MACRO issues of lebensraum and konzentrationslager. Given what I’ve read recently and what I’ve seen of the image of Franz Joseph Hayden (referred to in his youth as a “blackamoor” – but considerably “whitened” since – probably as a result of his prodigious talent), I’m inclined to dig deeper on this whole Afro-German thing.

  4. Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!

    Is what it gives me when I attempt to post that comment. I retried with all new and all compliant tags, and it still bounced my comment.

    Sorry.

  5. If you mouse over the thing in haloscan commenting, then right click view source of selection, it should go for you in one step with no further revision.

    See if you can then get it to post. Cause something dicey is happening wrt my interaction with your blog at the level of my wordpress ID and your comments database.

  6. T3, I must be in the moderation queue – so here’s what I said at your spot – quoth you;

    The history of Africans in Germany is long and nuanced. For many people, it is presumed to be non-existent. This is not true. The birth of the Nazi Party has been summarized and reviewed by scholars for decades. Few, though, have given much thought or attention to the connection between German colonies in Africa and the refinement of extermination techniques used generations later in Germany. It was in German SouthWest Africa (now known as Namibia) where the fathers of the founders of the Nazi honed their skills as executioners.

    I realize this is thought “marination” in progress. I would be the VERY last person to argue any form of sui generis instantiation of national socialism. It was very obviously the work product of German elites and had an architectural history going back decades prior to its eruption.

    That said, I am much more convinced that the specific modalities and even instrumentalities of genocidal execution had their origin in the scientific and more specifically medical communities.

    The methods used for mass extermination in the Nazi death camps originated and were perfected in earlier use against people with physical, emotional, and intellectual disabilities. Developed from the article by Dr. Mark Mostert, this website describes the historical context of attitudes toward people with disabilities in Germany and how this context produced mass murder of people with disabilities prior to and during the early years of World War II.

    While the echos of colonial imperialism resound all around but mostly outside our embedding environment, it’s the pseudo-scientific and post hoc rationalizations WITHIN our embedding culture that primarily concern me. Particular when the policies and praxis emanate from the best trained, best educated, and presumably most rational actors with a culture.

  7. “methods used for mass extermination in the Nazi death camps originated and were perfected in earlier use against people with physical, emotional, and intellectual disabilities.”

    You mean starvation? Based upon my preliminary research, “only” about 271K Jews died in NAZI concentration camps…and primarily from starvation due to Allied bombing of NAZI supply lines.

    Actual evidence of deliberate genocide by gas chambers seems to be…post-war propaganda cooked up by Soviet Jews.

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