Though Hitler’s racial policies toward Jews, Sinti, and Roma, have been well documented, researchers have given less attention to actions against Black people. This racial minority, though not systematically eliminated like the other groups, faced persecution that ranged from isolation to murder.
Individuals of African descent living in Germany were socially and economically ostracized. They could not attend university; they lost their jobs; they sometimes lost their citizenship. Mixed race marriages were forbidden, and doctors illegally and secretly sterilized between 385 and 500 biracial children, most of them offspring of French Black soldiers and German women, children derisively referred to as the “Rhineland bastards.”
Black people, including African Americans, were also imprisoned or sent to internment or concentration camps. There, they were often treated more harshly and subjected to medical experiments or extreme brutality. The SS and Gestapo commonly mistreated Black prisoners of war, working them to death in concentration camps or killing them immediately rather than imprisoning them.
Some African American members of the United States Army were liberators and witnesses to Nazi atrocities. The 761st Tank Battalion, an all-African American tank unit, participated in the liberation of Gunskirchen, a subcamp of the Mauthausen concentration camp, in May 1945.
The following bibliography was compiled to guide readers to selected materials on Black people in the Holocaust that are in the Library’s collection. It is not meant to be exhaustive. Annotations are provided to help the user determine the item’s focus, and call numbers for the Museum’s Library are given in parentheses following each citation. Those unable to visit might be able to find these works in a nearby public library or acquire them through interlibrary loan. Follow the “Find in a library near you” link in each citation and enter your zip code at the Open WorldCat search screen. The results of that search indicate all libraries in your area that own that particular title. Talk to your local librarian for assistance.
Greene, Larry A. and Anke Ortlepp, eds. Germans and African Americans: two centuries of exchange. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011. (E185.61.G37 2011) [Find in a library near you]
Describes interactions between Germans and African Americans in Germany and in the United States. Contains relevant chapters “Race in the Reich: the African American press on Nazi Germany”, “ Field trip into the twilight : a German Africanist discovers the Black bourgeoisie at Howard University, 1937-1939”, “Louis Douglas and the Weimar reception of Harlemania” and “"Nazi Jim Crow" : Hans Jürgen Massaquoi's democratic vistas on the Black Atlantic and Afro-Germans in Ebony.” Contains introduction, illustrations, bibliographic references and an index.
Lester, Rosemarie K. “Blacks in Germany and German Blacks: A Little-Known Aspect of Black History.” In Blacks and German Culture: Essays, edited by Reinhold Grimm and Jost Hermand, 113-134. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986. (NX 550 .A1 B53 1986) [Find in a library near you]
Provides a detailed account of racial prejudice towards Black people before and after World War II, examining racial stereotypes in mass media. Includes primary source documentation, newspaper cartoons, and advertisements.
Mazón, Patricia M., and Reinhild Steingröver, editors. Not So Plain as Black and White: Afro-German Culture and History, 1890-2000. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2005. (DD 78 .B55 N68 2005) [Find in a library near you]
Compilation of scholarly articles on Afro-German themes, including the history of the Afro-German presence in Germany and the formation of a collective identity. Explores racial tension existing in the pre-war era and African stereotypes enforced through the pre-1945 film industry. Includes photographs of famous African film star Louis Brody.
The “Rhineland Bastards”
El-Tayeb, Fatima. Schwarze Deutsche: der Diskurs um “Rasse” und nationale Identität 1890-1933. Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 2001. (DD 78 .B55 E4 2001) [Find in a library near you]
Explores the discourse on “race” and national identity in pre-fascist Germany. Focuses on scientific and political debates that led to an increasing exclusion of Germans of African descent. Includes a section on racial purity and the “Rhineland bastards,” reviews the sterilization debate in the Weimar Republic, and provides an overview of the persecution of Black Germans under National Socialism.
Opitz, May. “African and Afro-German Women in the Weimar Republic and under National Socialism.” In Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out, edited by May Opitz, Katharina Oguntoye, and Dagmar Schultz, 41-55. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1992. (DD 78 .B55 F3713 1992) [Find in a library near you]
Summarizes the German response to the Black soldiers who served among the French occupying forces in the Rhineland in the 1920s. Highlights the ostracism faced by their mixed-race offspring, and later, the sterilization the children were illegally and secretly forced to undergo as part of the Nazi’s program of racial hygiene. The Library also has an edition in German under the title, Farbe bekennen: afro-deutsche Frauen auf den Spuren ihrer Geschichte.
Pommerin, Reiner. “The Fate of Mixed Blood Children in Germany.” German Studies Review 5, no.3 (1982): 315-323. (DD 1 .G382 v.5) [Find in a library near you]
Reviews the history of the Nazi sterilization program initiated in 1937 against children fathered by Black occupation troops in the Rhineland during the 1920s. Examines how the program was created and how its secrecy was maintained.
Pommerin, Reiner. Sterilisierung der Rheinlandbastarde: das Schicksal einer farbigen deutschen Minderheit, 1918-1937. Düsseldorf: Droste, 1979. (DD 256.8 .R3 P65 1979) [Find in a library near you]
A comprehensive historical analysis of the fate of individuals of African-German heritage, derogatorily referred to as “Rhineland bastards,” beginning with the Weimar Republic. Particularly examines the persecution and forced sterilization of members of this minority group under the Nazi regime. Features original documents and a bibliography of historical sources.
Under the Third Reich
Aitken, Robbie and Eve Rosenhaft. Black Germany: the making and unmaking of a diaspora community, 1884-1960. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. (DD78.B55A48 2013) [Find in a library near you]
Focuses on the small Cameroonian community in Germany from the beginning of German colonial rule in Cameroon to the country’s independence. Uses detailed biographical research on dozens of people to describe their social, economic and political standing in Germany and places the community in the context of the history of Black people in Germany. Includes extensive section on Cameroonian Germans in Nazi Germany and occupied France where some had fled. Contains introduction, illustrations, maps, bibliographic references and an index.
Campt, Tina. Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender, and Memory in the Third Reich. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2004. (DD 78 .B55 C36 2004) [Find in a library near you]
Relates the black experience in the Third Reich, highlighting the pre-war racial tension in the Rhineland region and the Nazi sterilization program. Addresses theoretical questions regarding race, cultural identity, African diaspora and historical representation. Includes interviews of Afro-Germans and an extensive bibliography.
Friedman, Ina R. “No Blacks Allowed.” In The Other Victims: First-Person Stories of Non-Jews Persecuted by the Nazis, 91-93. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990. (D 811 .A2 F759 1990) [Find in a library near you]
Briefly summarizes the treatment Black people received under the Third Reich. Reviews the history of the so-called “Rhineland bastards,” and describes the Nazi response to Black music, Black athletes, and Black prisoners of war. Written for young adults.
Kesting, Robert W. “The Black Experience During the Holocaust.” In The Holocaust and History: The Known, the Unknown, the Disputed, and the Reexamined, edited by Michael Berenbaum and Abraham J. Peck, 358-365. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998. (D 804.18 .H66 1998) [Find in a library near you]
Reviews the treatment Black people received under the Nazis. Describes the expression of racism in Germany from the early twentieth century through the war years, and traces how racial discrimination grew from ostracism to outright persecution, forced sterilization, and murder. Also summarizes the situation many Black people, including prisoners of war, faced in Nazi concentration camps and Gestapo prisons.
Reviews the many faces of anti-Black racism in Imperial, Weimar, and Nazi Germany. Particularly outlines the discrimination and persecution of Black people under the Third Reich, from barriers to citizenship to forced sterilization and imprisonment. Cites particular cases of the victimization of Black people, including serving as subjects in Nazi medical experiments, their incarceration in Nazi prisons and camps, and the mistreatment or murder of prisoners of war.
Summarizes Hitler’s attitude toward Black people and the Nazi policies enacted to maintain racial purity, including the sterilization of the biracial Rhineland children. Also describes multiple cases of the murder of Black prisoners of war and other Black people imprisoned in labor or concentration camps.
Lusane, Clarence. Hitler’s Black Victims: The Historical Experiences of Afro-Germans, European Blacks, Africans, and African Americans in the Nazi Era. New York: Routledge, 2002. (D 810 .N4 L87 2002) [Find in a library near you]
Analyzes and documents Nazi racial policies toward people of African descent. Describes the Nazi sterilization program against Black people, the Nazis’ attacks on jazz music, and the racialization of sports under Nazism. Also reveals the roles Black people played in the resistance movement. Frames its exploration of the Nazi era with studies of anti-Black racism in pre-Nazi Germany and the impact Nazi racial philosophies and policies have had on contemporary racism in Germany. Provides in the appendix portions of the Nuremberg Laws, and includes detailed notes, a bibliography, and an index.
Massaquoi, Fatima. The autobiography of an African princess. New York, NY : Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. (DT630.5.V2 M37 2013) [Find in a library near you]
Recounts the life of the daughter of a Liberian diplomat living in Hamburg 1922-1937. Details her education in Germany, her daily life and her friendships with Germans. Describes the increasingly unsafe situation under the Nazis leading to her departure for the United States. Includes foreword by her nephew Hans J. Massaquoi (see below), introduction, illustrations and index.
Massaquoi, Hans J. Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany. New York: William Morrow, 1999. (DD 78 .B55 M38 1999) [Find in a library near you]
The first-hand account of a young man born in Hamburg to a German nurse and a prominent African. Describes how his way of life changed under the Nazis, relating how he was first drawn to the SA and the Hitler Youth and then later repulsed once the strict racial policies impacted him and his family. Also details his life after the war. The Library also has an edition in German under the title, Neger, Neger, Schornsteinfeger!: meine Kindheit in Deutschland.
Philp, Rowan. “German of Color.” Washington Post, October 23, 2000, page C01. (Subject File) [Find in a library near you]
Tells the story of Theodor Wonja Michael, the son of a white German mother and a black Cameroonian father, who survived two years in a Nazi labor camp. Describes his experiences under the Nazis and his views of Germany today.
Reiprich, Doris, and Erika Ngambi ul Kuo. “Our Father Was Cameroonian, Our Mother, East Prussian, We Are Mulattoes.” In Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out, edited by May Opitz, Katharina Oguntoye, and Dagmar Schultz, 56-76. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1992. (DD 78 .B55 F3713 1992) [Find in a library near you]
The first-hand account of two sisters detailing their family’s history in Germany. Describes the ostracism and harassment they faced under the Nazis, and the forced sterilization or arrest that other Black people experienced at the time. Also reviews their lives after the war. The Library also has an edition in German under the title, Farbe bekennen: afro-deutsche Frauen auf den Spuren ihrer Geschichte.
Rothschild-Boros, Monica C. In the Shadow of the Tower: The Works of Josef Nassy, 1942-1945. Irvine, CA: Severin Wunderman, 1989. (N 6537 .N37 A4 1989) [Find in a library near you]
A collection of drawings and paintings created by a Black and Jewish expatriate, born in the United States and arrested by the Nazis while living in Belgium. Provides detailed background information about the artist and his internment experiences, including reference to (and drawings of) other Black people also interned in the camps at Laufen and Tittmoning.
Samples, Susann. “African Germans in the Third Reich.” In The African-German Experience: Critical Essays, edited by Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay, 53-69. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996. (DD 78 .B55 A35 1996) [Find in a library near you]
Examines the unique, and sometimes contradictory, circumstances Black people faced under National Socialism, ranging from discrimination and imprisonment to employment in entertainment and film. Reviews the fate of the biracial Rhineland children and the racial policies that called for their sterilization. Describes the conditions under which the small number of Black people lived, pointing out the persistent racism but also noting that they were treated as less of a threat to the Aryan community than the Jews.
Bilé, Serge. Noirs Dans les Camps Nazis. Monaco: Le Serpent à Plumes, 2005. (D 804.5 .B55 B55 2005) [Find in a library near you]
A brief history of the persecution of Black people during the Second World War as a targeted “inferior race,” subjected to forced sterilization, and deported to early concentration camps. Relates the experiences of several survivors as interviewed by the author. Briefly chronicles the history of prejudice towards Black people from the 1904 Namibia genocides until the end of World War II.
Alonzo, Christine, and Peter Martin. Zwischen Charleston und Stechschritt: Schwarze im Nationalsozialismus. Hamburg: Dölling und Galitz, 2004. (DD 78 .B55 Z 95 2004) [Find in a library near you]
Documents the history of Black people in Germany before, during, and after the war. Discusses the work of Paul Robeson, the boxing match between Max Schmeling and Joe Louis, the Black presence in the entertainment industry, and individual stories of Black people victimized by the Nazis. Documents Nazi plans for the colonization of Africa, medical research on Black prisoners, and propaganda against the Black “race.” Includes photographs of historical events, propaganda, and primary source documents, as well as a names list.
Bechhaus-Gerst, Marianne. “Afrikaner in Deutschland, 1933-1945.” 1999: Zeitschrift für Sozialgeschichte des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts 12, no.4 (1997):10-31. (HN 1 .A18 v. 12) [Find in a library near you]
Discusses the persecution of Africans in Nazi Germany. Examines particularly the conditions facing individuals from German colonies such as Togo, East Africa, and Cameroon, groups more readily tolerated due to the government’s hope of regaining these former colonies. Also describes the Africa Schau, a traveling show depicting life in Africa that toured Nazi Germany for political purposes.
Reed-Anderson, Paulette. Eine Geschichte von mehr als 100 Jahren: Die Anfänge der Afrikanischen Diaspora in Berlin. Berlin: Die Ausländerbeauftragte des Senats, 1995. (Oversize DD 867.5 .B55 R44 1995) [Find in a library near you]
Traces the history of people of African descent in Berlin, uncovering the influences and circumstances of their lives from the 1860s to the 1960s. Provides stories of life under the Nazis, including a first-hand account of two siblings who managed to escape deportation to a concentration camp. Uses oral histories, archival records, and periodical articles to re-create life in these periods and reproduces many relevant documents and photographs. Includes chronologies of significant events and an extensive bibliography.
Der Stürmer. (Microfilm) [Find in a library near you]
A Nazi weekly newspaper founded by Julius Streicher and noted for its antisemitic content. Featured many examples of anti-Black racist illustrations, including the following: January 13, 1936 (p.1); July 4, 1940 (p.8); September 19, 1940 (p.6 & p.9); September 26, 1940 (p.39).
Explore our comprehensive entries on the events, people, and places of the Holocaust.
Byfield, Judith A, Carolyn A. Brown, Timothy Parsons, and Ahmad A. Sikainga. Africa and World War II. New York : Cambridge University Press, 2015. (D766.8 .A473 2015) [Find in a library near you]
Covers the history of World War II in all of Africa’s geographic regions. Divided into parts addressing the broader issues of the war and Africa, the participation of Africans in different nations’ armies, the use of African labor and natural resources in the war effort, interactions between Europeans and Africans in the context of race and gender, African participation in warfare and the relationship between World War II and anti-colonialism. Contains chapter on African-American soldiers stationed in Africa. Includes introduction, conclusion, illustrations, bibliographic references and an index.
Ottley, Roi and Mark A. Huddle. Roi Ottley's World War II: The lost diary of an African American journalist. Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas, 2011. (D811.5.O86 2011) [Find in a library near you]
Annotated diary of the first African-American war correspondent for major American newspapers. Covers June-December 1944 and events such as the invasion of Normandy. Includes thirteen published articles from 1942-1946. Includes illustrations, bibliographic references and an index.
Stevens, John D. “From the Back of the Foxhole: Black Correspondents in World War II” Journalism Monographs 27, no 1 (1973): 1-61. (Subject File) [Find in a library near you]
Presents the story of 27 African-American journalists who covered the war for African-American newspapers. Based heavily on oral histories with many of the journalists. Describes the challenges they faced as African-Americans and their efforts to expose racism within all military branches. Includes bibliographic references and table listing the journalists and the news organizations they represented.
Potter, Lou, William Miles, and Nina Rosenblum. Liberators: Fighting on Two Fronts in World War II. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992. (D 769.306 761st .P68 1992) [Find in a library near you]
A companion book to the documentary of the same name detailing the involvement of the 761st Tank Battalion in the Second World War, the first African-American armored unit to see combat. Asserts that the 761st liberated Dachau, Buchenwald, and Lambach, and provides first-person accounts by members of the battalion recalling their views of the camps. Also details the battalion’s training and battle experiences interspersed with stories of the racial discrimination they faced. Opens with a history of Black people in the United States military from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars through World War II.
Scott, William A. World War II Veteran Remembers the Horror of the Holocaust. [S.l. : s.n., 199-?]. (D 805 .A2 W66 1990)
A short booklet recounting the personal reactions of an African-American member of the 183rd Engineer Combat Battalion upon entering Buchenwald. Includes a number of photos of survivors after liberation and of the author.
Stern, Kenneth S. Liberators: A Background Report. New York: American Jewish Committee, 1993. (D 769.306 761st .S74 1993) [Find in a library near you]
Explores the historical accuracy of the documentary Liberators, challenging some factual elements in the film and offering evidence that the 761st Tank Battalion was not actually involved in the liberation of Dachau or Buchenwald, as the film declares, but did help liberate Gunskirchen, a sub-camp of Mauthausen. Based on conversations with survivors, archival experts, members of the units in question, and the producers of the film.
Wilson, Joe W., Jr. The 761st “Black Panther” Tank Battalion in World War II: An Illustrated History of the First African American Armored Unit to See Combat. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 1999. (D 769.306 761st .W55 1999) [Find in a library near you]
A detailed history of the 761st Tank Battalion by the son of a tanker in the battalion. Describes the racism and discrimination the unit faced during its formation and training. Reviews their various military engagements, tracing their advance across Europe and providing members’ accounts of the concentration camps they encountered. Also follows their post-war efforts to gain long-overdue honors for the heroic efforts of some battalion members.
Prisoners of War
Killingray, David. “Africans and African Americans in Enemy Hands.” In Prisoners of War and their Captors in World War II, edited by Bob Moore and Kent Fedorowich, 181-204. Oxford: Berg, 1996. (D 805 .A2 P755 1996) [Find in a library near you]
Examines the treatment of Black GIs in Nazi POW camps and recounts their experiences. Explains the composition of the troops themselves, examining the French, British, and American troops separately and addressing racial discrimination amongst the troops. Includes extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources.
McCann, Hugh Wray, David C. Smith, and David L. Matthews. The Search for Johnny Nicholas. London: Sphere, 1982. (E 745 .N53 M33 1982) [Find in a library near you]
Relates the experiences of Johnny Nicholas, the only known black American Intelligence agent in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II, who was captured by the Nazis and sent to the Kohlstein concentration camp. Based upon the memoirs of David L. Matthews and other eyewitnesses. Includes photographs of Nicholas and the Kohlstein camp.
Scheck, Raffael. Hitler’s African Victims: The German Army Massacres of Black French Soldiers in 1940. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. (D 804 .G4 S3133 2006) [Find in a library near you]
Describes the brutal treatment of African soldiers by Wehrmacht officers during the 1940 campaign against France, and details the massacre of approximately three thousand Black French prisoners of war. Explores the possible motivations for these killings, including the role of Nazi racial propaganda. Includes an extensive list of sources and an index.
Scheck, Raffael. “‘They are Just Savages’: German Massacres of Black Soldiers from the French Army in 1940.” Journal of Modern History, 77 (June 2005): 325-344. (Subject File) [Find in a library near you]
Addresses the 1940 massacres of Black French soldiers and the treatment of Black POWs in prisoner of war camps. Highlights the experiences of the Tirailleurs Sénégalais, Africans who served in the French Army. Examines underlying motivations for racialized warfare, emphasizing the role of propaganda informing Nazi ideologies. Includes footnotes with primary and secondary references.
Film and Video
Liberators: Fighting on Two Fronts in World War II [videorecording]. Santa Monica, CA: Direct Cinema Limited, 1992. (Video Collection) [Find in a library near you]
Tells the story of African-American units in the Second World War, focusing on the actions of the 761st Tank Battalion, which the producers assert helped liberate the concentration camps at Buchenwald, Dachau and Lambach. The Library also has the companion book bearing the same title.
Museum Web Resources
Reviews the persecution and marginalization Black people experienced due to the Third Reich’s restrictive racial policies. Describes the forced sterilization program of the so-called “Rhineland Bastards” and the imprisonment of Black people in internment and POW camps. Also touches upon the role some African Americans played in liberating Gunskirchen. Includes numerous photographs and links to related sites.
Online article about Josef Nassy (1904-1976), an American citizen and black expatriate artist of Jewish descent who was confined in German internment camps at Laufen and Tittmoning during World War II.
“The Quest for Racial Purity: African Germans.” (PDF) In Nazi ideology and the Holocaust, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 89-94. Washington, DC: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2007.
Provides the historical context of German attitudes towards Africans and those of African descent. Describes the history of African Germans in the interwar period and the increasing levels of persecution they faced under the Nazi regimes.
Ask at the reference desk to see the following subject files for newspaper and periodical articles:
- “African American Soldiers”
- “Black people–Germany–History”
- “Liberators (Motion Picture)”
To search library catalogs or other electronic search tools for materials on Black people during the Holocaust, use the following Library of Congress subject headings to retrieve the most relevant citations:
- Black people–Germany–History
- Race discrimination–Germany
- Involuntary sterilization–Germany