- Kinder der Befreiung: Transatlantische Erfahrungen und Perspektiven Schwarzer Deutscher der Nachkriegsgeneration ed. by Marion Kraft
Kinder der Befreiung commemorates the seventieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War by bringing renewed attention to a postwar generation fathered by African-American soldiers who participated in Germany’s liberation from Fascism. Those children, in turn, became a living challenge to the newly democratized West German nation’s lingering legacy of racism. Their contemporary voices come forward in this volume to continue the scholarly, creative, and activist labours of making Black lives matter by writing them (back) into German and also US history. Some readers will already be familiar with the groundbreaking anthology Farbe bekennen: Afro-deutsche Frauen auf den Spuren [End Page 93] ihrer Geschichte, edited by Katharina Oguntoye, May Opitz, and Dagmar Schultz, which gained impetus from Audre Lorde’s guest professorship at the Free University in Berlin back in 1984. There, a younger generation of German-born women of colour embraced the mode of “life writing” so courageously modelled by Lorde, whose innovative use of language in reflective prose and poetry enabled her to come to terms with intersectional differences in ways that were both self-affirming and socially transformative, dovetailing as her work did with the women’s movement, black empowerment groups, the LGBTQ communities, and those confronting ableist language and barriers.
The current volume enacts for a generation of Black Germans born between roughly 1946 and 1959 what Farbe bekennen previously enabled for those coming of age in the 1980s. Given the vanishing horizon of an average human lifespan, these eyewitness accounts from a population with a unique perspective on both German and US history are precious and most timely in their publication. Compiled and edited by Marion Kraft, a scholar of Black German studies who for thirty years taught English, literature, and women’s studies at the University of Bielefeld, the mosaic of contributions, including her own, has been thoughtfully organized into five rubrics. These offer different vantage points on the historiographical project, beginning with Kraft’s overview of Blacks in Germany, which reconstructs the early documented history of mobility from the African continent to Germany, spanning the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, the colonial era, Fascism, and the postwar period. The volume also considers the damaging impact of racist images and language in a media-saturated society, the emergence of Black empowerment in West Germany, and contemporary efforts to combat racial profiling.
Section 2 includes ten compelling life writings testifying to the extraordinarily diverse pathways along which many Afro-German children journeyed into adulthood. Some have launched their story chronologically with an account of their biological parents, while others start in the present era and work their way back, only briefly alluding to their childhood. No two stories featured are alike, although they may share common threads, including those of overcoming racism in Germany and the United States, resulting in a conscious use of non-racist language in evidence throughout the volume itself. Other commonalities include those of struggling to piece together a sense of coherent family history in the face of social taboos and/or active misrepresentation by misguided relatives; the unreliability of memory in oral histories transferred across generations; and, for some, the role of spirituality in fostering hope and optimism in the face of social marginalization. Fractured genealogies are not uncommon in these autobiographical accounts and speak powerfully to how family history becomes an act of reconstruction, involving investigative skills but also, in many cases, strokes of serendipity to piece together what several authors profess has become a transnational identity superseding German or US borders. Among those raised in Germany, many mention their sense of self-alienation in childhood because they had few, if any, encounters, with a wider population of people of colour. All authors [End Page 94] profess their involvement in adulthood with organizations such as the ISD (Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland) and ADEFRA e. V. (Schwarze Frauen in Deutschland) as a turning point in consolidating...