“Bringing the Black Soldiers who Liberated Germany from Fascism back from Obscurity”

Three Questions to Marion Kraft

Portrait of Marion Kraft

Editor Marion Kraft; photo: private

On 6 July 2016, we are proud to present “Children of the Liberation,” the new anthology in the “New German Stories” series. We will welcome the editor Marion Kraft and the authors Ika Hügel-Marshall and Judy Gummich as our guests. They will speak about the experiences and perspectives of Black Germans of the post-war generation and thus illuminate a little-known part of German history and American-German relations. The volume unites the biographies and voices of a variety of authors and considers questions of racism in the past and present as well as the diverse reality of Black people in Germany today.

We asked Marion Kraft three questions in advance:

Serpil Polat: Dear Ms Kraft, how did the idea for this project come about and what was your personal motivation in realizing it?

Marion Kraft: The idea for the book came about in fall 2014 in the course of talking to some of the authors, who, like myself, were born in post-war Germany to white German women and African-American soldiers. What struck us in particular was that on the one hand the part played by these soldiers in the liberation of Germany from Nazism has been largely neglected in the recording of history and on the other hand, the experiences of racism Black people had to make in postwar Germany were in danger of being forgotten. We also found that current socio-historical research projects on the postwar era often paint a very one-sided picture of the so-called “colored children of occupation.” Thus we felt it important to make our voice heard to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in 2015.

What is the origin of the title Children of the Liberation and who is meant?

Book cover "Children of the Liberation"

Book cover “Children of the Liberation” © Unrast Verlag

The title Children of the Liberation refers to the liberation of Germany from fascism, which the African-German-American journalist and witness of the time Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi referred to as the much-deserved demise of one of the most brutal systems of rule. “Liberation” stands in contrast to the term “occupation,” which is still used sometimes, and at the same time refers to liberation from the discriminating labels that prevailed for a long time to describe the children of Allied soldiers and German women, in particular the Black children. The book title also describes the experiences of the people who, against all odds, took the positive crafting of their lives into their own hands.

The book combines various facets – historical and academic analyses, biographical narratives, interviews, and literary texts. What is the concept behind this variety of approaches and texts?

The concept behind this is to illuminate this part of suppressed history from different perspectives. My introduction sorts the experiences of the post-war generation into the long history and current situation of Black people in Germany. The biographical narratives and interviews that follow propose alternatives to a recording of history determined by the power structures, and are bound by various scientific analyses into a collective experience. We also included some lyrical texts because they can provide a special means of reflection. Thus the volume is aimed at a diverse readership and provides various stimuli to analyze the history of and fight the still persistent forms of racism.

The questions were posed by Serpil Polat, academy programs on migration and diversity, who does her own research on biographies and racism and is very much looking forward to the evening.

Those interested in hearing more and asking further questions are welcome to attend the discussion and reading Children of the Liberation. The Perspectives of Black Germans of the Postwar Generation on 6 July 2016 at 7 pm in the hall at the W. Michael Blumenthal Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin. Bookings on tel. +49 (0)30 25993 488 or reservierung@jmberlin.de. Further information in our calender of events.

“We’ve always been spoken and written about”

The “Daughters and Sons of Gastarbeiters” (guest workers) are the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin’s guest on 14 October 2015, part of the “New German Stories” series. As children, these Berlin authors followed their parents to Germany from their home villages in Anatolia, southern Europe and the Balkans, or they were born into working-class neighborhoods around Germany. Their mothers and fathers were supposed to bolster the German economic recovery as mere “guest workers”. The authors tell their personal stories, look back, follow their parents’ paths and thus add to Germany’s culture of memory. In advance of the event, we’ve asked three questions of Çiçek Bacık, the project’s leader and co-initiator:

Portrait of a woman

Çiçek Bacık © Neda Navaee

Ms. Bacık, how did the “Daughters and Sons of Gastarbeiters” come to be and what was the motivation to tell these personal stories?

Last year, I went to a reading with my friend, the journalist Ferda Ataman. We were sitting in a bar afterwards. “Ferda, we have to start telling our stories and share them with others. We ourselves have to shed light on a dark chapter of our past we’ve successfully repressed,” I said. “Sure, and what’s stopping us?” That was the starting point for “Daughters and Sons of Gastarbeiters”. Our first reading took place in January 2015 at the Wasserturm in Kreuzberg.  continue reading

“I wish more people would look in my eyes instead of at my scarf”

A Conversation with Fereshta Ludin about the Headscarf Debate, Discrimination, and Her Hopes for the Future.

To win the right to work as a teacher in the classroom while wearing her headscarf, Fereshta Ludin had to go all the way to the German Supreme Court (see below). On 17 September 2015, she will join us as part of the series “New German Stories” to introduce her book Enthüllung der Fereshta Ludin. Die mit dem Kopftuch (“The Unveiling of Fereshta Ludin: The One with the Headscarf”). Rafiqa Younes and Julia Jürgens spoke with her in the lead-up to the event.

Book cover with a photo of a woman with head scarf

Book cover © Deutscher Levante Verlag

Ms. Ludin, did you ever guess that the first lawsuit you filed against your employers, in 1998 when you were 25 years old, would set off a nationwide debate about the headscarf ban?

You can’t really imagine something like that. I was still very young and idealistic. I wanted to work as a teacher and had no intention of provoking the public or any politicians.

From your perspective, was it worth it to go all that way through courts, becoming, as you did, a public figure – “the one with the headscarf” as the title of your book ironically references?

I don’t regret a single step along the way. I would have regretted much more, to have had to endure the injustice. I took an active stand against discrimination by going through the courts. Many other women were also affected. It was never my aim to become a public person.  continue reading