“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.

Statistics and Sticky Notes

On Identifying Museum Visitors and What Moves Them

A young woman with a bouquet of flowers

The ten-millionth visitor Paula Konga in November 2015 © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Svea Pietschmann

Gleeful excitement in the museum lobby, for we are greeting our ten-millionth visitor since the opening in 2001, and we are all ears. “It’s my day off and I want to take the opportunity to revisit the permanent exhibition,” the 33-year-old Berliner Paula Konga tells us. An architect by profession, she is particularly interested in Daniel Libeskind’s design of the museum. “The building is well worth visiting more than once, also for Berliners.” No sooner have we handed over a bouquet of flowers and a one-year-membership in the Friends of the Jewish Museum Berlin Association than our guest of honor vanishes into the ramified spaces of the Libeskind Building (further information about the Libeskind Building can be found on our website).

Next, a group of Italian schoolchildren pushes past me, another museum visitor asks me to switch his audio guide to French, and a group of British teenagers mills about in search of a young man in a red cap. The seething mass sets me thinking: What actually moves you here, in the Jewish Museum Berlin?  continue reading

Meanwhile in the Box …

The Many Faces of Isaac and Ismael, Part 4

Our special exhibition, “Obedience. An Installation in 15 Rooms by Saskia Boddeke & Peter Greenaway,” has been extended until 15 November 2015. The multimedia art installation takes on the sons’ perspectives of this biblical story, when Abraham intended to sacrifice his son in fulfillment of God’s command. In a film projection at the beginning of the exhibition, visitors are greeted by children, youth and young adults with the words, “I am Isaac” or “I am Ismael,” in a variety of languages.

There’s an interactive component to the exhibition, located in the Eric F. Ross Gallery on the ground floor of the Libeskind Building: A video box where visitors can express these words in their own way and, in so doing, more strongly identify with the child perspective of this story of the attempted sacrifice. We’ve presented a small selection of these video clips on the blog over the last several months.

Lisa Albrecht, continuing her task of compiling the clips, has concluded that Isaac and Ismael not only have many faces, but also many names.

However, not all Museum guests are so ‘obedient’ in fulfilling the video box’s intended purpose:  continue reading