VICTIMS OF NAZI HATRED
The Nazis had a plan for a society which valued same-ness and not diversity. Their goal was to make Germany an exclusively ‘Aryan’ nation, and they had an ‘ideal’ image of a German citizen – strong and healthy, fair-skinned, blond haired and blue-eyed. Propaganda films were made to show the model of the ‘perfect’ young German men and women. Nazi ideology stated that not all humans were equal, some were even considered untermenschen (sub-human) if they did not fit this ideal. The Nazis hated anyone that was ‘different’, including those who fitted the Aryan concept of normality but had different views or thoughts which did not adhere to Nazi ideology.
During the period of 1933-1945, it is estimated that 11,000,000 people were murdered under Nazi hate-policies for being ‘different’.
Jews were singled out for systematic persecution and deliberate mass extermination. The Nazis used historical anti-semitism which had existed since ancient times to justify the removal of human rights from Jewish people. Ultimately, this led to the application of an industrial method for the murder of 6 million European Jews.
Europe’s Gypsies were targeted by the Nazis for total destruction. The Porrajmos (The Devouring) is the term used to describe the genocide of Europe’s Roma and Sinti (Gypsy) population by the Nazis. Upward of 200,000 Gypsies were murdered or died as a result of starvation or disease. Many more were imprisoned, used as forced labour or subject to forced sterilisation and medical experimentation.
Gay Victims of Nazi persecution
Lesbian and Gay life in Germany began to thrive at the beginning of the 20th century. Berlin in particular was one of the most liberal cities in Europe with a number of Lesbian and Gay organisations, cafés, bars, publications and cultural events taking place.
Nazi conceptions of race, gender and eugenics dictated the regime’s hostile policy on homosexuality. Within days of Hitler becoming Chancellor repression against Gay men and Lesbians commenced.
The police established lists of homosexually active persons. Records from 1937-1940 include the names of over 90,000 suspects. Significant numbers of Gay men were arrested, of whom an estimated 50,000 received severe jail sentences in brutal conditions. Most homosexuals were not sent to concentration camps but were instead exposed to inhumane treatment in police prisons. Some 10-15,000 people were deported for being Gay to concentration camps.
Disabled Victims and the T4 Euthanasia Programme
Mentally and physically disabled people were targeted for various forms of discrimination by the Nazi party, including total annihilation, persecution, imprisonment, sterilisation and other forms of brutality. From 1939 – 1941 the Nazis carried out their T4 programme (so called because Tiergartenstrasse 4 was the headquarters of the General Foundation for Welfare and Institutional Care in Berlin).
People with physical disabilities, mental health needs and chronic illnesses were deemed to be damaging to the common good by the Nazi party.
It is estimated that close to 250,000 disabled people were murdered under the Nazi regime.
Today the majority of people are aware of the Nazi policy towards the Jews and there is an increasing awareness of the fate of Roma and Sinti people. However many are not so conscious of the treatment of Black and mixed race Europeans. Although there was no systematic elimination of this racial minority it is clear that many were persecuted, alienated and even murdered during this period. In the 1920s, there were 24,000 Black people living in Germany.
Following World War l and the Treaty of Versailles (1919), the victorious Allies occupied the Rhineland in western Germany. The use of French colonial troops, some of whom were Black, in these occupation forces exacerbated anti-Black racism in Germany. Racist propaganda against Black soldiers depicted them as rapists of German women and carriers of venereal and other diseases. The Nazis, at the time a small political movement, viewed them as a threat to the purity of the Germanic race. In Mein Kampf, Hitler charged that ‘the Jews had brought the Negroes into the Rhineland with the clear aim of ruining the hated white race by the necessarily-resulting bastardisation’. Nazi propaganda posters, showing friendship across racial groups, referred to ‘a loss of racial pride.’ African German mixed race children were marginalised in German society, isolated socially and economically, and not allowed to attend university. Racial discrimination prohibited them from seeking most jobs, including service in the military.
When the Nazis came to power, one of the first directives was aimed at these mixed-race children. Underscoring Hitler’s obsession with racial purity, by 1937, every identified mixed-race child in the Rhineland had been forcibly sterilised, in order to prevent further ‘race polluting’, as Hitler termed it.
Hans Hauck, a Black survivor of Nazi racial policies and a victim of the mandatory sterilisation programme, explained in the film Hitler’s Forgotten Victims that, when he was forced to undergo sterilisation as a teenager, he was given no anaesthetic. Once he received his sterilisation certificate, he was ‘free to go’, as long as he agreed to have no sexual relations whatsoever with Germans.
To help usher in the Nazi dream of a pure, blond haired, blue-eyed race, Black Germans, like Jews, Roma and Sinti, Gay people and those with any criminal record were called ‘asocial’. Many Black people found they no longer had jobs and that they were excluded from many aspects of life.
European and American Blacks were also interned in the Nazi concentration camp system. Lionel Romney, a sailor in the U.S. Merchant Marine, was imprisoned in the Mauthausen concentration camp. Jean Marcel Nicolas, a Haitian national, was incarcerated in the Buchenwald and Dora-Mittelbau concentration camps in Germany. Jean Voste, an African Belgian, was incarcerated in the Dachau concentration camp. Bayume Mohamed Hussein from Tanganyika (today Tanzania) died in the Sachsenhausen camp, near Berlin.
Black prisoners of war faced illegal incarceration and mistreatment at the hands of the Nazis, who did not uphold the regulations imposed by the Geneva Convention (International agreement on the conduct of war and the treatment of wounded and captured soldiers). Lieutenant Darwin Nicholas, an African American pilot, was incarcerated in a Gestapo prison in Butzbach. Black soldiers of the American, French, and British Armies were worked to death on construction projects or died as a result of mistreatment in concentration or prisoner-of-war camps. Others were never even incarcerated, but were instead immediately killed by the SS or Gestapo.
As the war progressed and Prisoners of War were taken, the Nazi regime separated Black prisoners from white ones. Once taken prisoner by Hitler’s troops, Black prisoners received harsher treatment and less food than white POWs and whilst most white POWs were imprisoned many of the Black soldiers either worked until they died or were executed.