Submitted by: James Caruso
The history of German politics presents a tumultuous battle between strong liberal ideologies and the equally, if not overwhelmingly, conservative fascism, both of which held great influence in public ideologies surrounding gender, sexuality, and race. German historical amnesia runs rampant in the different political moments in Germany, where elected officials and individuals in power disregarded the many mistake of the past and repackaged systematic forms of racism and sexism by pandering to German citizens’ fears. It was not only the work of the government, as scholarship coming from Germany about racial and sexual degeneration was the main cause of public and political hysteria in the German state. The existence of mixed race children (know as Mischling, Mischlingkinder, or Mischlinge) in Germany throughout different political epochs highlights Germany’s racist, nationalistic tendencies when it comes to questions of German citizenship and belonging.
The existence and treatment of Mischlingkinder in Germany through its colonial times, Nazi regime, and post-modern eras represents Germany’s history of systematic racism and oppression, which continues into contemporary discussions of racelessness in Europe.
Discussions surrounding mixed-race children began after Germany’s short-lived colonial project, which was intended to create new settlements for the German people to expand nationalistic tendencies to places outside of Europe. Known as “going native,” the existence of German and indigenous relationships in the colonies led to widespread fears about the degeneration of the German race. According to Sebastian Conrad,
“On the basis of this theory, ‘going native’ would, eventually, mean the end of the German people. Lamarckian aspects of eugenic thought were a central element of colonial discourse and linked the trope of the degeneration of the race with concerns about the sexual transmission of cultural faults and malformations.”
The fear of the creolization of the German people led to debates surrounding the issue of Mischling, as they were thought to exist in an intermediary position between Germanness and indigenous.
In a response about the citizenship of mixed-race children in the colonies, the German government offered a lackluster and subjective model of decisions of citizenship. In a letter to the Governor of Togo, a German colonial territory, the State Secretary of the Colonial Office stated,
“… if the individual in question lives basically like a Negro, then he or she will not be put into the statistical category of Mischling even if the blood of whites flows in his/her arteries… one will have to investigate of the whole appearance and demeanor and, above all, the lifestyle of the colored person in question indicate that he is a descendant of the white race.”
By making the issue of Germanness and citizenship a legal imposition, a process of othering occurs within the mixed-race children of indigenous people and white European Germans. German colonial thought far exceeded the actual timeline of German colonialism, as it only lasted thirty years, from 1884 to 1914. The othering of colonized people led to greater systematic and scholarly racism in Germany, as well as beginning Germany’s discussions of who is German and who is othered in German society.
Popular German scholarship continued and disseminated information about “races” that were present in Germany, further creating difference between white Germans and the other groups which existed in Germany at the time. German thinkers such as Otto Weininger created connections between such othered groups in Germany, where in his widely published book, Sex and Character (1903), he states, “the Jewish race… appears to possess a certain anthropological relationship with both negroes and Mongolians.” Later German politicians used this information, which creates a false connection between racialized typed in Germany, in order to create policy surrounding the supposed Germanness of racialized groups.
This culminated in the National Socialist regime in Germany, The creation of the Nuremburg Laws prompted this racist thought, continuing Germany’s history of denying citizenship to othered groups in order for white German natives to maintain political and economic control. According to the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, passed in September 1935, “Marriages between Jews and citizens of Germany or kindred blood are forbidden.” The Reich Citizenship Law of 1935 furthers this discrimination, as it decrees citizenship based on bloodline and family history, and effectively removes citizenship for people of Jewish and mixed Jewish-German descent. The Nuremberg Laws also defined the terms “Jewish” and “Mischling,” which created boundaries between Germanness and otherness. By denying citizenship to individuals of mixed descent and Jewish heritage, Germany’s political system, influenced by the theories of German degeneration that Weininger and other writers invented, creates a rift between white Germans and groups labeled other.
Though marking the end of systematized racism and discrimination, the fall of the National Socialist regime at the end of World War II did not see the social effects of the laws disappear. Post-World War II, fraternization between white German women and Black soldiers led to a growing population of mixed-race children, often called “occupation babies” or variations of Mischling, some including racist, derogatory language such as Negermischlingkinder. The children from these German, and usually American, relationships were not granted the citizenship of their foreign fathers, and thus became a burden of the German government. The German government’s push to have children return to the land of their fathers portrays the children as non-German, based only in their physical differences.
The film Toxi (1952) dramatizes this issue, but also reveals specific indications of German thought about mixed-race occupation children. The film, which tells the story of an occupation child, Toxi, who is raised by her white German family, ends with the reunion between the Toxi and her Black American father. Though it can be read as a liberal movie for the time, as the family members begin to see Toxi as a legitimate part of their family despite her father’s race and nationality, the ending of the film leads to a much different reading. Toxi’s father, who first meets Toxi after a Christmas recital, sees Toxi in white face costume where she exclaims, “this [the costume] comes off.” Toxi’s costume, which equates to her level of Germanness in the eyes of her white German family, is therefore seen as just that: a costume. By stating that she can remove the whiteface, the implication is that Toxi is never fully German, and that she will always be voewed as a Black American other in German society. Though a dramatization, Toxi reveals larger German ideology when it comes to mixed race children.
Occupying an intermediate position between German and Other, mixed race children and children of immigrants in Germany continue to face issues in Germany’s, and Europe’s, post-national society. The difference in contemporary society , however, is the reluctance of the German government to see this issue of one of racism. Fatima El-Tayeb asserts that this shift in thought is a direct response to the National Socialist regime in Germany, which acted as a foil to the generally liberal-minded, progressive Europe that is often spoken about. When speaking about Europe’s recreation of its own history, El-Tayeb states that Europe “[creates a] teleological story of Europeanness that has no space for any true diversity of experiences – in terms of not only race and religion, but also gender and sexuality – rendering all those experiences that are perceived as nonnormative as (still) ‘unspeakable’ in the new postnational Europe.”
The relation that mixed-race children have to Germany (and larger constructions of a unified European identity) are thus continued, as the creation of a “raceless” Europe disenfranchises the occupation children of post-war Germany, as well as erases the entire history of German colonialism and antisemitism as a European phenomenon. Now labeled as issues of class and immigration, systematic levels of oppression and racismcontinue to exist in German policy, which illuminated the historical amnesia that Germany, and Europe as a whole, is afflicted with.
Conrad, Sebastian. German Colonialism: A Short History. Cambridge: Cambridge University
El-Tayeb, Fatima. European Others: Queering Ethnicity in Postnational Europe. Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 2011.
Fehrenbach, Heide. Race after Hitler: Black Occupation Children in Postwar Germany and
America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.
“Nuremberg Race Laws: Translation.” USHMM.org. January 29, 2016. https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007903.
Pegelow, Thomas. “Determining ‘People of German Blood’, ‘Jews’ and ‘Mischlinge’: The
Reich Kinship Office and the Competing Discourses and Powers of Nazism, 1941-1943.” In Contemporary European History 15, no. 1 (2006), 43.
State Secretary of the Colonial Office to the Governor of Togo, no. 33156, August 16, 1911;
answer to Report no. 606, Sept. 10, 1910 from Togo, BAB: RKolA 5427.
Toxi, directed by Robert. A. Stemmel, 1952.
Weininger, Otto. Sex and Character, translated by William Heinemann. New York: Putnam,