Brown Babies

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"Brown Babies" is a term used for children born to black soldiers and white European women during and after World War II. Other names include "war orphans," "war babies," and "occupation babies." In Germany they were known as "Mischlingskinder" originally a derogatory term for mixed-raced children[1]. As of 1955 African-American soldiers in Germany had fathered about 5,000 mischlingskinder in Occupied Germany,[2] making up a significant minority of the 37,000 illegitimate children of US soldiers overall.[3] In the United Kingdom, West Indian members of the British forces, as well as African-American US soldiers, fathered "brown babies" born to European-British women.[4][5]

In Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out (Book), the stories of “occupation babies” provide insight to the relations between black American and white German, and male and female peoples in postwar Germany. The difficulties of single German mothers, transient black fathers, and a racially-prejudiced society produced a group of children who were outcasts in Germany, and a world that was looking for someone to blame for this group of misfit children. Further, American adoption of the occupation babies became a new trend in which it was hoped that “lesser racial tension” in the States would ideally provide these children with a sense of belonging and identity. American adoption of Afro-German children served an institutional and political purpose in that the situation of the children represented a sense of universal connectedness and kinship, and a need by black Americans to better the image of African-Americans.


Because the United States was an occupying power, it discouraged its military forces from fraternizing with Germans. In addition, as inter-racial marriages were illegal in most of the United States in the era, commanding officers of the U.S. soldiers forced many such couples to split up. (Soldiers had to get permission of commanding officers in order to marry overseas.)

Under German law, illegitimate children became wards of the state. Orphanages and foster parents were paid small stipends to care for abandoned children.[6] After losing their American partners due to reassignment, many single German mothers often had difficulty finding support for their children in the postwar nation, due to the general law as well as discrimination against blacks as part of the occupying forces. A CNN program in 2011 found that many of the children born in the decade after the end of the war were put up for adoption, and placed with black American military families in Germany and the United States.[7]

But, a 1951 article in Jet noted that most "brown babies" lived with their mothers, as they did not give them up for adoption. Some Germans fostered or adopted such children; one German woman established a home for thirty "brown babies."[6] By 1968 Americans had adopted about 7,000 "brown babies."[7] Many of the "brown babies" did not learn of their ethnic German ancestry until they reached adulthood.[8]

Brown Babies: The Mischlingskinder Story, a documentary by the American journalist Regina Griffin, was released in the summer of 2011.[7] The film has been featured on CNN and earned several distinctions including the Best Film at the African-American Women in Cinema Film Festival (New York City) and HBO Best Documentary finalist at the 2011 Martha’s Vineyard Black Film Festival. [9]That fall a related documentary, Brown Babies: Germany's Lost Children (Brown Babies: Deutschlands verlorene Kinder), aired on German television.[8] The fictional film Toxi depicts the dilemma "brown babies" presented to German families at the time. The varying viewpoints of the family members reflect the times they were brought up in serves as a window into the German psyche regarding blacks and mixed-raced children in the 1950s. [10]

These mixed race children were viewed as “a human and racial problem,” placing the blame for any upheaval they might cause on the children themselves, as opposed to the larger German community that could not accept them. [11] One of the ways German society saw to deal with these children was to send them abroad. This movement was motivated by the reasoning that these Occupation Babies would face insurmountable hostility in their home country. This hostility resulted in part from resentment targeted at enemy occupation forces, prejudice towards the mothers of these children, and prejudice on handed down colonial ideologies of race theory and the ultimate inferiority of the black race. [12] In 1951, the United States recognized these Afro-German children as orphan children under the Displaced Person’s Act of 1948, and this same year, the first Afro-German are successfully adopted by Margaret E. Butler in Chicago. This transnational adoption was significant because these children were objectified and based on little more than their racial classification. Their mere existence represented a seemingly irresolvable conflict to many Germans (who had long championed Germany as a pure white nation) and their 'exportation' to the US helped shelter them from German's permanent racism and find solace in a country that recognizes blacks (even if only from a segregated point of view at the time). Ultimately, these babies served as a metaphor for blacks to assert themselves in both the European and American contexts. " [13]

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  1. ^
  2. ^ Camp & Grosse, p. 61.
  3. ^ Kleinschmidt, Johannes. "Amerikaner und Deutsche in der Besatzungszeit - Beziehungen und Probleme"
  4. ^ Wynn, Neil A. "'Race War': Black American GIs and West Indians in Britain During The Second World War", Immigrants & Minorities 24 (3), 2006, pp. 324–346. DOI: 0.1080/02619280701337146.
  5. ^ Lee, Sabine. "A Forgotten Legacy of the Second World War: GI children in post-war Britain and Germany," Contemporary European History 20, pp. 157–181. 2001. doi:10.1017/S096077731100004X.
  6. ^ a b "Brown Babies Adopted By Kind German Families," Jet, 8 November 1951. Vol. 1, No. 2. 15. Retrieved from Google Books on November 22, 2011. ISSN 0021-5996.
  7. ^ a b c "'Brown babies' long search for family, identity", CNN, 20 November 2011. Retrieved on November 22, 2011.
  8. ^ a b Desmond-Harris, Jenée. ""German 'Brown Babies' Search for Their Roots", The Root, 21 November 2011. Retrieved on November 22, 2011
  9. ^
  10. ^ Morris, Jamie Christopher, "The black experience in postwar Germany" (2012). Honors Scholar Theses. Paper 224.
  11. ^ Oguntoye, Katharina; Opitz, May; Shultz, Dagmar (1992). Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out. Amherst: U of Massachusetts. p. 81-82. 
  12. ^ Oguntoye, Katharina; Opitz, May; Shultz, Dagmar. Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Speak Out. Amherst: U of Massachusetts. p. 81-82. 
  13. ^ Lemke Muniz de Faria, Yara-Colette (2003). Germany's 'Brown Babies' Must be Helped! Will you?" US Adoption Plans for Afro-German Children, 1950-155. Charles H. Rowell. 


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