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 ("mutt children"), a derogatory term first used under the Nazi regime for children of mixed Jewish-German parentage. As of 1955, African-American soldiers in Germany had fathered about 5,000 children in Occupied Germany, making up a significant minority of the 37,000 illegitimate children of US soldiers overall. 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.
The postwar years in Europe brought new challenges, including numerous illegitimate children born from unions between occupying soldiers and native women. Often the military discouraged fraternization with the locals and any proposed marriages. As an occupying power, the United States military discouraged its forces from fraternizing with Germans. Under any circumstances, soldiers had to get permission of commanding officers in order to marry overseas. 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, or at least prevented their marriages.
Under German law, illegitimate children became wards of the state. Orphanages and foster parents were paid small stipends to care for abandoned children. After losing their American partners when soldiers were reassigned out of Germany, many single German mothers often had difficulty finding support for their children in the postwar nation. There was discrimination against blacks, as they were identified with the resented occupying forces. Still, a 1951 article in Jet noted that most mothers did not give up their "brown babies." Some Germans fostered or adopted such children; one German woman established a home for thirty "brown babies."
In the decade after the end of the war, numerous illegitimate mixed-race children were put up for adoption. Some were placed with African-American military families in Germany and the United States. By 1968, Americans had adopted about 7,000 "brown babies." Many of the "brown babies" did not learn of their ethnic German ancestry until they reached adulthood. At that time, many such descendants began to search for both their parents. Some have returned to Germany to meet their mothers, if they could trace them. Since the late 20th century, there has been new interest in their stories as part of continuing review of the war and postwar years.
Representation in media
- Brown Babies: The Mischlingskinder Story (2011) is a documentary by American journalist Regina Griffin. 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. That fall a related documentary, Brown Babies: Germany's Lost Children (Brown Babies: Deutschlands verlorene Kinder), aired on German television. 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.
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. 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 common resentment of enemy occupation forces, prejudice towards the mothers of these children, and prejudice related to colonial ideologies of race theory and inferiority of the black race. In 1951, the United States recognized these Afro-German children as orphan children under the Displaced Person’s Act of 1948. That year, the first Afro-German child was adopted by Margaret E. Butler in Chicago. This transnational adoption was significant because these children had been objectified based on little more than their racial classification. Many Germans wanted to export the children of occupiers to help them avoid racism and to find more of a home in a country with a history of many people of African descent, even though they were segregated in the South. Ultimately, these babies served as a metaphor for blacks to assert themselves in both the European and American contexts.
In the film Toxi, there is a microcosm for how mixed race children were perceived in Germany. In the film, Toxi is a perfectly behaved child, and even being as "excellent" as she is, there are still members of the white family who take a while to accept her. This furthers the idea that Black people and mixed race people must behave in a certain way to be seen as respectable and acceptable by white people. Moreover, the resolution of the film involves the white family accepting Toxi and Toxi going back to her Black American father, which implies that white acceptance is the pinnacle of mixed race and Black people's lives. Moreover, it implies that mixed race and Black people to be best fit outside of European culture. What worsens the issue here is that this film is clearly an attempt to represent Germany as post-racial, which is not possible given Germany's refusal to discuss race intentionally and purposefully.
-  Indianapolis Recorder
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