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I'm a documentary filmmaker producing "Black Skin White Gaze", a film on how black people survived Nazi Germany. AMA!

Hi Reddit! I’m Stefanie Daubek, a filmmaker from Austria. I’ve produced a number of TV shows and films, and I’m currently working on a project I’m fascinated by. It’s the story of black people in Nazi Germany and how they managed to survive. The project is currently under development at the Documentary Campus Masterschool and you can find a trailer on their YouTube channel here

Thank you Reddit, it’s been a really great AMA with a lot of interesting and challenging questions! I’ll come back a bit later to see if there are more questions, but for now I’ll sign off. Have a great Wednesday everyone. Bye for now.


October 9th 2019
interview date

What was the official Nazi policy towards black people? Were they covered under the Nuremburg Laws?


So the Nuremberg race laws were very explicit about their target, which was the Jewish population in Germany. The law was extended some time after with prohibitions on marriage or sexual relations that could interfere with the racial purity idea.

However, it was sometimes still unclear whether or not those laws also apply to other “non-aryans”. So what we find when we look at the history during the Nazi era is that decisions were made very locally and very subjectively by various people who happen to be in power in various positions. And this is why while it would have been impossible for a Jewish boy to enter the Hitler Youth we know of cases of black youth who joined the Hitler Youth. These rules whether or not they applied were always decided right on the spot because the law itself did not name black people as the target. But for black people there was this in-between position that they could navigate to make it through this.

And so all of the afro Germans that have left Memoirs or who have given video interviews discussing their time under the Nazis, all of them will talk about hardships that they face. They'll talk about their disappointment at not being allowed to join their classmates as members of the Hitler Youth. They'll talk about their disappointment in that but they will just as quickly turn to the stories of Germans who intervened on their behalf.


How are you covering the mixed-race children (often called the "Rhineland Bastards") who were often falsely assumed to the the product of rape from the French Occupation of the Rhineland? Will you be getting into the programs that did explicitly target them?


Yes. I will address it, since especially between WWI and WWII there were three different populations of black people in Germany and they were all seen and treated differently. The so called “Rhineland Bastards” were propagated to be the children of raped white women by French occupiers - they represented great anger and frustration, humiliation of that WWI defeat. Germany - the occupier now finds itself occupied. Then there were the so called “colonial subjects” who came to Germany with the idea of then returing with knowledge to German colonies and be of good help in higher ranked positions. They were stranded in between the desired and undesired black people among the white German population especially after the war was lost. And last but not least there were Afro-American artist who were celebrated and who were experiencing the peak of their artists careers. It’s a very interesting aspect on how it all changed once the Nazis gained power. I will defiantly make that part of the documentary. :)


Would the area of Germany that a black German was living in contribute to their survival during these times? For instance if you were living in a predominantly catholic area in the south compared to the north.


Yes, absolutely. I have one eye witness who was growing up in Hamburg. A city that was always used to seeing people of colour due to the harbour. Even though there were rarely any other black children around when she was growing up people protected her during that time. Whereas in other areas like the Rhineland black people were afraid of going to the doctors knowing they might come back sterilised. So decisions were often made locally and some were very lucky and were saved because of that.


I've got a B.A. in Communications, living in Texas, USA. As someone unfamiliar with the industry, how can I get involved with historical documentaries such as these? I would love to work on projects such as yours professionally.


A B.A. in Communications is definitely a good start. ;) Maybe you can look into production companies in your area and see what kind of Documentary focus they might have. Especially in historical documentaries - which are always filled with intense research time - production companies as well as filmmakers are grateful for any help they might get. That could at least open doors for you and give you an on the job insight. But you can also look into documentary film master programs - I know there are a couple good ones out there as well. Or you can shoot me your E-Mail address. I am always looking for additional help in researching and team support. ;)


Were there any black Wehrmacht soldiers?


There were some volunteer battalions fighting for the Wehrmacht mostly abroad (for example the Free Arabian Legion). However, when black Germans were called in for enlistment most of them were turned down because a black Wehrmacht soldier was unimaginable. In our case we have two eye witnesses telling us about exactly that story. How they didn’t make it into the “Hitler Youth” / “BDM - Bund Deutscher Mädchen”. For most young boys the “Hitler Youth” led directly to the SS.


How did black people survive Nazi Germany?


Black people were not specially a target of the Nazis at the beginning, especially because there were high hopes on winning back former German colonies. During the rise of the Nazi regime and the fear of racial impurity however, black people were either forced to go under the radar or they were accumulated into the arts helping German propaganda and stereotypes. How? They were performing a role. The role a white man saw in a black man - the “child-like uneducated African”. And that is the role they had to play in human zoos as well as propaganda movies. Else they were fearing being sterilized or sent to concentration camp.


We’re there such a thing as “black Nazis?” Some have speculated this...


Well what I have found out during my research and talking to eye witnesses and historians is that since especially young black Germans grew up with the same ideologies like everyone else they sure liked what their classmates and friends did. And they never really came to that point of questioning their German identity, however, they soon found out that they were not in any way loved by Hitler when they were not taken into the “Hitler Youth” and other Nazi groups. I know this doesn’t answer the question a 100% but that is all I found out so far. :/


Surprising topic. I never knew or rather learnt there were people of black or rather African descent in Germany between 1934 and 1945. How did you come about to explore this particular point of reference of German history?


That is exactly what intrigued me. I have Afro-German friends that still get the question of “Where are you REALLY from?”. Even though their families are Germans in a fourth and sometimes even fifth generation. That in combination with meeting the right people at the right time allowed me to dig deeper into that “unknown” aspect in German history. It is actually a story full of unexpected surprises and at the beginning - when I told people about the idea and the story line - I constantly found them with open mouths added by a “no way”, “no way!”. “NO WAY?!”. I am excited to be able to work on it. :)


I am embarrassed to say I have not really studied or thought about this deeply before. I'm Canadian and biracial myself (Native/White) and racial identity is something I have studied a bit on my own and always been aware of from my personal experiences and those around me. I am similarly interested in the somewhat buried war history in my own country (Canada) of First Nations and black soldiers and fascinated by the concept of how people defending a country who persecuted them continued to be treated as lesser afterward... But have not thought of the other side really.

I have a million questions and will definitely watch the film... WWII and Nazi Germany is a painful but gripping subject... It's almost hard to imagine the atrocities, but at the same time I think a large degree of underhanded prejudice and oppression is still alive and well in many countries towards many people... So I think these things are important not only on a historical/educational level, but for social awareness too of the complexity of perception of race in the past and present.

I will try to think of one question only!!

What was the most surprising thing you learned during this experience? (Or a moment of something you learned or someone you spoke to that did not go as you had expected maybe?)

This is a subject I could ask so many things about.


Thank you for your comment and I am happy that you feel you have many questions on the topic. We hope we will get to answer many of them in the documentary. :)

Your picked question is a tough one though because there were so many things I didn’t expect. Many stories I had not read about. Many angles I had no idea existed and especially hearing that from people that actually went through that time and who shared their experiences. Maybe one comment that we can’t seem to forget was a conversation we had on Nazi ideology and how a young black German would deal with that. And the answer we got was so different from what we had expected. Because they never saw themselves as “the other”. In no way they would have questioned Hitlers love for them and when they found out that Hitler didn’t love them and didn’t want them to be part of the whole Nazi movement they were deeply devastated. And that was something we did not expect. How could this be possible? But of course. For us now its clear. We know what happened and we know how badly it turned out but for them that was the first time they experienced “the otherness” and it broke their heart.

Please shoot if you have more questions. We would love to hear more :)


I like the look of the film, what gear do you use? Any behind the scenes pics from your setup?


Thanks! I am glad you like what you see. :) We are shooting with an ARRI Amira but other than that mostly with natural morning light. Unless it’s an indoor interview location. See behind the scenes picture attached ;) (not the best quality but it hopefully gives you an idea)


How many black people were even living in Germany during that time?


It is unfortunately very hard to name specific numbers since many paths weren’t traced. However, there is an estimate of about 20.000 - 25.000 black people in Germany during that time. Even today there are only rough numbers on the black German population as after WWII the collection of racial data was not pursued.


I understand that the Nazis took inspiration from Jim Crow South. Did it have any impact on the black population in Germany, was it negligible, or was it a matter of local decisions?


Good question. While talking to our historians we also discussed the Jim Crow aspect, however more on the story line on how black GI’s entering Germany were now seen as liberators when other black Germans were only tolerated until then. How it affected Afro-Americans and their experience in a country that was full of hope with their appearance. That leads to a comment I mentioned earlier how black people were seen so differently. A liberating black GI was absolutely seen differently from an Afro-German. How their return to the US affected the fight on Jim Crow laws that is another big topic.


Any idea about the date of release yet?


Unfortunately not yet. We are still in development and pitching the teaser as well as the documentary idea this October to potential co-producers, VODs and buyers and will hopefully get to finish the production by Summer 2020. I will keep you updated on release dates for sure. :)


Hey Stefanie! How did the idea come about?


It was actually a combination of many things. :)

When I was growing up and made my way across the Austrian border I was asked many times… so where are you from? Since I obviously look very Austrian I was never asked a second time: “Yes, but where are you REALLY from?” Some of my black friends however get this question all the time. Even though they are black Germans in a fourth and fifth generation. This casually racist question is fraught with ignorant denial: of German colonial history in Africa, of Nazi race laws; of all degrading experiences and legacies endured. That is something that always intrigued me.

Then last year I was lucky and met a wonderful Producer from Nigeria and we talked about African diaspora and the experience of black people in Germany.

That is when I started to work on the topic more intensely with my friend and co-author Jermain Raffington and an amazing young talent Langston Uibel. The three of us try to work on exactly that. How the story of colonialism shaped the stereotyped image of black people. How they were accumulated in the arts (within human zoos and colonial movies) for higher propaganda reasons and the desire to eventually win back colonies and how that stigmata is still so present today.


I'd like to know more about the way Nazism affected black Germans while awaiting your documentary. Can you recommend any books or papers on the subject?


Absolutely understandable :) I really like the “while awaiting your documentary” phrasing. ;)
Please find some book links attached:

- The Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender, and Memory in the Third Reich
- Hitler's Black Victims: The Historical Experience of Afro-Germans, European Blacks, Africans and African Americans in the Nazi Era (Cross Currents in African American History)
- Black German: An Afro-German Life in the Twentieth Century
- Mach nicht so traurige Augen, weil du ein Negerlein bist
- Germany's Black Holocaust, 1890-1945: The Untold Truth!
- Neger, Neger, Schornsteinfeger! Meine Kindheit in Deutschland.


Did any get sent to concentration camps for being black?


Yes some did. There were political prisoners but also black people that were sent to concentration camp because they somehow attracted attention to them. Like sleeping with married white women or being politically active. On the other hand there are also known cases of black Germans working in concentration camps. That is however very rare. One of my protagonists is a descendant of a concentration camp survivor and his survival story is one of a kind!


What kind of process goes into making a film like this? How long have you been working on it and has it been difficult to decide what angle to take on the stories in it? And what about funding, it is easy or difficult to find money to do something like this?


Actually it is quite a ride! We started researching the topic over a year ago and are now at a point where we are very certain on the story angle. But that came with a lot of wrong taken paths, rethinking everything over and over again. What helps is a constant conversation about it with people who have not heard about your idea before. That will help you constantly developing your idea.

The funding aspect is also a very diverse one because there are many doubters but also supporters. You have to find people who believe in not only the topic but also in you as filmmaker. And we are hoping we will find a great addition to the already good base of supporters that we have so far. Once you have that you can start off pitching your idea to funds, broadcasters and co-partners.

I believe that our topic is essential to both social issues but combined with a contemporary relevance hoping it will come with some funds. :))


What was your motivation on focusing on this specific segment of the German population? Sub Saharan Africans made up such a small portion of the German population and since they were so tiny there never seemed to have been a major focus on establishing a national policy of discrimination against them. Why not focus on other groups in Germany with much larger populations whose treatment in the holocaust has often been ignored by history and whom the Nazis actually directly targeted on a large scale? like the gypsies, disabled, or homosexual peoples.


That is actually exactly why we are focusing on it. The story of black Germans and colonial subjects is one that is rarely told and known of. How Germany ventured abroad to obtain colonies, how colonial subjects came to Germany sometimes after fighting bravely as an Askari soldier under German flag in WWI and then finding themselves stranded because Germany lost its colonies after the war. The changing perspective on black people during that time: from a desire of winning back colonies to the fear of racial impurity. And how it changed with the rise of the Nazis. Right now wer are still very fortunate to talk to eye witnesses about their experiences, their survival stories and how racism effected their live up until today. How to overcome that and how to be a proud German even though others might not see that for you.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely agree with you that there are so many unseen and untold stories about Nazi horrors out there but I think black people have the right to their own history. Their German history which is even today often still neglected and ignored. And they are still seen as “the others”. We need to change that. :)


This is maybe not directly related to the Third Reich, but it definitely relates to the titular "white gaze." As a German native, I've noticed how ubiquitous the name "Mohren Apotheke" is for pharmacies in Germany.

I don't know if you can answer this question since it doesn't fall directly into your area of focus, but what was it about that name and the perception of POC in German society at the time that made this such a popular choice, and especially for pharmacies above all else? Did you come across anything in your research about German colonialism and the white gaze that might shed some light on this?


I did come along that. Initially I thought of covering the story of black people in general. Starting from the so called “Hofmohren” time on. But that would have gone too far and there is just too little time to already tell that historical journey I am choosing to go for now. So I kind of didn’t dig into that any further as of the “Mohren Apotheke” image goes. I do have a book I can recommend you though if you are interested. It’s: “Wie die Deutschen Weiss wurden” by Wulf D. Hund. It kind of gives an overview on how it all started. Sorry I can’t explain that any better. :/


What was the most shocking/disturbing thing you discovered while doing research?


To be honest. When I found out that the idea of holocaust mechanisms was already initiated during German colonial times. I had no idea up until the moment of research. I thought it was something purely initiated by the Nazis but it wasn’t. That was a big eye opener for me.


Where do you get most sources from? Will I be able to watch this documentary online or?


We are luckily able to access eye witnesses, descendants as well as scholars and professors specialising in black German history, Colonial history and Racism and will hopefully cover every aspect of information with that. Since we are a black and white team developing the documentary we are also focusing on the necessity to incorporate black and white voices.

We are hoping to show the documentary both offline as well as online but can’t yet say where. We will definitely keep you updated on it’s development on here though. :)


Why that title?


That is a very good question. While digging deeper into the topic we found that “the gaze” of white people towards people of color was such a constant and strong aspect that we thought we would implement it in a very present way. Black people were always the other among a white population. They were starred at in human zoos, colonial propaganda films and everywhere they would be seen. A merely superficial judgment that is even present today. That is why we decided to go with that title. What do you think about it?


Wait, there were black people in Nazi Germany?


Yes. I know. :/ I get that reaction a lot. Not many people know about it and question how it is possible that they survived. But they did. And that is what the documentary is going to be about. ;)


Was it true that many of the Afro-Germans were forcibly sterilized?


Yes. Unfortunately it is true when it comes to the so called "Rhineland Bastards". Children from French colonial occupants in the Rhineland area with white German women. These babies became a specific thorn in the side of the nation. And there was a big desire to identify all of the children who were the offspring of the Rhineland occupation and to sterilize that particular population. But also other black children knew that they should not go to the hospital during this time because there was a possibility of sterilisation due to the idea of racial purity.


Have you heard of August Agbola O'Browne (

A black guy working in/for Polish underground during German occupation.

Not necessary a straight Nazi Germany related, but nevertheless interesting case from German-occupied Poland.


Wow, no. I did not. Thanks for sharing that! How did you find out about him?


I'm not sure I've ever met a genuine Neo-Nazi, but plenty of people over the years who were sympathetic. It seemed to me most of them were racist towards black, Asian or Islamic people, although that may just be because of the low Jewish population in Australia.

Do you think the Nazi ideology was co-opted by other racist groups, or always going to turn violent towards any 'non-aryans?'


I think racism has many sources. First of all it often comes with fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of loosing something you are used to. And that is combined - often - with the lack of information and education. White has often seen itself superior to people of colour. In many cases that lies in the routes of colonialism. I feel - and what my research and the discussion with experts taught me so far - is that we can only change that with constant confrontation and open discussions. Not the finger pointing ones… but the ones understanding both sites. Understanding why people might be afraid or jealous of someone. Why they might feel the need for a superiority towards other people - no matter what race, colour, gender, sexual orientation etc.


Where in Austria are you from/located? Have you done much research at/into Mauthausen?


I am actually very close to Mauthausen and done lots of research into it. I am located in Salzburg and am also working on a Mauthausen storyline in the documentary - I have one black Mauthausen survivor being part of the story. Have you had a chance to visit it?


Did the friendship between Jesse Owens and German athlete Luz Long, have any affect on the attitudes of white Germans towards blacks?

Did Jesse Owens winning, somehow help discredit Hitler's theory of the Aryan race being superior?


Jesse Owens played a very big role back then… but especially for black Germans. He was one of few role models that actually helped discredit Hitler’s theory just like you remarked.:)

Both my eye witnesses mentioned him when we asked for role models back then. Especially because after the Olympic Games people would often call them “Jesse Owens” as a nick name. It showed them what black people were capable of. Sorry for the late response. :) Took a little break.


What is your team like? What historians are you working with?


Good morning. :) I am very fortunate and can say that even though it’s a pretty small team the individual strengths allow us to be very precise in the overall development. I have a wonderful co-author on board, an amazing young acting talent, one Europe based and one US based cinematographer and a producer that allows me to develop this documentary with all the help I need from her (including equipment, editing gear, editing personnel etc.) so all in all a jackpot. :) In addition to the “main team” I have a great network of international scholars and experts in the field of black German history, colonial history, the effect on racism today, Mauthausen and concentration camp experts as well as the luck to talk to eye witnesses and descendants. Last but not least since I am developing this documentary within a programme called “Documentary Campus Masterschool” I am also embedded in a network of market professionals once it comes to editing, marketing, distribution, festival strategies. etc. I am sorry I can’t mention any specific names to you just yet but I will adjust the comment with names, once the October pitching session is over.


Hello, I find this very interesting and was under the impression that Black people in Germany at that time, were targeted by Nazis for genocide. However I'm ignorant on this topic.

I am Black American and my cousin spent time in Germany while in the military and married a woman from there. They are in the states and happily married with grown kids. He felt welcome there.

From what I have learned, Germany seemed to make heroic efforts to get past their history of Nazis. Which in comparison to the US with slavery, I do not feel was properly addressed like Germany did with the Nazis. Do you feel that Germany properly addressed the various prejudices against Black Germans as well? If so, how?


Hello there. Please excuse my late reply. I have been out researching and talking to eyewitnesses in the last couple weeks.

Yes, you are right. Germany sure is making big efforts to get past the Nazi history however, in the case of colonialism and Afro-German history there is definitely room for improvement. I know it might seem that this is something that must have happened alongside the incredible effort in the general historical reappraisal but it didn’t. Only now - slowly - Afro-German stories are being heard. And in some cases it’s too late. We are trying to give them additional presence and especially regarding the still so present stigma and the prejudices against Black Germans that is long overdue!


Is Gary oldman still the greatest actor ever?


He sure is a pretty amazing actor. :)


You mentioned in another comment that black people have a right to their own history. But I think that staking a claim to this period of history is very problematic. Do you see any danger in shifting the narrative away from the larger groups that suffered under the Nazi regime?


Maybe I phrased that wrong but with “Black Skin / White Gaze” we are not trying to shift the narrative away from a larger group we would just like to adjust the historical “cone of light” to the known narrative. We dont want to diminish any other suffering, atrocities or anything else committed by the nazis at all. All we do is highlight an aspect that hasn’t been talked about to a great extent. To look at a story of a population that survived the horrors of the Nazi era even though one might not have expected that.


Is it true that there were black nazis?


Hi there. I tried to answer that question a bit earlier yesterday. Please find the link below. :) I know it does not fulfil the answer to a 100% but I will make sure if I find more specifics on that with my next talking round with specialist and experts I will upload them on here.


Hey first of all i like the aesthetic style of the trailer


What do you think how well the reapraissal of the wrongs against black is fairing especially compared to the reapraissal of the crimes against sinti,roma and gays ? as those 3/4 groups seem like the forgotten victims of the nazis


Thank you. I am glad you like the style. The aesthetic is something very significant for me in that specific case since the world of “the arts” was an essential way of survival during that time. With owning it now I feel it allows some sort of empowerment. I hope this makes sense. :) And to your second question - very good one by the way! I hope I am phrasing that correctly but I feel that unfortunately none of those targeted groups were ever covered with a good reappraisal. There is no way the horrors of the Nazis can ever be covered enough anyway and it shall never be forgotten… I sometimes have the feeling of people not wanting to deal with that time anymore but that is exactly when it becomes dangerous. Especially because I came across so many untold stories. Unseen stories and stories that deserve a voice. In particular because with an increasing power of right wing parties those stories need to be told. With “Black Skin / White Gaze” that is one angle but there are many other.


Hopefully this is still open for my question or questions.

Was any afro Germans allowed to join the Luftwaffe or the Kriegsmarine and if so were they ever able to become any high ranking officials of either?


Hi there. Sorry for the late response. There are known cases of Afro Germans in the Wehrmacht and especially of volunteer battalions abroad (in the Africa campaign). But the chances a black German got into the Wehrmacht were very very rare and decisions were always made locally. I am not sure about the ranking possibilities within those rare cases though but since the general image of a black Wehrmachtssoldat was very unusual it would seem that high ranking possibilities were rather low. I will make sure to ask specifics with my next question round with our scholars and experts and let you know. :)

In our case we got the chance to talk to eye witnesses who always dreamed of joying but they were rejected to be part of the “Hitler Youth” (led directly to the SS) or “Bund Deutscher Mädchen”. Leaving them behind with doubt in their German identity.


Omg! For me this is one of the best AMAs ever as it touches on a perspective of history that is relatively unknown. Why do you think that this facet of nazi German history is being kept quiet?


Hi there. Please excuse my late reply! I am glad you like the AMA. :)

Good question. To be honest I have only assumptions that could lead to an answer - even I came across the topic “by luck” about 1,5 years ago and been researching it every since. I have been working on historical documentaries before - focusing on WWII topics and you would not believe how many untold stories there are out there. It’s incredible and devastating. And I get why people tend to be full of historical approaches of WWII topics but seeing how political powers keep shifting again, it is a necessary task to look at ALL the stories and make sure something horrible like that will never happen again! I will keep you updated on the documentary development and send a message once I know the premiere dates. :)


How many black people lived in Nazi Germany?


It is unfortunately very hard to name specific numbers since many paths weren’t traced. However, there is an estimate of about 20.000 - 25.000 black people in Germany during that time. Even today there are only rough numbers on the black German population as after WWII the collection of racial data was not pursued.


Are you Jewish?


No. I was raised catholic... but I study all religions now.


Have you read HALF BLOOD BLUES by Esi Edugyan?


Funny you mention that book... I actually just received a mail with that exact book a couple days ago and can't wait to start reading it. :) How did you like it?


Are you aware that some black people served in DAK?


Hi there, sorry for my late reply. I have been out for further research. :) You mean the “Deutsche Afrikakorps” with Rommel, right? Yes, I have come across it in my research. How did you find out about it?

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