“I was born in Germany. German is my mother tongue. I was in Africa just once in my life – on a package holiday,” says Konrad Erben, a student in Jena. Nevertheless, many people insist Erben can’t be German because he is Black. But Afro-Germans have been living in Germany for a long time. Hundreds came from German colonies during the Imperial period. Some appeared in spectacles known as “Völkerschauen.” Others came to get an education. Mandenga Diek was the first African to become a German citizen in 1896. A successful salesman, he campaigned for civil rights with an organization called the “Afrikanischer Hilfsverein.” It marked the beginning of an organization for the Black community in Germany.
During the Nazi period, Afro-Germans were misused in propaganda films. For example, they played alongside Heinz Rühmann in the film “Quax in Africa.” Many were also subject to forced sterilization and imprisoned in concentration camps. After World War II, black US troops had relationships with German women in occupied Germany. Their children were put up for adoption in the United States. Those who remained were marginalized by racists daily. A former member of the German national soccer team, Erwin Kostedde, recalls his experiences in this film. Gabriela Willbold became the first black child to attend school in Cottbus. She took the anti-racist assertions of Communist East Germany literally and refused to tolerate any discrimination.
In “Black and German,” four generations of men and women speak of their moving, rousing and proud history. This documentary is about racism, survival and self-empowerment.