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    Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw

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    Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw

But wait a minute, the victims of the Nazi Camps were not all Jews; they included hundreds of blacks of African descent, most of whom were brought in to fight on the side of the Allied Forces. Unfortunately however, during the 8 May celebrations each year, not a single word or wreath is laid in memory of those blacks who died alongside the Jews, nor a single word uttered on behalf of the few black survivors of this Nazi genocide, as if their lives were different from those of the Jews.

It was against this background and the desire to rewrite African history vis-à-vis Europe that Diaspora Afrique 2000, a Pan-African Association in France, decided to break the long silence by organising avideo projection of a documentary "Des Noirs dans les Camps Nazis" (Blacks in the Nazi Camps) madeby an Ivorian journalist Serge Bilé. The projection on Friday May 7 at the 'Images D'Ailleurs', the first black cinema hall in Paris, was apparently dedicated to the memory of the black victims and survivors of the Nazi camps, and as part of the Allied Forces victory day commemoration.

In order to wet my enthusiasm to learn more about the usual pooh-poohing of anything African in the West, I chose to follow my inner instinct and honour the invitation of my countryman Brima Conteh, president of Diaspora Afrique 2000. The hall itself was jam-packed with mostly blacks from different backgrounds, and you can literally count the few whites who were around. Conteh spoke briefly about the aims and objectives of his association before the projection.

The documentary, which lasted an hour, turned out to be quite emotional mainly featuring three black survivors   of the Nazi labour & camps telling their bitter stories. It was also punctuated with occasional slides of the Nazi camps in black and white. The idea is to bring to light, for the first time, the suffering of these blacks originally from Ivory Coast, Senegal, Cameroon, Congo, and even Equatorial Guinea sent to fight alongside the Allied Forces with identity cards bearing not their original nationalities but rather those of their colonial masters such as France, Belgium, Spain, Great Britain, and sometimes Germany. While the Jewish victims have often been remembered with their survivors even benefiting from reparations from Germany, their black colleagues from Africa or the Caribbean islands have been all but ignored and forgotten, not to talk of reparations to their survivors.

One of the survivors, John William, an Ivorian remembered for interpreting the famous song by Lara and many negro religious songs recalled how, as a young man in 1943, he was employed as a qualified mechanic and later placed in one of the Nazi labour camps where he suffered unspeakable repression. He said he continued to pray hoping to survive the horrible experience; and in this way he quickly became a devout Christian. Another, Dominique Mendy, who was filmed in his native Senegal, also had a similar story of suffering and frustration to tell, comparing their experience more or less to that suffered by other African brothers and sisters during the era of the slave trade.

The other, Théodore Michael, is black but still considers himself to be a German since his family migrated to Berlin from Tanganyika, a former German colony. He recalled how, following the promulgation of the laws of Nuremberg-the decrees that were drawn up by one Glotke, who was, after the war, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer's Secretary of State-jews, tsiganes and "negroes" were the victims lined up for the Nazi concentration camps and gas chambers. Théodore Michael said because the Germans were eager to protect their "blood and honour", they frowned at children born from unions of German women and African soldiers dismissing them as "bustards of the Rheine", which they took to be more of a humiliation for the German Reich.

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