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The Academic Success of Negermischlinge ["Mixed-race Negroes"]. Study by the Institute for Natural and Humanistic Anthropology (1956)

Between 1945 and 1955, tens of thousands of occupation children were born in West Germany as the result of sexual relationships between German women and foreign occupation soldiers. In the mid-fifties, the Berlin-based Institute for Natural and Humanistic Anthropology [Institut für Natur- und Geisteswissenschaftliche Anthropologie] undertook a thorough study of the “mixed-race Negroes” among the occupation children. These children, who were fathered by African-American GIs, usually grew up with their mothers or with maternal relatives. The report concludes that the academic achievement of these children was not substantially different from that of their fellow students and that “racial mixing” therefore entailed no negative consequences. At the same time, however, the report also imputed a number of specifically “Negroid” character traits, such as a heightened temperament, a tendency toward spontaneity, greater physical agility, and so on. Government officials in the educational realm were making efforts to sensitize teachers, parents, and fellow students, and they claimed that the mixed-race children had not been exposed to overt discrimination thus far.

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1. Introduction

In the first report of “Studies of the Institute for Natural and Humanistic Anthropology,” an attempt was made to provide a picture of the mental and physical development of the colored occupation children in Berlin. This study is now four years old. By now, the majority of the children on whom these observations were based have enrolled in school. The oldest, who were then five years old, have already been attending school for two to three years. Since it was possible to continue to track the life paths of these children with the help of the Hauptschulamt [Office of the Hauptschule], a second report now completes the picture we have. Here, one must recall with special gratitude the patience and willingness of the officials and teachers who alone made it possible for the report to be assembled piece by piece, like a mosaic.

The primary purpose of the 1952 article was to determine the form in which the interplay of predisposition and environment shaped the children. By contrast, the present report intends to focus on how the Mischling [mixed-race child] is getting along in his human environment, and on what, from a social perspective, he can accomplish and become within society in its present form. Of course, one must remain cognizant of the fact that the active and passive elements cannot be separated in sociology. Managing life and being shaped by life – this is a reciprocal process. Thus, the question of how the environment responds to the Mischlinge cannot be avoided. Since the release of the first report, the German section of the World Brotherhood, Frankfurt am Main, has taken up the problem of the colored mixed-race children in a special way and published their observations (H. Ebeling). This collection of material, which is worthy of gratitude, has been used in formulating what follows here.

Finally, to round out the picture beyond the childhood setting, the experiences of Negro Mischlinge between twelve and twenty years of age have also been drawn upon. A city like Berlin provides an opportunity for doing so. Thus, one can say that the entire time-span during which young people become part of life has been subjected to examination.

2. Preliminary remarks

The decisive factor in the life of the Mischling is the “climate” of public opinion into which he is born, that is to say, the current assessment of the race question as such. This is not to say that the Mischling problem is merely a sociological one; the first report was tasked with shedding light on the biological side of the issue. It would appear, though, that the biological aspect was overemphasized for a long time. We know that this exaggerated emphasis at times creates the sociological problem of race-mixing in the first place or at least exacerbates it. [ . . . ]

Now, if one holds up the situation of the Negro Mischlinge in Germany (West Germany and West Berlin), the following picture emerges. Frist: their number is relatively small. Leaving aside the scattered cases in which there was a relationship between a white woman and a colored man before 1945, that is, if we limit ourselves to the occupation children with a Negro or a mixed-race father, the number of 4,000 can be seen as approximately correct. What characterizes them is their descent from members of the occupation forces and the fact that this is evident from looking at them – in contrast to the approximately 90,000 other occupation children fathered by white soldiers. The attitude of the environment is thus determined not only by their racial otherness, but also by the dominant attitude toward the occupation power and to the girls and women who get involved with foreign soldiers. Incidentally, this also depends largely on which women (in terms of social background and character) maintain relationships with members of the occupying forces – and thus there is an important milieu factor. Needless to say, the inherited status of the mixed-race children also depends on the proclivities of the mother.

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