Germany's 'brown babies' go in search of their American fathers: The extraordinary story of thousands of wartime children born to German mothers and black GIs
22nd November 2011
The interracial children of black American soldiers and white German women who were the product of post-World War II love affairs were shipped out of Germany by the thousands in the wake of racial intolerance.
Now, decades later, the stories of how these children were sent to live in black adoptive homes so as to be more 'socially accepted' in the U.S. during the time of racial segregation are finally coming to light.
Up to 5,000 of these children, called 'brown babies' were shipped out of Germany after World War II, and many are slowly trying to piece together their personal histories.
Because of their heritage, the children faced a troubling amount of racism from both sides of their families.
This was the time of segregation in America, when racist Jim Crow laws kept whites and blacks apart in public places dictating that 'separate but equal' facilities be used.
The cultural climate was not much better in Germany, as the mothers stood out with their dark-skinned children in a mostly-white country. Many were called 'negerhueren' or negro whores.
The fraternization between black American soldiers and German women, while frowned upon, was not legally forbidden, whereas any public interaction between blacks and white women in the U.S. was outlawed at the time.
of the approximate 95,000 children born from relationships between U.S. soldiers and European women during the occupation, 5,000 were considered brown babies.
Thousands were adopted by American families while some remained in Germany, with the dispersion leaving holes in the personal histories of the children.
'There were a lot of people who were caught between two countries, two warring nations. And we allowed those children to be abandoned, and people should know that,' said Regina Griffen, the journalist who created the documentary.
Though she was not one of said brown babies, Ms Griffen was moved to research the project after reading a book by a family friend about her search for her parents.
'It's a part of our history. It's not just African-American history, it's not just American history, it's world history,' Ms Griffen told CNN.
There is a newfound urgency in the plight of the children who hope to put the puzzle pieces of their family tree together because time is not on their side as their birth parents get older and people with the answers start to die.
Henriette Cain, 59, is one such brown baby who was raised in Rockford, Illinois. Since she started investigating her past, she has found her biological sister who lived in Germany, traced her mother who married a white U.S. soldier and now lives in Virginia, and located her father though he had died before they could connect.
'People's mothers are passing away, their fathers are passing away, and people are starting to wonder who they are,' said Ms Cain.