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Theodor Wonja Michael: A life that we will carry on

2019-10-22T10:51:51.371Z

Theodor Wonja Michael, who survived the Nazi regime as an Afro-German, embodied the history of black people in Germany in the 20th century. Now he died.



It was an evening in January 2016, when Theodor Wonja Michael, together with Holocaust survivor Marie Nejar, performed on a stage in Frankfurt am Main. He talked about his life and his wishes for the future. Around 300 people rose from their seats. Roaring applause that did not stop. Most of the guests were part of the Black Movement in Germany. The participants celebrated the 30th anniversary of the initiative SchwarzeMenschen in Deutschland (ISD) that evening, and Michael was not only the patron of the event. His role as a role model for all those people who are exposed to racism in Germany and who want to defend themselves and assert themselves has become very clear.

Michael was born in 1925 as the fourth and youngest child of a white German and a Cameroonian. At that time, Michael's fatherland stood as a so-called "protected area" under German colonial rule. He became an eyewitness, a survivor of an epoch in which black people in Germany were not wanted and reduced to racist clichés. His father Theophilus Wonja Michael came from an aristocratic family, his mother Martha was a seamstress from East Prussia. She died a year after his birth. As a half-orphan, Michael first grew up with his father, who brought the family through as a subway maker, later he lived under miserable circumstances with foster parents. In their "Völkerschauen", as a young boy, he had to be able to mime degrading scenes and let himself be gawked. Michael began to stutter, at age 14 he already had stomach ulcers.

When his father died in 1934, the four siblings were separated. Three left the country, Michael stayed in Nazi Germany. He had to leave high school, got a "foreign passport" and was marked with the N-word. The war exacerbated the situation: In bombing, he was expelled from the air raid shelter. A key moment of exclusion for him was not being admitted to the German Labor Front as a so-called "alien". The anxiety to be sterilized, as it happened to many black German children and adults at this time - ambulant and sometimes without anesthesia - accompanied him.

Thwarted himself as a page, porter and comparer, behaved inconspicuously, avoided official contacts, had no relationship. He met other black people only when he worked with them, in propaganda films such as Carl Peters with Hans Albers. With Marie Nejar, who at the 30-year celebration of the ISD next to him on stage, Michael was seen as a complement in the 1942 filmed novel adaptation Münchhausen . Those who worked on the film were considered "important to the war effort" and could protect themselves from being picked up in the street. According to estimates, 2,000 black people in concentration camps were murdered by the National Socialists. Michael was interned as a forced laborer in a labor camp in 1943, when Münchhausen came to the cinema, where he was released in 1945.

Michaelaafrodeutsches life combined the chapters of German history of the 20th century between colonial self-image to the Weimar Republic, the racist references of the Nazi state, their lack of work in the postwar period and the resurgent African Diaspora in Germany. His testimony also showed that the black victims of the Holocaust to date have received neither recognition nor "compensation" for their suffering. His death makes it clear that the possibility for the latter is dwindling, Michael was one of the few remaining eyewitnesses. Survivors who can report that although there was no separate extermination order of the NS for members of the African Diaspora, the targeted anti-black racism at this time However, the sterilization, internment and murder of black people can be documented.

Source: zeit

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