Germans were less than enthused when the victorious powers of the First World War sent occupational troops to Germany along with soldiers from the French colonies to the Rhineland. In addition to the shame from defeat in the war and the loss of the colonies, came a supposed shame of being controlled by people who were “uncivilized and barbaric” and to whom those occupied thought themselves superior. Those in the Rhineland did not tolerated this in silence, but rather set up a vicious propaganda campaign against the so-called “Black Shame.”
The propaganda portrayed emerging relationships between “African” soldiers and white German women as particularly threatening to the general population. The propaganda claimed that the continuation of the white German “race would be seriously endangered by children from these relationships and their descendants.” Similar to everywhere else in the German Reich, people in Cologne reacted to this situation with horror and disgust. The head of the firing range administration in Wahn, Major (ret.) Plewig, proved to be adept in propagandistic discourse about the “black shame” when he described the occupation by soldiers of color as a “deliberate humiliation” of the German people.
His ignorance in regards to the soldiers’ countries of origin and customs scared him, but he could not admit it. Rather, he legitimized it by describing those who were “foreign” to him as unpredictable and dangerous. He did not understand their languages, and so the “wild” soldiers emitted in his opinion only “sounds similar to dogs barking, which had no resemblance to any language and which no one could understand or interpret. […] Communication with these people was impossible, since they did not know or understand any language except their gurgling sounds.”
Plewig directed his fears as well at the behavior of the African soldiers in public toward the white German women, which was perceived as particularly “disgraceful.” German culture and order stood for custom and decency in public opinion. It did not fit into this image that women felt attracted to African men. The mingling of African soldiers with white German women represented such a breach of taboo that consensual sexuality was denied in any case. Plewig claimed that rapes had occurred several times. The reality, however, was completely different. In the same report, he grudgingly admitted that most young women or girls played an active part in forming relationships with African soldiers. Despite all the propaganda, relationships arose between white German women and African soldiers, from which children were also born. As early as the 1920s, there were discussions about what should happen to these children. In April 1933, Hermann Göring instructed the district presidents in the Rhineland to compile statistics on the number and age of children conceived by occupying soldiers of color with white German women. Children from these relationships were also identified in Cologne. In 1937 the children found on this registry were sterilized. Forced sterilizations were also carried out in Cologne at the Protestant hospital in Cologne-Weyertal.