Forgotten Black Germans who were persecuted in the Holocaust are remembered thanks to Sheffield academic

An academic from Sheffield has shone a spotlight on the forgotten Black victims of the Holocaust by initiating the installation of new two memorials to help commemorate them.

Friday, 17th September 2021, 3:27 pm
Updated Friday, 17th September 2021, 5:50 pm

Robbie Aitken, professor of Imperial History at Sheffield Hallam University, has carried out extensive research into the history of Germany’s Black community and the compensation claims by Black Holocaust victims.

He applied to lay the memorials in Berlin - in memory of Martha Ndumbe and Ferdinand James Allen - to bring visibility to Germany’s black history.

Professor Robbie Aitken said: “Over 75,000 Stolpersteine [concrete blocks laid into the pavement] have now been laid not just in Germany, but across Europe commemorating victims of the Nazi regime.

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The memorial for Martha Ndumbe.

“The Stolpersteine for Ferdinand and Martha will bring the number dedicated to black victims to four - this small number speaks to the fact that the experiences of black people remain almost entirely absent from public and historical memory of the Third Reich.

“This invisibility is the result of several complex causes: the scale of the Nazi atrocities, the small size of Germany’s pre-1945 black population, a lack of archival documentation, and the ongoing inability to constructively engage with Germany's colonial past - a consequence of which has been the disremembering that Germany ever had a black population which largely stemmed from its colonies.

“I hope these new memorials help to shed further light on the devastating impact that Nazi rule had on the lives of Germany’s black residents.”

Martha Ndumbe, born in Berlin in 1902, was involved with prostitution and petty crime in the 1920s and 1930s, resulting in her being arrested several times.

The memorial for Ferdinand James Allen.

After a long period in prison, Martha was sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp on June 9, 1944, where she died on February, 5, 1945.

Ferdinand James Allen, born in Berlin in 1898, was sent to the Wuhlgarten municipal sanatorium from the mid-1920s.

He was forcibly sterilized there and on 14 May 1941 he was murdered in the Euthanasia Institute Bernburg as part of the Nazis’ T4 Euthanasia campaign.

The two memorials are part of an ongoing project by artist Gunter Demnig, to commemorate those who were persecuted by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945.

Professor of Imperial History at Sheffield Hallam University, Robbie Aitken, speaking at the ceremony in Berlin.