Hitler's African Victims: The German Army Massacres of Black French Soldiers in 1940
Tate, Robert F., Air & Space Power Journal
Hitler's African Victims: The German Army Massacres of Black French Soldiers in 1940 by RafFael Scheck. Cambridge University Press (http:// www.cambridge.org/us), 32 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10013-2473, 2006, 216 pages, $65.00 (hardcover).
In Carl G. Gustavson's A Preface to History, the author asserts that when viewing any historical event, one should examine and try to understand any and all underlying influences that led up to a specific episode because such events never take place in a vacuum and simply do not "just occur." Rather, situations always go into motion on the heels of other occurrences. In his excellent book Hitler's African Victims, Raffael Scheck does this seamlessly and to great effect.
An associate professor of modern European history at Colby College and holder of a PhD from Brandeis University, Scheck has authored the books Alfred van Tirpitz and German Right Wing Politics, 1914-1930 and Mothers of the Nation: Right-Wing Women in Weimar Germany, along with several articles on German right-wing politics. In Hitler's African Victims, Scheck brings to light an area of history that until now people have either intentionally ignored or unfortunately forgotten.
During the desperate summer of 1940, German forces ran largely unchecked through Western Europe. One of the many countries to feel the wrath of Hitler's army was France. Burning with an intense desire to seek revenge for the abomination imposed on the German people-the Treaty of Versailles-Hitler and his minions assumed a special attitude toward forcing a quick and humiliating surrender from France. The ranks of the French army held more than 100,000 black soldiers whom the French had recruited and mobilized from the areas of Mauritania, Senegal, and Niger in French West Africa, placing them into eidier all-black or mixed-race regiments and then making them part of Colonial Infantry divisions. During hard-fought battles against the Germans, these African soldiers-often armed with the feared, long-bladed coupe-coupe, with which they hacked their way through enemy soldiers in close combat-found themselves pitted against the best the Germans could muster. One rarely hears the story of the losses that the Africans imposed on the Germans.
Tragically, during the hardest-fought period in the French campaign, up to 3,000 of these Tirailleurs Senegalais prisoners were evidently massacred by German soldiers. The murder of enemy prisoners-by members of both sides-did occur during the war, but the sheer number of losses incurred by the Tirailleurs over a relatively short period of time raises serious questions. The author does a masterful job of Grafting coherent background information to explain the circumstances surrounding these massacres.
As part of his analysis, Scheck discusses many aspects of the history of the racism in Germany that likely led to attitudes prevalent within Nazi society at the time-for example, what became known as the "Black Horror," involving the stationing of black soldiers in the Rhineland following World War I. …