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Hallam helps reveal persecution of black Germans in the Holocaust

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08 September 2021

Hallam helps reveal persecution of black Germans in the Holocaust

Remembering the forgotten black victims of the Holocaust is the aim of two new memorials initiated by a Sheffield Hallam academic

Press contact: Greg Mattocks-Evans | g.mattocks-evans@shu.ac.uk

A "stumbling block" memorial to Ferdinand James Allen, a Berlin-born Black man who was murdered as part of the Nazis' Euthanasia campaign.
A "stumbling block" memorial to Ferdinand James Allen, a Berlin-born black man who was murdered as part of the Nazis' Euthanasia campaign.

Robbie Aitken, Professor of Imperial History at Sheffield Hallam University, applied to lay the new memorials to bring new visibility to Germany’s black history, following his extensive research into the history of Germany’s black community and compensation claims by black Holocaust victims.

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

They were laid in memory of Martha Ndumbe and Ferdinand James Allen at a special ceremony in Berlin.

The Stolpersteine (stumbling blocks) are 10x10cm concrete blocks laid into the pavement in front of the last voluntarily chosen places of residence of the victims of the Nazis, with their names and fate engraved into a brass plate on the top of each block.

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

“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 was born in Berlin in 1902. After a difficult childhood, she resorted to prostitution and petty crime as a means of making a life worth living in Berlin of the 1920s and 1930s. She was arrested several times.

Once the Nazis came to power, conditions for those people who were considered "deviant" became more precarious. After a long period in prison, Martha Ndumbe was sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp on 9 June 1944. There she died on 5 February 1945.

Ferdinand James Allen was born in Berlin in 1898; little is known about his childhood. During the First World War, he and his father were interned as British citizens and as "enemy foreigners" in the Ruhleben Prisoner of War camp.

Due to epileptic seizures, Ferdinand James Allen was sent to the Wuhlgarten municipal sanatorium from the mid-1920s. After the Nazis took power, Ferdinand Allen 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.

Press contact

Greg Mattocks-Evans

Contact us

For help with a story or to find an expert

Email: pressoffice@shu.ac.uk
Phone: 01142 252811

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