Kwassi Bruce to the Colonial Department of the Foreign Office (1934)

Born in 1893 in Anecho, Togo, Kwassi Bruce was brought to Germany at three years old by his father, an African contract worker.  A pianist, he performed in the German Africa Show in the 1930s. As a German citizen with a passport, he protested against his treatment in Nazi Germany, writing a 10-page letter to the German Colonial Department on his experiences. Excerpts from the letter are below.


When in January of last year the long awaited national uprising and rebirth of Germany was accomplished and the Third Reich arose as a new creation, the race question formed one of the basic points of the new regime programme.

I am an African of pure race, born in Togo and in Germany since the age of three, adopted by a childless, pure Aryan couple. As a result, like all Aryan children born here I have enjoyed an upbringing similar to that which children from middle class backgrounds were granted in the pre-war period. I am baptised in the evangelical faith and confirmed.

A small number of natives from the former German colonies can be found here; most of whom already came to Germany many years before the outbreak of war and who have taken up permanent residency here. Only a few (3 I believe), as a result of applying for and after a proper naturalisation process received German citizenship. The majority of them do possess German identity papers on which, however, through additions such as ‘immediate Reich national’ or ‘German protected subject’, it is hinted that the pass holder is not a German citizen … Prior to war the natives of the German colonies were deemed ‘German protected subjects’, unless they were successfully naturalised.

Neither the naturalised nor the non-naturalised Africans from the former colonies in Germany … have given up their German citizenship or identity papers voluntarily – they have not chosen to opt for the mandate states. The majority of my fellow Africans found their livelihood as musicians and entertainers, the minority worked as artisans, most self-employed.

After the seizure of power through the national government all Africans were asked to produce their passports or identity papers. Those who had not attained German citizenship, by means of a process of naturalisation, had their German identity papers taken away and replaced by ‘stateless’ passports. Since the beginning of the national government we people of colour, in as much as we earned our own living as wage earners, have almost without exception lost our jobs or engagements. And, it has not possible for us, even through presenting proof of our coming from the former German colonies, to get new jobs.

The Africans who on account of being naturalised have kept hold of their German passports find no work because they are non-Aryans – no worse still because they are black. For the others (the majority) a further obstacle is that they are stateless.

In order to demonstrate to you the difficulties we face, let me present my own experiences as an example. I am a naturalised German (my passport has not yet been taken off me). At the time of the seizure of power by the national government I played with my orchestra, of which I am the leader, in a good German restaurant. I was in permanent position. In March of last year the owner of the business told me that to his regret he could no longer employ me and my orchestra, because we are black. On 1 April I had to stop and I struggled unsuccessfully to find new work. Everywhere I asked for work I received the reply that unfortunately it was no longer possible to take me on because I am black. When I hinted to my roots from the former German protectorate of Togo, I received the following answer: “Yes, but we have no colonies any more”, or “We are no longer allowed to employ Neger”, or “the audience no longer wants to see Neger; we need to respect the wishes of the audience”, etc. Even when I brought up the fact that I fought for Germany as a volunteer in the war, spent 2 years as a PoW, none of this moved managers to employ me. My skin colour was in the way.

Again and again directors (employers) reject me, hinting at my skin colour. Just as it happens to me, so it happens to my fellow Africans. What is to become of us?

The seizure of power took place. Since then we know and feel without doubt that we are no longer wanted here. The Jews have to go, the Neger [have to go] back to their home continent. Good – we want to go!

As I said before, because the majority of my fellow Africans are performers, they were forced through their work to seek engagements abroad and, therefore, earned most of their money abroad, sending it back to their families resident here. Nowadays we can no longer get engagements abroad because the majority have a stateless passport. I do not think I need to explain the worthlessness of such (identity) papers. At this time the stateless passport is like neurasthenia; it will not kill you, but it also will not let you live. If you want that Africans from the former colonies should disappear from Germany, then aside from the passage back you need to give us the necessary funds in order that we can build a new existence for ourselves in our original homeland; the life we have here has been taken from us because we were unfortunate enough to be born with black skin.

The necessity of colonial possessions is recognised and demands are being made for the return or acquisition of new colonies for Germany. By contrast we are always portrayed as only ‘savages’, who burden our women with work, while we laze under the coconut tree or after ecstatic war dances pursue wild cabalistic activities while inebriated thanks to palm wine. Does or did nothing more really happen in Africa?

The black person from the former colonies stands proudly in front of the German people not looking for mercy, but for justice and recalls once again that in the hour of need the poorest of your sons were the truest. Do not forget this Germany!


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