Marie Nejar (b. 1930) is perhaps best known as “Leila Negra,” the name she performed under while a “child star” in the 1950s. She eventually tired of the role and spent the rest of her working life as a nurse in her hometown of Hamburg. She comes from an unusually international and racially mixed family. Her father was a black Liverpool-based sailor who originally hailed from Ghana. Her mother was the child of a creole man from Martinique and a white German woman whose family disowned her because of the interracial relationship.
In this interview, conducted by Jermaine Raffington as part of his Schwarz Rot Gold series, Nejar discusses her childhood in Nazi Germany. She articulates a number of experiences common to contemporaries like Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi and Theodor Wonja Michael. Her narrative includes the moment, as a four-year-old, when she noticed that her skin color marked her as different from other children and her white family members. Growing up, she could find affection and protection among her friends, neighbors, and close family but faced rejection and abuse when she had to engage with Nazi or government officials. Despite her grandmother’s oppositional views, Nejar wanted to be like other children, blond-haired members of official youth organizations trying to please Adolf Hitler. But she eventually came to the painful conclusion that she only mattered to the regime as a prop for propaganda films. Nevertheless, Nejar insists that she not be seen as a victim or as an outsider who rejects Germans. Despite the challenges she has had to overcome, she has always been “German through and through,” and she is encouraged to see a younger generation of Black Germans challenging racism.
Source: Jermaine Raffington, Schwarzrotgold tv: Marie Nejar (1 August 2015), via YouTube.com.