The German Africa Show (1934-1940)

The German Africa Show was a touring, part ethnographic exhibition, part vaudeville show originally created around 1934 by the Togolese man Kwassi Bruce and the German Adolf Hillerkus as a means of providing employment for German-based Africans and their children. Performers sang, danced, and performed acrobatics and exotic acts such as fire-breathing in front of a recreated African village. As part of lingering German hopes of regaining the lost colonial territories the Show initially enjoyed the political support of a number of state and Nazi party organs; in particular the Colonial Department of the Foreign Office. From 1937 elements of colonial propaganda were built into performances.

Over the duration of its existence the Show offered a form of employment for at least 40 men, largely but not exclusively former German colonial subjects as well as their German-born children. Crucially, it also offered a degree of security from the increasing violence of Nazi racial policies and practices towards Black people. It was eventually closed down during the summer of 1940. A number of participants now sought exile outside of Germany while a handful of others such as the Cameroonian Jonas N’Doki and the Tanzanian Mohamed Husen died at the hands of the Nazis.

This promotional postcard was printed while the Show was being run by the SA man and circus impresario ‘Captain’ Alfred Schneider. Amongst those in the image are the Ethiopian Wolde Tadek (far right), the East African Harry Mambo (second right) and the American Clarence Walton (sitting). Walton was one of several show members who left Germany as conditions deteriorated. In summer 1942 he was able to return to the United States, but without his wife and child.

Robbie Aitken

Kolonialschau 02

Source: Postcard (after 1937), Collection Aitken.

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