German editor finds Jim Crow like Hitler Days (1957)

West German commentators watched battles over Civil Rights in the United States with great interest, not least because they provided opportunities to claim a degree of moral superiority vis-à-vis their superpower patron. West Germans could claim a special expertise in oppression that they used to demonstrate how far they had come only a decade or two after Hitler. Comparing the Jim Crow South with Nazi Germany, as does Karl Lankau here, was a powerful way to challenge the segregationist regime, and African-American newspapers like the Memphis World were happy to air these criticisms.  

Lankau’s comments show the extent to which a degree of racial tolerance had become central to West Germans’ conception of themselves. At the same time, though, West Germans’ persistent concern over the children of African-American soldiers and white German mothers and the difficulties faced by those children illustrate that race remained central to West German understandings of the nation.

Jeff Bowersox


ATLANTA, GA. — (SNS) —In many ways segregation practices towards the Negro in the South resemble oppressive tactics, towards Jews and other minorities in Germany by Adolf Hitler, a former Nazi paratrooper said Thursday.

Karl Lankau, chief editor of the Lübecker Nachrichten, a metropolitan newspaper of Lubeck, Germany, made the observation on Thursday while visiting Atlanta on a U. S. State Department-sponsored tour.

Lankau had been to Little Rock and talked with Gov. Faubus, while trying to get the broad perspective of America’s integration-segregation picture. The German editor, who was captured in the Battle of Normandy and was a prisoner of war in the United States during the last years of World War II commented that the Little Rock affair had made Gov. Faubus “the best known American in Europe.”

Lubeck is located about five miles from the zone separating East and West Germany. According to Lankau, there is considerable traffic of Russian-held zone Germans into the West because of better economic and social conditions.

The visitor toured Atlanta Negro areas, including the Auburn Avenue and Hunter Street business sections and areas proposed for urban re-development.

Source: “German Editor Finds Jim Crow like Hitler Days,” Memphis World (6 November 1957). Via

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