Many Angolan and Mozambican workers remember their time in East Germany through the prism of human relationships; these shaped the migrants’ thinking about themselves as African migrants, and about “real socialism” in East Germany. As intimate strangers, they became part of neighborhood bars and shops, and became immersed in East German family life, despite governments’ attempts to maintain distance between the temporary international guests and the East German population. Chapter 5 argues that the workers’ social life of socialism vacillated between modes of inclusion and exclusion. It therefore focuses on human affective relationships ranging from romantic encounters and family formation to racist and xenophobic hate crimes, illustrating how the migrants carved out their own social spaces in an increasingly hostile environment. The first section explores the migrants’ integration and their intimate, cross-cultural relationships with East Germans and others. The second part examines how migrants experienced exclusion. The grounds were, variously, sexism, racism, xenophobia, and ethnic tensions. Integration and exclusion reflect two contrasting ends on the scale of human affective relationships, but the central theme of this chapter is how love and hate, intimacy and exclusion, and friendship and racism are intricately tied up with one another.
- Intimate strangers
- Intercultural relationships
- German reunification
- Mixed-race families
Daphne Berdahl uses the phrase “social life of socialism” in “Good Bye, Lenin! Aufwiedersehen GDR: On the Social Life of Socialism,” in Post-Communist Nostalgia, Maria Todorova and Zsuzsa Gille, eds. (New York; Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2010), 177.
We feel at home because we are surrounded by warmth and friendship. …We feel at home because we have more Mozambican students and trainees here than in any other European country. We feel at home because East Germany has always closely accompanied our revolutionary process. …Ours is the difficult but also commendable task of building our socialist fatherlands in areas marked by heavy confrontation between the social systems. This is a meeting between brothers in arms, an exchange of experience…The people of the GDR under the leadership of the SED are roses of solidarity, hope and the future.Footnote 1Samora Machel, during a visit to East Germany in September 1980
The friendship between peoples is indeed the big star, the sun that rises on the horizon and overcomes the shackles of hatred, of division and war, created by oppression and exploitation. …Through this big star of friendship between peoples the blood of the people of East Germany and Mozambique is united. Through this big star of peoples’ friendship, the broad road leading the way to socialism has become even wider. The distance between the Peoples’ Republic of Mozambique and the German Democratic Republic has been overcome.Footnote 2Erich Honecker, during the same visit
While Machel and Honecker were praising their peoples’ friendship, Mozambicans, Angolans, and East Germans were building interracial relationships and creating new families across divides of nations and cultures. The SED, FRELIMO, and the MPLA all forcefully espoused anti-racism and swore solidarity and friendship in the name of their shared socialist future. However, many worker-trainees in Germany were subjected to racism, overt and covert.Footnote 3 They were confronted with racist attitudes, were exposed to racist slurs, and even had to defend themselves and their partners from physical attacks.Footnote 4
Neither the host country nor the sending countries desired the Mozambican and Angolan migrants’ permanent integration into East German life. The labor and training programs were intended to be circular—otherwise what was the point of training the workers to lead the African socialist industrial revolution?Footnote 5 Worker-trainees instead became intimate strangers while in East Germany.Footnote 6 On one hand, these international workers were welcomed for political and economic reasons. They were showcases for East German solidarity and vectors that would carry the socialist revolution to the Third World.Footnote 7 They also made valuable contributions to supporting the East German economy during their stay. On the other hand, the worker-trainees were intended to live apart so as not to disturb the fragile political and social status quo in East Germany, although it was never conclusively specified exactly how they would cause this disturbance.
The exclusion of foreign worker-trainees worked on many levels. Worker-trainees were separated into national groups in dormitories. Their language training was often insufficient to guarantee independent functioning in East German society. Contact with East Germans was in theory limited to official functions and work and training experiences. Migrants were not allowed to bring their families from home, and creating formalized new ones was difficult as marriages were dependent upon the consent of home and host states. Representation was limited to state-sanctioned figures of control, mainly the team leader. On the other hand, worker-trainees, at least in theory, received equal pay for equal work and access to health care, language training, and vocational training in company schools, were invited along on company leisure time activities, and had access to company vacation homes. Many were included in nationally mixed brigades, participated in company competitions, and received company honors.
Despite the migrants’ separation in this way, they still became an intimate feature of daily life not only because they were an integral part of workplaces, but also because they were part of East German neighborhood bars, local shops, and family life. This chapter discusses two sides of the same coin: integration and exclusion. The first section of the chapter explores the migrants’ integration and their intimate, cross-cultural relationships with Germans and others. The second part examines how migrants experienced exclusion. The grounds were, variously, sexism, racism, and xenophobia. Integration and exclusion reflect two contrasting ends on the scale of human affective relationships, but as will become clear, the central theme of this chapter is how love and hate, intimacy and exclusion, and friendship and racism are intricately bound up with one another.Footnote 8
When we look at people’s personal attachments in the context of migration studies, as we are doing here, we can quickly see how shallow the ability of the state is to determine the nature of people’s experiences. Because the default way of looking at migrations such as those in this book is from the perspective of the state—geopolitical, economic, bureaucratic—most accounts miss this.Footnote 9 Yet the personal aspect is nearly always the decisive one in determining whether people’s experiences are positive or negative. This chapter shows how personal encounters shaped migrants’ lives as Africans in East Germany. Looking at East Germany from an African perspective enables us to understand how interwoven Angolan, Mozambican, and East German history became on the micro-level of daily lives. Migrants learned German over dinner or woke up next to Germans in the morning. They taught their German friends Portuguese and danced with them to American singers like Michael Jackson, Mozambican groups like Eyuphuro, or East German acts such as the singer Frank Schöbel. On many East German men saw young African men as a threat to their masculinity. African women were faced with the threat of being sent back home if they got pregnant. They were also threatened with a ruined reputation if they dated people of other nationalities.Footnote 10 Exclusion and inclusion did not work the same way for everyone.
Part I: Integration—Intimate Strangers
“Anjo Lezewik” by Regina Vera Cruz, February 27, 2007, original in Regina’s possession. Regina from Maputo wrote the poem in 2007 as part of a creative writing class. Almost twenty years elapsed between her experience and her processing of the memory in this poem. Marrabenta refers to a style of dance music developed in Maputo during the 1930s and still enjoying great popularity today. It is a mélange of traditional Mozambican and Portuguese folk elements. A famous Mozambican Marrabenta singer, Humberto Carlos Benfica, is known as Wazimbo.
“Anjo Lezewik” by Regina Vera Cruz, February 27, 2007, original in Regina’s possession. Regina from Maputo wrote the poem in 2007 as part of a creative writing class. Almost twenty years elapsed between her experience and her processing of the memory in this poem.You were the last and the first angel The beginning of the end The alpha and the omega My soul always flies to you I swear!…One day I will meet you Do you remember…on top of that stage Lubricated by the MarrabentaFootnote
Marrabenta refers to a style of dance music developed in Maputo during the 1930s and still enjoying great popularity today. It is a mélange of traditional Mozambican and Portuguese folk elements.I taught you how to move your hips And the legs, remember always the sounds Of the Mozambican marimba The sound of drumming WazimboFootnote
A famous Mozambican Marrabenta singer, Humberto Carlos Benfica, is known as Wazimbo.singing Fortifying through dance our unification… I am thirsting for you Because you were my strongest love You were the heart of the great friendships Angel Lezewik. Regina, February 27, 2007
Regina migrated from Mozambique to work and receive vocational training on the factory floors of East Germany. She also developed intimate ties there. Her poem describes her love for an East German man, whom she met in 1989. In that choice of subject, the poem is both quotidian and exceptional. Quotidian, because it describes the age-old feeling of love. Exceptional, because generally female Angolan and Mozambican worker-trainees in East Germany did not cross the color line with their romantic escapades.Footnote 14 Historically, interracial relationships between European men and African women (usually in the colonies) and between African men and European women (usually in European metropoles) had been subjected to governmental surveillance and sanctions.Footnote 15 Regina, as a woman away from her home, transgressed somewhat against this model in a way that not many did. Her love happened in a different time and place to the norm, but interracial intimacy remained a matter of state.
Intimate intercultural relationships were the sites of intercultural learning. Regina wrote in her poem about teaching her lover how to dance marrabenta. She was the active figure, the holder of cultural knowledge, who instructed an East German man. In most cases the roles were reversed, and Angolan and Mozambican men dated East German women, who, as holders of knowledge—language and cultural—served to help integrate the migrants into a foreign East German world.
When male former migrants spoke to me years later, they talked about consciously seeking out intercultural love. East German women were a key to unlocking otherwise inaccessible cultural capital:
I made my way in Germany with the help of my girlfriend. …She was the daughter of the foreman. She was only there briefly when we arrived. I still did not know how to speak German and I asked a colleague from Eberswalde to write her a note for me that said I would like to get to know her. …after school, I always went to the furniture store where she worked to ask her whether she could help me with the homework, and she did and that is how our friendship grew. …she explained the lessons we had learned, even if I had already understood them. My objective was another one, one that really facilitated my life. The less contact I had with people from my origin, the faster I could obtain my goals. And so it was. …What was of interest to me was to have a partner who could help me integrate as quickly as possible and to understand more.Footnote 16
Seen in this light, the transactional nature of the relationship becomes visible. Many men, like the Angolan Ilíbio, entered relationships to seek cultural and linguistic knowledge alongside affection and intimacy. Ilíbio was interested in staying in Germany as long as war raged back home and saw East German women as a compass to help him move toward this difficult objective.
When mentioned in passing in the German academic literature, East German women dating African men are often depicted as searching for something in these relationships beyond mere romance. According to this telling, they were sometimes lured into the company of foreign worker-trainees through the pull of the unknown, seduced by presents from abroad and the prospect of escaping drab East German horizons. At other times they feigned love to escape East Germany with unsuspecting African men.Footnote 17 Indeed, Angolan and Mozambican men—perceived as foreign and exotic—often represented a window onto a broader world for East German women, a world beyond the relatively closed society where they lived. However, the reality was much more complicated than these clichés. The restricted East German socialist society was the stage for everyday interactions with Mozambican and Angolan colleagues, friends, and partners. Based on interviews with Angolan and Mozambican former migrants, I explore what East German women had to offer.
The vast majority of male workers from Angola and Mozambique had relationships with German women of various levels of commitment. These women came from a variety of family backgrounds, age groups, and education levels. Many migrants learned about life in East Germany from their partners and this was for them an essential element to a successful integration: “She was my best teacher,” Augusto recalled.Footnote 18 In this way, German women became sponsors of sorts for African men.Footnote 19 Angolan and Mozambican worker-trainees who successfully stayed on in reunified Germany after the fall of the Wall were often able to do so only with the support of their East German partners and extended families.
East German women needed to consider the social costs of entering into relationships with African men. Other East Germans often yelled discriminatory slurs at women seen on the streets with African men. The disapproval of the woman’s family and circle of friends played a fundamental role in shaping relationships. Some relationships were clandestine, and others deteriorated rapidly under pressure. Bernardo, who was taken in by an older woman in Rostock during his first week in Germany, describes his racist experiences:
We didn’t have an easy life. When you arrive in a foreign place, everything is difficult, and we suffered from racism. …This was really annoying. People insulted her when she was with me, but she told me not to engage and we continued like that and I got used to this way of life and finally I also had very close German friends. But in the beginning, it was a shock because I did not expect to hear these kinds of things.Footnote 20
Many East Germans scorned the African visitors, about whom they knew little. In Bernardo’s words: “Later I started to see that the East German people were a closed society. They did not even know other socialist countries. Their lives were very complicated. They did not only have these problems with black Africans but also with the French, Italians and other people.”Footnote 21 As Bernardo alludes to, not all exclusion was racially motivated. Sentiments against those from outside East Germany’s borders were not uncommon. African migrants suffered from both xenophobia and racism and were thus doubly excluded.
German exoticization of African men emerged from a history of stereotyping. It was well established during the German colonial empire, reached new levels during Nazi rule, and recurred in West Germany during the postwar experience with American GIs.Footnote 22 Some male migrants acknowledged that their exoticism had a pull factor when they speak about how easy it was to meet and seduce East German women. An Angolan worker-trainee remembered in 2015:
Many East German women only went to bed with black men out of curiosity. There were rumors that they had tails in the back. But in the end, they discovered that the body parts were all similar, that people were the same, and…today many of those women are getting old with Angolans.Footnote 23
He portrayed East German women as willing to believe colonial tropes but gives them the benefit of the doubt of being able to reverse their viewpoints. While some male migrants took advantage of that exoticization, others suffered from the relentless othering, being intimate yet forever remaining foreign. In 1982, a German female laborer working alongside Mozambicans discussed the relationship between a German and a Mozambican co-worker in terms of stereotypical depictions of African virility: “I don’t know why Angela is attracted to a Mozambican. Some men say they have especially big genitals, that would attract the women, but we don’t speak about sexual things.”Footnote 24 The clichéd portrayal of black sexual potency revealed the prejudices prevalent and underscores how racialized stereotypes, ignorance, and rumor continued to live underneath the facade of internationalist rhetoric.
One worker framed a common understanding of the East German women thus:
We had a teacher who had already lived in Mozambique, South Africa and Kenya. One day she lifted the morale of all Angolans. She was talking about intercultural exchange. What she explained to us during that lesson was this: ‘You are Africans, we are Europeans. Often people have inferiority complexes but, in these lessons, we will change your point of view. …Today, after the end of the Second World War, we German women have the liberty to live together and sleep with men from anywhere. …During the Second World War we lost many men, there were many more women who survived …But all of you young Angolans are here now’…That meant we were lucky, we could marry a German woman, and have children. I am giving this testimony because I was inspired, too.”Footnote 25
In the eyes of African men like Augusto, East German women were sexually and socially free, “able to love whom they wanted. We never interfered [in the lives of our white female companions] because we did not have the right to do so.”Footnote 26 This attitude of respect contrasted with how many of the migrants felt about women from their own countries. Angolan and Mozambican men often did not like to see their female colleagues date men of other nationalities. It was a matter of male honor, in a similar way in which East German men tried to prevent East German women from dating African men. East German, Angolan, and Mozambican men had in common that they projected their masculinity onto the purity of “their” women.Footnote 27
Many male worker-trainees were also influenced by racialized imaginations of female beauty, eager to date white women, which carried a taste of the transgressive in the colonial context in which that generation of workers had grown up. Some male worker-trainees saw their travel abroad as an opportunity to engage with diverse women through whom to engage with different worlds, like this Mozambican: “I had three official German girlfriends. … I also passed some time with a Polish, a Cuban, and an Angolan woman. The Polish woman even took me to Poland for one night.”Footnote 28 Male worker-trainees were more able to choose from among the diverse romantic possibilities in the socialist cosmopolitan circles in which they moved than their female colleagues, who were more bound by female notions of honor based on chastity and fidelity.Footnote 29
Angolan and Mozambican women occasionally dated white men or, more frequently, men from within the African Lusophone networks, but most dated within their national groups. For Lufaquenda this was a given: “I only had Angolan boyfriends. I had close German friends who took me out to spend the weekends together with them. I am not racist but at that time I had absolutely no interest in going out with people of white color.”Footnote 30 There are several reasons for this divergence in behavior of female and male worker-trainees. First, female worker-trainees were exposed to the threat of a forced deportation if they became pregnant. Moreover, they were conforming to societal norms whereby they were looking for a long-term partnership and, since most intended to return home, a partner from home was a better fit for these plans.Footnote 31 In addition, many female worker-trainees socialized mainly within their home networks, especially when posted in single-sex groups, for instance in textile companies. Lastly, male worker-trainees vastly outnumbered female worker-trainees. The African women in East Germany had a far greater choice of African men than vice versa.
In communist ideology, both racism and sexism were rejected as divisive, reactionary ways of thinking. However, ideological rejection did not mean that these prejudices disappeared from society: quite the opposite, in fact. The fact that racism and sexism were not adequately discussed in the public sphere meant that they went unchallenged in the private sphere. They were particularly potent when they intersected. Black men and white women who displayed their affection in public received racist comments. Fights broke out over allegations of adultery and jealousies on the dance floors, particularly when white women were seen with African men. Black men were portrayed as unruly and violent, while East German women were seen as cultural brokers, integrating the foreign men into East German society. This stereotypical view of women had not changed much since the first colonization of Africa.Footnote 32 Now, however, the roles of explorer were reversed. Black cosmopolitan explorers encountered European local women. Santana from Angola summed up this way of seeing things: “You know, the most racist being in the world is a man. …The best link between races are the women.”Footnote 33 In his worldview (and that of many others) gender trumped race. It was women who were tasked with integrating foreign men.
Emotional and sexual needs were not part of the labor migration plans. The bilateral agreements governing the migrations envisioned worker-trainees as more akin to labor machines. In this light, the romantic and sexual experiences that the migrants had were a significant way of exercising their agency, their individuality, while they were living in a bureaucratic framework that did not provide for this. An atmosphere of relative sexual freedom in East Germany in the late 1970s and the 1980s stood in contrast to restrictive sexual attitudes held by officialdom toward the young African migrants.Footnote 34 The state saw the worker-trainees as without emotional attachments or reproductive desires. The organization of the worker-trainees’ work and leisure time in East Germany was not intended to facilitate romantic relationships or other meaningful private contacts. It was, however, such contacts which fostered self-induced integration into East German society in the most meaningful ways. This suspicion of integration stood in interesting and revealing contrast to migration discourse today, in which people worry that migrants do not integrate enough.
Alternative Intimate Attachments: German Families, Mozambican Families, Angolan Families
Many worker-trainees fondly remember transcending their status as strangers and becoming part of East German families. One of the advantages for the worker-trainees was receiving guidance from surrogate parents. In most cases, these adoptive family relationships were informal affairs that developed spontaneously, because people knew each other from work or church, from living in the same neighborhood, or through random conversations. Some worker-trainees even moved in with these host families. Others visited over the weekend, and others shared meals several times a week. Some families supported the young worker-trainees financially, or with advice, and others took on the role of advocates for worker-trainees’ rights.Footnote 35 Lúcia remembers: “A German couple were my parents over there. …They were my professors and sympathized with me because I was a good student…and they came to pick me up on the weekends and became my second family.” Lúcia lived a homely life with her second family and spent time in their country house, where she did much the same that she might have done in Mozambique: “I harvested cabbage, fruits, and other things on the farm.”Footnote 36
Another way of meeting people willing to open their homes to the worker-trainees was through religious networks.Footnote 37 One Angolan worker integrated into the family of a doctor with five children:
I was Catholic. I searched for a Catholic church, the first thing when I came to that country. I went to church even though I did not speak the language and I understood nothing. When I was at church a family appeared and they took me in. …They welcomed me like their own son and before I got to know my girlfriend, I spent all my weekends at their house. …It was in this family that I learned the German language through being part of their community. That was a family with whom I lived very well. Even on the day I left for Angola I did not have to leave by train, they organized a car and took me to the airport. …That is why I cannot say that I had difficulties in Germany because I encountered people who helped me everywhere.Footnote 38
Workers who had the good fortune of encountering host families or developing serious relationships with East Germans early on were able to learn the language and the local customs. Subsequently, they integrated more easily and could often establish deeper relationships, also with their East German co-workers. They did not experience the isolation from East German life of those who struggled with the language and socialized predominantly in their own home networks.
Host families were often mutually beneficial arrangements where gifts were exchanged, meals were shared, and support was given:
I succeeded in getting to know and integrating into a family from there. This family also treated me as if I was a son of the house. …When I came back from Karl Marx Stadt, I encountered a woman who was loaded with bags. At the time, it was very cold and so I helped her carry the bags right up to her house, which was close to my home. When we arrived at her house the woman whose name was Doris asked me whether I would like to come one day and spend a day with her and her husband Erich. I did that and was welcomed, and we developed a strong relationship. I was ultimately considered a son of the house. After a while I helped her get a job as receptionist in our dormitory and she worked there until I returned to Mozambique.Footnote 39
In this example, the worker-trainee was able to find his host mother employment at his dormitory. These examples suggest that some East Germans were interested in befriending foreign nationals. These do not seem to have been cases of socialist worker solidarity, born of class consciousness or a shared place in the production process. These spontaneous friendships were beyond the stuff of ideology, happening neither despite nor because of official propaganda. At their best, they were manifestations of the intrinsic human search for connection with others.
Despite these emerging support networks in Germany, most of the migrants wanted to keep their ties to back home as close as possible. Angolans and Mozambicans abroad often waited impatiently for news from home. Given that civil wars raged in both countries, not hearing from loved ones was very stressful. Yet, the postal service was not always reliable, and news could be old by the time it arrived.Footnote 40 Often, migrants had different ways of getting information. In addition to reading the national news when they could, or depending on their group leader for information, they maintained pen pal relationships with compatriots. The Mozambican weekly news magazine Tempo printed announcements that introduced Mozambican worker-trainees abroad who were looking for pen pals at home. One such advertisement read: “I am a young Mozambican, 19 years old, and I am currently undertaking a professional training in the GDR. I would like to correspond with all young Mozambicans of both sexes to avoid being passed by the various social, political, and economic transformations of our country.”Footnote 41 Sometimes, groups of several individuals from the same company dormitory were looking for pen pals, suggesting a need to keep abreast of developments at home but also some form of institutional political encouragement.
The worker-trainees’ life histories demonstrate that migrants’ attentions were always divided between their home and host countries. Letters and packages circulating among host and home countries serve as evidence of why it is important to bring both contexts into one narrative. Ewald Seiler, director for cadre and training at a company producing automobiles and hunting firearms, acknowledged as much in 1982: “One young friend started crying when he had opened a letter. It said in the letter that close family members were murdered by terrorists. For us it is our class duty to care for every individual Mozambican friend. This duty follows from proletarian and socialist internationalism.”Footnote 42 One can imagine that behind the stilted language and political signposting, typical of East German official communication, was genuine compassion. Seiler, at least, recognized that worker-trainees did not leave their homes behind when they showed up for work in the morning.
There were other avenues of immaterial exchange that were invisible to East German colleagues, including magic. Malignant and jealous family members at home were reported to send evil spirits to bring back lost sons or daughters. Former worker-trainees told me stories of migrants losing their minds in the first weeks in Germany, only to have their health restored upon return to Mozambique. Interviewees explained these mental states of temporary madness, perhaps reactions to the culture shock of finding oneself in a foreign land, with the presence of spirits. A group leader recalls: “We had one person who became mentally ill, and they said he was possessed by the spirits of the ancestors. He had to return home because they could not solve his problem in Europe because European medicine doesn’t cure these types of illnesses. When he returned to Mozambique he was cured immediately. He left the airplane without any problems, and nobody needed to support him.”Footnote 43
In the interpretation of some worker-trainees, magic rendered a person defenseless, either through physical or mental illness, to reduce their productivity and to incapacitate their independent decision-making. To them, this was the opposite of a personal growth moment. The migrant was no longer becoming a more independent self, but rather stopped becoming and was reduced to responding to the influence of the family’s wishes through witchcraft.Footnote 44 Another possible reading of cases of spirit possession is that becoming possessed was a means of exercising agency by leaving work and returning home, while outsourcing the causality for failure to persist with their German experience.Footnote 45 It is through such stories that we can guess at how tough it must have been for many of the migrants to go to East Germany. For some of them, it meant going from a small village in the Mozambican provinces straight into big German cities such as Berlin, Leipzig, or Dresden. They tended not to talk to me about it in these terms, but the culture shock must have been enormous. On top of the culture shock, things were made worse for some migrants by the disappointment they felt at their working conditions or the prejudice and racism they encountered. One suspects that had things been better in Mozambique and Angola at the time, many more would have left early.
Witchcraft accusations were not only related to illness. Migrants also accounted for their own decisions by claiming interference from higher powers. Paulo was seemingly well integrated in 1990. He had a job with his future in-laws, a place to live, and a pregnant East German fiancée. He fulfilled all the criteria allowing him to stay in East Germany, despite the early termination of his contract because of the economic upheavals of the collapse of East Germany.Footnote 46 He had decided to make his life in Germany: “I already had everything planned to marry and suddenly, the night before the wedding I started saying that I wanted to go home. And I came here [back to Mozambique] and I realize that these things were quite normal. These are situations that occur around here.”Footnote 47 “These things” refers to magic applied by his family to call him back. This explanation was as real, if not more so, to Paulo as his increasing anxiety about staying behind as the only black person in his village suffering from an increasingly xenophobic climate. Migrants could face the threat of spiritual sanctions, the existence of which reveals the social tensions inherent in the migration dynamics.Footnote 48 In Paolo’s case, even a new German family was not sufficient to prevent his return.
Inclusion and Exclusion: Dormitories and Discos
Who loved whom was political in East Germany. This was especially the case for love between citizens and non-citizens.Footnote 49 Contrary to its rhetoric of international brotherhood, the East German state tried to limit personal connections between citizens and foreigners. The emphasis was on nation above socialism. Keeping socialist citizens in their respective national boxes was not only on the agenda of the East German government. It was in the interests of all three states to make marriage difficult.Footnote 50 The workers had not been brought to Germany to stay; they had been brought there to train and work and then to leave. When police encountered East German women in the company of African men, they often asked the woman for her personal details.Footnote 51 Authorities of the three states feared what could happen outside of their control. With the control-freakery common to authoritarian states, their various organs tried to keep a close eye on the public and private lives of the foreign workers, and those with whom they interacted.Footnote 52
The most powerful attempts at controlling the private lives of the migrants occurred in the worker dormitories. Worker-trainees were housed in company dormitories by nationality.Footnote 53 Ilíbio remembers: “We were only Angolans in the dormitory. That really made it difficult to interact better with the German culture. That is why I fought to get out of the dormitory as soon as I could.”Footnote 54 It was mandatory for worker-trainees to live in company hostels with their group, a measure created to help the live-in group leaders exercise control.Footnote 55 The migrants, kept all in one place, were also more accessible to (and controllable by) state and company personnel. It became clear in the interviews with me decades later that there were varied levels of controlling zeal between companies. While some worker-trainees could move in with their East German partners, others had to report daily to the dormitory. Some were able to bring friends and romantic partners to attend parties or spend the night, while others had to find creative ways of smuggling visitors in, such as through windows or distracting the porter, to create a space for social gatherings or relationships.Footnote 56 In Augusto’s words:
In some dormitories we were not allowed to bring lovers. My girlfriend always had to enter without our group leader noticing. …It was not the same in all dormitories though. In Dessau for instance, I was able to go in with my girlfriend without a problem. In other places, they would either send the woman away or sometimes even call the police to escort them away from the dormitory. …This rule only applied to Angolans, not to Germans. They feared that somebody might steal something from our rooms. …They said it was more a question of security but of course it was really a question of control.Footnote 57
Confronted with socialist mobility, it was inevitable that the controlling tendencies prevalent in the state organs of all three countries tried to maintain boundaries. One of the main ways they did this was by limiting unsupervised contact between ordinary citizens. Nevertheless, pockets of East German society became socialist melting pots. An example of these was in hostels housing several nationalities, or discos in Berlin and other large cities where worker-trainees and students from all over the world met Germans and each other.Footnote 58
Discos were places where some people crossed the color line while others upheld it, both sides of being an intimate stranger in nightclubs, resulting in thrilling and volatile situations. One minute one could be dancing closely with a date, the next minute attacked as a foreigner. As, for example, in the poem by Regina with which we began this chapter, the dance floor took on an important role in Angolan and Mozambican worker-trainees’ narratives of their East German leisure time when they spoke with me. In the memoryscape of the majority of male Angolan and Mozambican migrants, the disco was synonymous with being young: “When I lived in Germany, I spent my nights in discos, but today things have changed. …It was a question of adolescence. When you are young, you have few responsibilities.”Footnote 59 The disco is often referred to in the context of dancing, drinking, and meeting women: “Many people thought I was Michael Jackson. Especially the girls liked that. I met a lot of them at the disco.”Footnote 60 In the stories told by the male interviewees the disco became a hyper-masculinized place, where they realized their manhood and demonstrated it through their popularity with women. In their telling, the Mozambican and Angolan migrants dominated the dance floor because many German women were drawn to the Africans for their dance moves, bodies, and stylish clothes. They were perceived as exotic and consciously toyed with that image, claiming inclusion by exclusion.Footnote 61
Notions of proper behavior and gendered ways of spending one’s leisure time were pronounced when it came to discos and bars. For many Angolan and Mozambican men, going to the disco and to bars was a prime leisure activity, alone or in groups. But these locations played less of a role in most women’s narratives. Luzia, an Angolan female former worker-trainee, remembers: “I never entered a disco. I think that being afraid played a big role. The majority of women only left for their training and for work and if there was no program they just went home.”Footnote 62 Many migrant women, especially if they worked in smaller villages rather than big cities, did not experience the freedom that many East German women enjoyed. Some women were anxious because of the political instability of their home countries; leaving the house at night is a dangerous thing in a conflict society and that fear continued to stay with some women in East Germany. Not all women took the challenge of exploring a foreign and potentially dangerous place at night without protective structures. Another aspect was the moral compass many young women had brought with them. In parts of rural Angola and Mozambique women who went to nightclubs, smoked cigarettes, or drank hard alcohol were often associated with prostitution and immorality.
However, this did not mean that African women in East Germany had no fun. Context mattered, as Lina, a Mozambican worker-trainee in Berlin, recalled in the early 1990s:
discos It was great in Leipziger Street. Everybody went there, also alone. …As a woman I never had problems with getting in. I also got to know many Berliners while dancing. We had a lot of fun. Nobody came home with me because my Mozambican girlfriends were there. But we went out together. But there were few Mozambicans who had real tight connections with German men. We all knew that we wouldn’t want to stay for forever.Footnote 63
The differences between Luzia’s and Lina’s memories illustrate that experiences varied according to location, relationship status, personality, and work and training environment. Luzia turned eighteen in East Germany, where she worked and trained at a cotton mill in Gera in an all-female Angolan group. She started dating her future husband, also from Angola, after her first year, and returned early due to her first pregnancy. Today she lives with her husband and their six children in Luanda. Lina, on the other hand, went to Germany twice, from 1980 to 1984 and 1988 until her interview in the early 1990s, and worked in Berlin, first as a warehouse keeper, then in cosmetics production, and ultimately as a translator. She already had a son whom she left with her mother during the first contract. She also had a daughter from another partner, whom she also left with her mother while serving the second contract. Luzia and Lina had in common that they, like many of their fellow female colleagues, saw their intended return as an impediment to romantic relationships with Germans.
Worker-trainees did not just go to the discos in the cities where they lived. They were mobile within East Germany, maintaining their networks of friends, family, and fellow nationals, all over the country:
After work, we were all together but mostly the time for friends was on the weekends when we went to the discos in Berlin, Erfurt, Gera; wherever there was a dormitory with Angolan girls. My colleagues had Angolan girlfriends, but I had a German girlfriend. I only met this girl towards the end of our stay. …I met her in the disco. I was dancing and she liked me and gave me her address and asked me for mine. She always came looking for me.Footnote 64
Many relationships started like this. Some ended in long-term partnerships while others had run their course after a night, a few weeks, or months. Stories were told to me of relationships of various age configurations, from similarly aged couples to the older East German women and the young worker-trainees, to East German teenagers and the more experienced worker-trainees.Footnote 65 Migrants’ personal lives were often rather complex, marked by shifting partners, lovers, and substitute families, all the while balancing things between their home and host networks.Footnote 66
Despite all this romance and excitement, the disco was also the site of exclusion. This shows us how intimately inclusion and exclusion coexisted in the daily lives of worker-trainees. In few other places was the mix of alcohol, hormones, and challenges to manhood so potent and intense. Nowhere else were the emotions of love and hate so close. Some worker-trainees remember alcohol consumption and sexual encounters as intertwined and a kind of rite of passage: “I came to Germany as a young Muslim boy neither drinking, nor smoking, nor making love to women. I came back a man.”Footnote 67 As Juma’s statement shows, drinking, smoking, and sexual activity all came to symbolize masculinity. In this, the young worker-trainees learned from their older colleagues. This mix of alcohol, hormones, and stereotypical images of masculinity and femininity rendered discos dangerous places.
There was frequent fighting between groups of Angolan, Mozambican, and East German young men. Bars and clubs and their surroundings were often the battlegrounds. In rare cases the fights escalated and turned deadly. Still today every former student of the School of Friendship can recount the story of the traumatic death of their fellow Mozambican pupil Carlos Conceição who was thrown into the river Bode and drowned on the night of September 19, 1987, after fighting had broken out between East German youth and Mozambican youth from the school during a dance at the local youth club in Staßfurt.Footnote 68 Another prominent case is the death of Amadeu Antonio. In 1990, during the night of November 24 to 25, Angolan worker Amadeu Antonio and two Mozambican workers became the victims of a mob of around fifty right-wing youth who walked through Eberswalde in search of victims.Footnote 69 These cases occurred toward the final years of East Germany and just after reunification, a period during which violent racism was on the rise.Footnote 70 We cannot claim direct links to the neo-Nazi skinhead scene for both of these cases, but it is important to be aware of a longer history of neo-Nazism in East Germany starting in the 1960s and 1970s. Once the SED could no longer ignore the problem following the October 17 1987 attack by skinheads on visitors to a punk concert in the East Berlin Zion Church, the East German Ministry of the Interior started an inquiry during which the criminal police uncovered a right-wing extremist network encompassing 5000 people, of which about 1000 were ready to use violence, accompanied by about 10,000 sympathizers. This formed a potent underbelly of East German society already toward the final years of the SED government to be mobilized for racist attacks.Footnote 71
None of my interviewees reported being involved in fights on this extreme level of fatal violence, but quite a few remembered furious disco brawls. Anselmo’s experience was typical in that it started as an innocent night out with a Mozambican friend. The two met two German women at a restaurant who then invited them to a club. The boys were having a good night, until Anselmo came back from the bathroom to find his friend lying on the floor:
I ran back to the hostel to ask our Mozambican colleagues for help. Outside in front of the bar there were Mozambicans and suddenly I saw my friend coming out of the bar limping and behind him some German youth. That is how the physical confrontation started between the Mozambicans and the Germans. Thank God nobody got killed.Footnote 72
Anselmo portrayed his fight as one of just revenge for the physical injuries his friend incurred. According to Anselmo, the attack on his friend was unwarranted, motivated by racism and envy about his success with women. Although incidents like this occurred during the duration of the worker-trainees’ stay in East Germany, a pervasive culture of fear emerged toward the late 1980s and during the Wende—as the transition period is known in Germany—when foreigners increasingly became the target of outright racist violence.
Part II: Exclusion: Intimate Strangers
The following are excerpts from a song called “Kaltes Klima” about a Mozambican worker in East Germany. It is written and sung by Gerhard Schöne and featured on his CD Lebenszeichen, signs of life, 1994. Schöne grew up in a vicarage, remained close to the church, published songs critical of East German society, was politically active during the unification process, and remained involved with development and social projects.
The following are excerpts from a song called “Kaltes Klima” about a Mozambican worker in East Germany. It is written and sung by Gerhard Schöne and featured on his CD Lebenszeichen, signs of life, 1994. Schöne grew up in a vicarage, remained close to the church, published songs critical of East German society, was politically active during the unification process, and remained involved with development and social projects.We work in forestry, the master is good, he supports us like a father and gives everybody courage again. But if we go to the cinema or sit in a Café, we hear words from you that hurt. If I was friends with a girl from Mord, she’d be a ‘n* whore’ or an even worse word. If one of us calls the waiter in a restaurant in a friendly manner, the waiter seems to be deaf because we are only air to him. And our living barracks are called ‘black spot’ now in the locality. If we enter a store, they say we buy everything and leave nothing. First, I thought, this will pass, it is a bad joke, But I feel clearly now this is hatred. On the weekends many of us go out I went to the disco close by with a few friends A man poured his beer in my lap That was the starting signal, we started to fight
The song “Kaltes Klima”—Cold Climate—by the well-known East German singer and songwriter Gerhard Schöne played with the double meaning of cold. Many African worker-trainees remembered debilitating cold temperatures in Germany but also the cold reception they received from those who sought to exclude African worker-trainees from their lives and by extension from East Germany. They suffered from both these coldnesses in East Germany and later in reunified Germany.
As African foreigners, Angolans and Mozambicans carried a double burden of being both non-citizens and black. This double burden of exclusion became heavier in the late 1980s and after the Wende. By the 1990s, there was a full-out culture of fear which greatly contributed to many Africans returning home. On the other hand, hostility accelerated the creation of Angolan or Mozambican group identities. They stood in solidarity with each other against East German attackers as they confronted societal racism. However, exclusionary practices did not just take place between people read as white and black or between East German citizens and foreigners. There was also xenophobia and exclusion between Lusophone worker-trainees along national lines, or within national groups but between ethnicities. The worker-trainees’ overlapping experiences of exclusion in East Germany were influenced by intersecting identities. In this next section of the chapter, we will examine how gender, national and regional origin, and race shaped migrants’ experiences as intimate strangers.
Gender Exclusion: Preventing Afro-German and African Families
While ostensibly integrated to the same extent as male worker-trainees, Angolan and Mozambican women were mostly excluded from the family planning services available to East German women.Footnote 74 Thus, Angolan and Mozambican women’s expression of their sexuality was fraught, not merely because of cultural factors but also because of restrictive policy. Usually, contraceptives were hard to come by. Pregnant female worker-trainees had to return home. This practice denied most female worker-trainees the possibility of determining how having children would fit into their life and career cycles, and how they could consciously combine their productive with their reproductive labor. The female worker-trainees’ opinions differ about this unequal treatment. Some who returned home early due to pregnancy wanted to give birth to their children at home, close to family, and therefore did not challenge the practice.Footnote 75 Others, like Lufaquenda, agreed with the reasoning of the ruling:
I think this was a fair rule because if you sign up to work over there and you fall pregnant and then you cannot work that is not right. …People who lacked discipline or who showed bad behavior or did not know how to read and write acceptably after a while were also sent back. I had a colleague who was sent back because he could neither read nor write enough.Footnote 76
To her, becoming pregnant on the contract was a deficiency like being illiterate, something that happened because of a lack of self-discipline. With that comment, she echoed the states’ position.
East Germany legalized abortion in 1972; termination of a pregnancy within the first three months was legal. Despite this, foreign worker-trainees inhabited a gray zone between East German laws and those of their home country. Mozambican women, for instance, were not allowed to get an abortion in Mozambique as Samora Machel saw children as the “flowers of the revolution” and the youth as its “lifeblood.”Footnote 77 Getting an abortion while in East Germany required the permission of the embassy, which often proved hard to obtain.Footnote 78 Lina disagreed with the law and had a clandestine abortion:
My doctor was very good. Once he heard my story, what the conditions were at home and that I had to work for my family, he felt sorry for me. We then did it without the paper from the embassy. Afterwards I immediately received a contraceptive coil. I only got to know the pill in Germany. If I had had it in Mozambique, I would not have had my son but would have continued to study.Footnote 79
Lina’s story reveals the restrictive policies toward African women and their effects on these women’s professional and private lives. For Lina, her career decisions were already impacted by the birth of her first child in Mozambique, prior to leaving for East Germany, and would have been curtailed yet again, had she not found a doctor willing to undertake an abortion while she was in East Germany. Both East German and African women decided against carrying to term the offspring fathered by worker-trainees. Their reasons for doing so varied, as did the legal policies; the situation for pregnant African worker-trainees was a precarious one, with women relying in some cases on homemade remedies to abort before seeking medical assistance.Footnote 80
In Mozambique, just like in East Germany, the socialist revolution redefined labor according to communist notions of equality of the sexes, insisting that women and men could do the same jobs and aid the revolution. However, FRELIMO’s dismantling of gender roles stopped at the familial division of labor, leaving child raising in the domain of women.Footnote 81 FRELIMO accepted not only that pregnant worker-trainees were to be evicted, it actively prohibited the distribution of contraceptives among female worker-trainees and limited their access to safe abortion services.Footnote 82 This left female worker-trainees with few safe and accessible options to take charge of their reproductive lives.
To prevent a generation of socialist “friends” from elsewhere from permanently settling in East Germany and raising a second generation, the East German state decided against providing care for pregnant foreign worker-trainees and young mothers. This double standard illuminated the limitations of the East German commitment to gender equality, and that of socialism more broadly. The restrictive policy finally changed only in 1989, when it became possible to choose between delivery in East Germany or back home, with a subsequent return to work.Footnote 83 Female worker-trainees were then also eligible to receive pregnancy benefits, brief maternity leave, and child benefits, and were able to take advantage of state childcare.Footnote 84 Juma and his wife Graciel were beneficiaries. Graciel gave birth to her son in East Germany and the family moved into an apartment provided by their company (Fig. 5.1).Footnote 85
The contracts explicitly prevented worker-trainees from bringing a family with them or signing up as couples. This policy served to deter some female worker-trainees from migrating. Marieta shared her thoughts on weighing up whether to return to East Germany on a second contract:
My name came up a second time for me to return but then I no longer wanted to return. …I had two months of holidays and I still wanted to stay with my family. And I still wanted to marry, and they said we could not go over there pregnant, and I had already entered a committed relationship here.Footnote 86
Marietta decided to stay, took up employment at Texmoque, a textile company in Nampula, and devoted herself to her family. She eventually had seven children with three men; her first and her current partner also worked in East Germany.Footnote 87
While many pregnant worker-trainees were forced to return, those with the necessary social capital sometimes succeeded in bending the rules.Footnote 88 One such case was when pastor Almuth Berger housed a pregnant Mozambican woman in her home to prevent the woman’s company from repatriating her. Pastor Berger wrote to the East German State Ministry for Work and Wages responsible for the worker-trainees. Luckily, they proved cooperative. The woman received a flat on her own where she lived with the child and continued working. Pastor Berger baptized the little girl. In the end, however, the mother and child returned to Maputo in 1990 in response to the rise in xenophobic violence and openly expressed racism on formerly East German territory.Footnote 89
Becoming Black in East Germany
African immigrants living in East Germany underwent a racialization process whereby their identities shifted from primarily ethno-regional to national and racial. In a way, coming to East Germany for some young worker-trainees meant becoming first and foremost black.Footnote 90 In their previous lives in independent, black-majority societies their skin color reportedly played less of a role for many. In a slightly different way, it also meant that being Angolan or Mozambican became more important relative to being Makua, Makonde, Sena, Shona, Shangaan, Ovimbundu, Chokwe, Lunda, Ambundu, or any other of the ethnic and linguistic groups who make up the Mozambican and Angolan populations. In this respect, therefore, the scheme was rather successful at achieving the aims which FRELIMO and the MPLA had for fostering national identities at the expense of regional and ethnic ones.
Many worker-trainees share memories such as those held by Ilíbio, from Angola:
It was my first time in a white country, and I had never lived together with these people. We only saw these people and their cultures on TV. When I was born, there were still some Portuguese but when I was five years old the conflict started and when I was already grown, I only encountered empty houses and occasionally a Portuguese, but I never learned to live with this race. That is why everything for me was new.Footnote 91
Many worker-trainees had, like Ilíbio, limited experience of living together with people read as being from another race prior to migrating. While to be black was the norm in Angola and Mozambique, to live in the overwhelmingly white East Germany, and to be constantly reminded of their difference but also to notice the difference of the non-black majority to themselves, brought for many of the migrants their blackness to the fore as an important aspect of their identities.Footnote 92
Despite this, some Angolan worker-trainees showed the influence of Lusotropicalism in their memories.Footnote 93 This was the ideology that posited that Portuguese colonialism was racially egalitarian and that the Portuguese-speaking world consisted of harmonious, multiracial societies. For example: “Here [in Angola], we were already accustomed to an atmosphere where all races and colors lived together. In the Catholic church, we got to know all sorts of people…that is why we didn’t have to switch mentally when we left Angola.”Footnote 94 Recent scholarship has emphasized that Lusotropicalism was something of a fig leaf for exploitative colonialism, but its influence on the Lusophone world has been undeniable, including its influence on how some black Portuguese speakers conceptualized race.
These two opposing viewpoints—one emphasizing the strangeness of living with white people, one emphasizing its normality—illustrate that the experiences of worker-trainees from the same country could vary greatly. How migrants dealt with living in a majority-white country was a personal thing, resulting from a mix of background, experiences in (East) Germany, and individual character. Ilíbio, who found that living in such an environment required adjusting to, was born in Ukuma in Huambo and grew up in Namibe and Lubango, where he attended the Instituto Médio Friedrich Engels until ninth grade. He grew up in the Angolan provinces between 1970 and 1988, a time of intense fighting, as the MPLA with the help of the Cubans sought to fight back South African advances into Angola. Perhaps his unease reflected the experiences of his youth, where white South African soldiers were a source of danger. On the other hand, the group interview in which several participants voiced the opinion that Angola was a place of interracial interaction included people from different parts of Angola, ranging from Luanda to Huila and Cabinda, and drew their experience of diversity either from schooling or religion.Footnote 95 Along with regional differences, the family and education backgrounds of the worker-trainees also had an influence on their previous exposure to people read as being from other races. Given that future worker-trainees were drawn both from rural areas with little exposure to Angola’s multiracial and multi-ethnic social strata, and those from urban elites that had access to secondary schooling, both experiences were reflected in migrants’ reactions to the difference they faced in (East) Germany.
Angolan and Mozambican worker-trainees’ experiences of East Germany were doubly foreign. First, they resided in a foreign land where they interacted with people from different nationalities and cultures that most had not met before, mainly East Germans, but also people from Poland, Vietnam, Cuba, and other, mainly socialist, countries. Second, they found themselves in mixed groups with people from all over their home country, speaking different mother tongues and following different cultural practices. Not only did they have to learn and use German, but for some this was the first time that they had used Portuguese as a lingua franca with their compatriots. As we have discussed elsewhere in this book, one notable success of the migration scheme was to foster national identity. However, this did not always work, as one former worker-trainee from Mozambique remembered:
President Samora Machel selected me. According to the president there was to be no tribalism, racism, or regionalism when it came to forming groups. What was very interesting is that he picked five people from every province. …We put a group of 50 together. He said he didn’t want to put 10 people from his province because he knew that people from the south aren’t that good.Footnote 96
Thus, tensions were revealed between official anti-tribalist and anti-regionalist doctrine and the enduring existence of prejudice against those from elsewhere in the country. As, for example, with some of my interviewees from Ilha de Moçambique, an island to the north which was the original base for Portuguese colonialism and gave its name to the country, many northerners remained wary of the south, and FRELIMO continued to be associated with a strong southern leadership base.
There was another paradox revealed in the above quotation: many of the worker-trainees I interviewed in the North—Nampula, Namialo, Ilha de Moçambique, and Pemba—revered Samora Machel as leader of the revolution and father of the nation, despite his southern origins. Their subsequent disillusionment with FRELIMO appears to be a result of their disappointing reintegration after returning from Europe, rather than an opposition to a southerner-led revolution per se. Socialist ideology in Mozambique sought to overcome internal divisions by imposing anti-racism, anti-regionalism, and anti-tribalism. But, as in East Germany, the new blanket of socialist morals, enforced with punitive measures, tended to cover up existing prejudices rather than eliminate them. However, the worker-trainees’ experiences show that through living together abroad some of them came to appreciate their national identities and found a solidarity with their compatriots. This shift occurred in part because they continued to be exposed to violence, xenophobia, and racism in their daily experience in East Germany. As one response to this hostility, they formed what Eric Allina-Pisano and Jessica Allina-Pisano call “protective linguistic and cultural communities” based on nationality, or sometimes even broader communities based on racial solidarity.Footnote 97
While the ethnically and regionally mixed national groups of worker-trainees did instill an appreciation for the diversity of their compatriots and encouraged their association with a national identity, this was not a seamless or harmonious process. As the memories of this Angolan worker-trainee demonstrated, ethnic violence existed alongside the xenophobic violence experienced outside of the group. For instance, the violent tensions over women that Africans encountered outside of the dormitory when interacting with East Germans and other foreign workers were replicated inside the dormitory along ethnic lines:
In my group [of 50 worker-trainees] we came from all over the country [Angola]. The problem of tribalism was obvious. We even had several fights among ourselves because we were envious of each other or because we got drunk and provoked one another. It got worse when someone brought a German lover and the others tried to conquer that lover.Footnote 98
Far from assuming a natural affinity between Angolans and Mozambicans based on their shared experience of Portuguese colonialism and shared language, some worker-trainees held deep-seated ethno-national animosity toward one another:
Even among us Africans we had problems with racism. For instance, the Mozambicans had serious problems of envy when they saw a Mozambican woman go out with an Angolan man. I already had problems like that. A Mozambican intercepted us [him and his Mozambican date] and we had to have police intervention. That is one of the reasons why I am not a great friend of Mozambicans.Footnote 99
These tensions illustrated the difficult nature of nation-building abroad. When presented with a common enemy, migrants framed their narratives along group thinking. When a compatriot was in danger the others came to fight for them; yet even as the outside world and social environment perceived the groups to be “the Angolans” or “the Mozambicans,” the internal group dynamics were more complex. Furthermore, this example shows that inter-ethnic tensions were multifaceted. There were several dimensions of difference in the lives of worker-trainees: that between East Germans and those from elsewhere, between those read as foreigners, and between compatriots. Racism toward Africans from East Germans, though an important story and one to which we will turn now, was not the only form of discrimination the worker-trainees experienced.
Real Racism in Real Socialism
The structural existence of racism as a system of thought in socialist societies was anathema for socialist parties.Footnote 100 From Angola to the Soviet Union, socialist countries united under an anti-racist banner. Official East German ideology was no exception and claimed anti-fascist, anti-imperial, and anti-racist politics in solidarity with brother nations in the global South.Footnote 101 East German foreign policy sought to project an engaged socialist state supporting African liberation movements and opposing South African apartheid.
Consequently, it was illegal to make racist comments, physically attack people, or engage in any other form of racist expression. If such expressions were reported and interpreted as racism, the perpetrator was punished.Footnote 102 However, racist acts were seen as singular rather than systemic occurrences. Either they were ascribed to attitudes imported from the West, or to a few uneducated and rebellious citizens, often labeled antisocial.Footnote 103 Notwithstanding anti-racist intentions, the cosmopolitan lives depicted by some worker-trainees existed only in small pockets of East German society.
For East Germans who did not interact with the foreign guests in unscripted, deeper ways, depictions of racial diversity in the form of “racial rainbows” remained pretty propaganda.Footnote 104 As Quinn Slobodian demonstrates, the racial rainbow was based on essentializing notions of cultural and ethnic difference tied to specific locations around the globe. An East German “was to denounce the practice of racism even while preserving the utility of the category of race itself,” which meant that “[o]n both sides of the Cold War border in the post-war years, the larger world remained divided into three primary phenotypic groups: white, black, and yellow.” East German ideology did not purport color-blindness, but rather it pushed the notion of a horizontal, pluralistic community of peoples, connected through socialist ideals.
Racism in East Germany affected African worker-trainees neither because of nor despite socialist state anti-racism politics. Rather, racism in Germany had (and has) a long, complex, and much debated history stretching back to German imperialism and before. A reflective discourse about this was generally not possible, not least due to the externalization of imperialism to the class enemy. There were few attempts in East Germany to root out racism through enhancing mutual understanding by reflecting on exclusion and inclusion, hurdles and privileges. Instead, racist behavior was relegated to the private realm. It could not exist as part of the state structures. According to historian Jonathan R. Zatlin, the SED portrayed “racism as a form of false consciousness” and thereby “removed the grounds for any theoretical understanding that might have guided party officials when confronting hostility toward foreigners.”Footnote 105 The result was the perpetuation of racialized thinking from colonial to Nazi times and into East German administration, restaurants, and workspaces. At best, this situation resulted in thoughtlessness. At worst, there was intentional discrimination and even open violence. Not confronting the racism in East German society perpetuated the very thing the law sought to eradicate: the racism of state officials and citizens alike.
The only country across the East with a direct colonial past, East Germany failed to address this colonial history. One result was that the history of black (East) Germans was silenced.Footnote 106 Instead, an ideology of racial hierarchy continued after Germany was stripped of its colonies in 1918. It reached its tragic apex in the Nazi era and the Holocaust.Footnote 107 East German official anti-racism was not only a moral ordering device, it was a political tool to work toward the creation of a socialist utopia, united by class consciousness, and not divided by race, gender, or generation.Footnote 108 More cynically, it was an easy, no-cost way for the East German government to demonstrate why they were not the inheritors of the guilt of the Nazi era and why they were morally superior to West Germany.Footnote 109
All those registered as foreigners only made up about 1 percent of the East German population.Footnote 110 Of these, a statistically negligible number came from outside Europe. They nevertheless held sway over many East German imaginations. A hierarchy of foreignness existed, where race trumped mere foreignness. Thus, the ever-increasing xenophobic expressions had very distinct racist undertones.Footnote 111 No matter how intimate some relationships between African worker-trainees and East Germans became, migrants were reminded daily of their status as strangers; at best as invited socialist friends or at least as tolerated temporary guests, at worst as foreign threat and competition for scarce resources. Mark Fenemore contends that the East German state’s emphasis on solidarity with the global South resulted in many people seeing foreigners as “symbols of socialist domination” and “puppets of the state.” People who were perceived as “foreign” could thus become “easy targets for venting frustration with the regime.”Footnote 112
State control through surveillance and law enforcement succeeded to some degree in protecting the worker-trainees from the potent mix of racism, xenophobia, and individual prejudices that increasingly erupted as the East German state institutions weakened toward the late 1980s, and when they finally ceased to exist on October 3, 1990. During the East German dictatorship, a certain compliance with the official discourse of friendship and brotherhood among socialist countries had incentivized the suppression of overt violent racist expressions by individuals. This ceased to be the case.
In accordance with the East German anti-racist stance, many interviewees discussed their relative freedom from violent racist encounters, and their freedom to move about easily in public as individuals during the late 1970s and most of the 1980s. As one worker remembers: “In public places the German state was in control. And where the German state was in control, people from any and all races could circulate. Those who didn’t want to deal with that had to stay at home.”Footnote 113 This control, albeit never perfect, also extended to the workplace where workers accused of racism tended to face sanctions: “The communist policies were rigorous. No German could demonstrate racist expressions in the workspace. If that happened, he was immediately punished. [However], we encountered racism walking around in our free time.”Footnote 114 As Gerhard Schöne’s song at the beginning of this chapter section depicted, most worker-trainees encountered hostility outside policed and official spaces. Bigotry manifested itself during everyday activities such as finding a seat in a restaurant, dancing with an East German woman at the disco, grocery shopping, or taking public transport.
Quite a few worker-trainees, especially those posted to more remote areas, framed their initial appearance as novelty. They describe being a target of curiosity, but also prejudice, which they explain through the ignorance and personal preconceptions of the members of the East German population with whom they interacted. Augusto remembers being the object of physical transgressions: “Sometimes people appeared to touch our skin to see whether we were really people. One time a child came up to me to touch me for this reason, but I thought this was a normal thing. The child was curious and had never seen a person of my color.”Footnote 115 José explained how it felt to be a novelty:
When we arrived in Germany, interestingly we found that we walked around in cities which practically did not know black people. …It was the first time they saw them walk around and they were…scared. How do you relate with a race you have never seen? It was difficult. So, there were these prejudices that people had. …For instance, some white people did not want to share the same train wagon as the black people. But I do think these were personal prejudices; some people interacted, and others didn’t.Footnote 116
Echoing the SED’s logic, worker-trainees often externalized racism to a few individuals rather than seeing it as systemic. In this context, interviewees often mention right-wing skinheads, whom they describe as a group of people with a propensity for violent acts, and racist, and neo-Nazi tendencies. In Santana’s words:
The German people are a loving people. They know how to receive people. Discrimination exists everywhere in the world, mostly among the elderly and the young people. But there were also those more radical, whom we called skinheads, ‘cabeças rapadas.’ Except for those we interacted with everybody.Footnote 117
The East German skinhead scene was established in the early 1980s and members committed a series of anti-immigrant attacks in the mid-1980s.Footnote 118 Faced with these groups, the SED continued to maintain that right-wing neo-Nazi and xenophobic attitudes were imported from the West and refused to acknowledge racism as an inherent problem in East Germany. Some, such as Ilíbio, who referred to racism as “the ugly part” of his East German experience, tried to grasp the violent behavior of neo-Nazi-skinheads, framing their behavior within the context of living in an immobile and unfree society:
When we had these conflicts with the skinheads, we understood that, from their point of view, we invaded their territory. … I understood because I started to comprehend the history of the German division and about the peoples’ imprisonment. And clearly, if I had not been able to travel for the last 40 years, I would also be angry.Footnote 119
While an anti-migrant mood in capitalist societies often centers on fears about access to employment, in the socialist East where full employment was the norm, these fears shifted to access to goods and privileges. The SED government brought foreign worker-trainees into the country but failed to adequately inform the public about their role, their numbers, and their history, which might have helped to limit rumors and misunderstandings.Footnote 120 Many East Germans participated in solidarity campaigns with countries, but they often knew little else about the specificities of the strangers arriving in their midst.Footnote 121 It is easier to preach solidarity than it is to practice it. Furthermore, since the arrival of workers or students or other sojourners from other countries was usually not discussed with residents of the areas in which the migrants were concentrated, animosity often resulted in misunderstandings. Reports in company newspapers and initiatives to introduce foreign worker-trainees on a local level often parroted the party line and celebrated East German solidarity, rather than dealing with the specific impacts on areas which saw migration. Some wrongly believed that the worker-trainees’ foreign status meant they were being given systemic access to the mythical and unreachable West. This could be money, goods, or trips.Footnote 122 The lack of information also stoked worries about violent foreigners. Rumors, fears, and misinformation contributed to laying the ground for violence against foreigners during the last period of the East German regime and afterwards.Footnote 123 Bernd Bröskamp aptly describes the paradox thus: “Racism, apartheid, and xenophobia were all at once (officially) prohibited and (covertly) institutionally legitimized by the state.”Footnote 124
The Angolans and Mozambicans were likewise ill equipped for their intercultural encounters. While worker-trainees did not often perceive East Germany as a country with a relevant colonial past, the colonial memories and experiences of the worker-trainees were immediate and influenced the way they approached going to “Europe.” Thus, it should not be surprising that rumors about East Germans among the worker-trainees were also rampant and that racialized personal prejudices existed, too:
Not only people of the white race are racists against blacks, but it can also be the other way around. But people can distinguish whether a person speaks with the intent to insult or not and that is the same in Europe and Africa. Even in Germany we had incidences where the [German] women started learning our languages, mostly the most racist terms, and whenever we spoke these kinds of things they intervened and that caused problems. That is why you always have to be very careful when you are in the presence of people from other races not to speak insulting things.Footnote 125
On an interpersonal level, racialized stereotypes continued to thrive as East Germans and Angolans and Mozambicans alike entered relationships carrying the intellectual baggage of colonialism, despite their governments’ espousal of anticolonialism.
The Fall of the Wall, the Rise of Violent Racism
“With German reunification, racism started in Germany!”Footnote 126 Statements like this were common among worker-trainees from Angola and Mozambique. While the fall of the Wall and the following transition period is ordinarily told following an emancipatory script, looking through the eyes of Angolan and Mozambican migrants at these historic events reveals that this script is ignorant of what happened to non-white people and people without an (East) German passport.Footnote 127 Racism was the primary lens through which African migrants understood the rise in right-wing attacks on foreigners in the fall of 1989, and the subsequent violent xenophobia and racism in what had become the new states (Bundesländer) of the Federal Republic of Germany.Footnote 128 Migrants experienced racism throughout their stay in East Germany, but almost all interviewees acknowledged a dramatic worsening as their daily tasks became determined by keeping themselves safe from attack, as a culture of fear took hold.Footnote 129
Memories of everyday harassment and violence suggest a worsening of the situation over time. Racist violence as spectacle, such as murder and arson, has been, as in Russia and several other post-communist countries, a feature of the post-socialist space. Such violence is rarely triggered by a single cause. Rather, it is incited by political processes. As an expression of racism, violence predated the end of the GDR, but as a classic anti-immigrant stance spurred by economic crisis and recession, it intensified during the era of the Wende.Footnote 130
The expansion of the far-right scene in East Germany coincided with a phase of economic and political stagnation that finally led to the collapse of the old state institutions and value systems under the pressure of the pro-democracy movement.Footnote 131 People had to adjust from life in a welfare dictatorship to a pluralistic free-market society.Footnote 132 The transition to capitalism meant that for the first time in decades there was competition between firms for business and between workers for jobs. Much of East German society was not equipped for this new reality and so the change went hand in hand with mass unemployment and interruptions to professional careers. Only about one third of the population managed to fully integrate into the new labor market.Footnote 133 These political and economic adjustments were greeted by some with joy and as opportunities, but also led to experiences of loss and social anxiety for many others. As regards racism, these conditions of turmoil existed on top of significant continuities of thinking about race, which had been inherited from colonial and Nazi times. The official East German ideology of outsourcing the blame for the Nazi era also meant that there had been little reckoning with racism in the personal sphere as there had been (to an extent) in West Germany.Footnote 134 The increase of xenophobic and racist attacks experienced by migrants, especially those read as non-white, therefore had a long and complicated historical background.
Those Angolan and Mozambican worker-trainees who lived through the upheaval alongside their East German colleagues found that neighbors and even friends increasingly turned against them. In April 1991 Jorge Gomondai, a young Mozambican, died after being thrown out of a moving train returning from a disco night with his white partner.Footnote 135 On September 17 and 18, 1991, a group of skinheads and youths attacked a contract worker hostel in Hoyerswerda.Footnote 136 During the night of August 24 to 25, 1992, extremists attacked an apartment block in Lichtenhagen, a district of Rostock, home to Vietnamese contract workers and asylum seekers. The rioters thew petrol bombs while locals applauded, and millions watched on live TV.Footnote 137 In the memories of the former worker-trainees these deathly and destructive events were beacons, and together with their personal experiences undergirded the culture of fear that came to dominate their lives. Even if not experienced personally, these events played a powerful role in shaping migrants’ conceptions and fearful feelings about (East) Germany. Nowhere seemed safe as migrants were attacked in their homes:
When we arrived in [East] Germany, we had a lot of fun, we went out to discos and all that but from one moment to the other we found ourselves confined to the dorm. It was a very racist time when Germans came to the dormitories in the early mornings and set fire to some to show that they did not want any foreigners on their land.Footnote 138
Neither did Angolan and Mozambican workers feel secure on the streets or on public transport:
There wasn’t always a lot of racism. It is true that not everybody was peaceful but before the German reunification it was normal to walk around without being called names but afterwards, we couldn’t walk alone anymore. It was also no longer possible to take the train because if they found you, they would throw you out of the window while the train was running.Footnote 139
Worker-trainees increasingly sought security in numbers; they no longer felt safe going out alone. In this hostile climate, the vast majority of worker-trainees decided to return home. Those who stayed had either found true love in East Germany and wanted to remain with their new families or sought to stay away from home until the end of the civil wars. Even workers who had the opportunity to stay, such as Abilio, decided to return:
I was the group leader and the directorate of that company told me…that I was already practically a citizen of Germany and I could stay…and be integrated into a work area. My passport was already valid until 1998. But I started to see that I would be very isolated in Germany. …The people started to make claims and wreaked havoc, I saw that I had to first and foremost think about my security and for that reasons I refused to accept the offer. …These groups [rightwing extremists] always existed but they did not manifest in East Germany when we lived to some extent in security but after the reunification things changed and they were already free to act as they pleased. They received support from the residents in former West Germany and it got really, really bad. …I feared for my life and so I resolved to return home.Footnote 140
What had started as a socialist cosmopolitan adventure turned into a nightmare for the worker-trainees who lived through the fall of the Wall and German reunification.Footnote 141 Paradoxically, many of the ex-migrants remembered that East German dictatorship had offered relative personal security and freedom from racist attacks, while the transition to democracy brought with it increased risks for African migrants, and greater restrictions in their daily lives. It shows that political liberation was, as always, more complex than at first glance. Living under a socialist dictatorship was much more multifaceted than simplistic “evil empire” conceptions allow for.Footnote 142
I learned a lot in Germany. I learned how to be a man, what racism and tribalism are, and that all of us, independently of skin color and other things, we are all the same.Footnote 143
Worker-trainees brought with them notions about gender equality, anti-racism, anti-tribalism, and anti-regionalism from the socialist revolutions at home. These were political formulas which were intended to unify but were rather layered upon a divisive colonial heritage. While the familiarity with the Angolan and Mozambican exegeses of these concepts varied among worker-trainees, all deepened their understanding of East German socialist ideology during their stay abroad. Coming to East Germany for many worker-trainees meant encountering a small socialist cosmopolitan world, one in which they expanded their horizons through intimate interactions with people from other races, regions, and ethnic groups, and learned about different cultures, languages, and ways of being in the world. They took home an appreciation of cultural diversity and gender equality, of leisure time and traveling, but also an understanding of the limits of life under real socialism and the gaps between socialist rhetoric and reality.
Much of the secondary literature on this topic rightly points to the limits of integration of foreign workers in East Germany but often treats integration as a one-way street.Footnote 144 The interviews in this chapter are testimonies to how young men and women carved out social spaces in a restricted environment. To them integration was a two-way street, a coming together, creating new spaces for social interactions, rather than one party simply adapting to the demands of the other. Worker-trainees drew their own social maps of East Germany along axes of affective home and host networks.Footnote 145 Many were fiercely fashion-conscious and enjoyed listening to music, cooking, and partying in the dormitories with compatriots and a mélange of other people who wanted to join in the fun; they were eager to take to the disco and pub scene, places of involvement with both alcohol and women. Often, biracial relationships served to integrate the worker-trainees into East German culture while moving the white women to the margins; as a result couples created their own spaces. Oral histories provide testimonies of the limits imposed by integration by exclusion on the experience of the intimate strangers from southern Africa. They also show how worker-trainees overcame restrictive rules and created niches to fashion what many remembered as livable, even desirable, lives.
We have seen that the human relationships the worker-trainees formed in their leisure time were crucial to influencing their thinking about East German society, about themselves as African migrants, and about socialism in the long term. These intimate strangers shaped the experiences of those East Germans with whom they interacted: a neighbor who invited the newcomers over for a shared meal, a host family who shared their vacation home with a migrant, or a lover, fiancé(e), or wife who became intimately acquainted with the way that her partner thought, acted, and dreamed. In turn, the migrants’ experiences were influenced by what they got to know outside of the vocational training centers and company gates. They improved their German language skills, cooked German recipes, and celebrated Christmas with their German friends. However, they were also refused seating in restaurants, confronted with racist insults, or physically assaulted due to the color of their skin and the rumors about perceived privileges of foreign workers. These diverging and contradictory experiences were part of the migrants’ lives in East Germany and shaped the way they told the story of their migration twenty-five years later.
The gap between anti-racist theory and racist practice became apparent to worker-trainees all over East Germany. The degree of their exclusion varied depending on when they came to East Germany, where they were posted, and what kind of social support networks they built. The dramatic increase of xenophobic and racist crimes after the late 1980s demonstrated the limited ability of the East German police state to protect Angolan and Mozambican worker-trainees, and called into question whether they even had the will to do so. However, this was not simply a matter of a strong police state enforcing behavior according to the laws of the country, followed by a weakening state that lost that ability. The new unified state introduced sweeping new economic, political, and social changes that fostered insecurity and anxiety among many East Germans, and which resulted in increasingly xenophobic and racist reactions. As those who hailed from elsewhere never made up more than 1 percent of the East German population, many East Germans lacked personal contacts that could have helped them overcome stereotypes of those who remained silhouettes, othered as “foreigners” and misunderstood as enemies of their well-being. Moreover, the fall of the Wall further facilitated communication between East and West, including the extreme right.Footnote 146 In that context, violence increased, and made Angolans and Mozambicans fear for their lives. Names such as Rostock Lichtenhagen and Hoyerswerda became infamous in Germany overnight. Many worker-trainees thus found themselves reacting to a dire situation in Germany while facing the difficult decision to return to Africa. We will explore this decision and its aftermath in detail in Chap. 6.
Tape C. 56.80, “Visita Presidencial a RDA 30.09.80,” 1.Samora Machel: discurso no banquete de estado (25 minutes), Rádio Moçambique, Maputo, Mozambique.
Ibid., 2. Erich Honecker: condecoração de S. Machel, medalha “Grande Estrela da Unidade entre os Povos,” Rádio Moçambique.
Bruce Hall defines racism as “representation of human difference that posits a direct connection between physical and mental qualities that are constant and unalterable by human will, based on hereditary factors or external influences such as climate or geography.” Bruce S. Hall, A History of Race in Muslim West Africa, 1600–1960 (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 11. While acknowledging race as a construct, this definition allows for the “realness” of racism in political, social, and cultural discourse. It is further important in this chapter to keep in mind that the cultural construction of “black” and “white” as historically created racial identities is relational.
Racist encounters were not limited to the leisure time of worker-trainees; they pervaded every aspect of their East German experience. Yet, due to the official realm of state and company control, racist expressions occurred much more frequently beyond the factory floor, which was the subject of the last chapter.
While the rotational principle makes the East German foreign worker program similar to the early West German guest worker program, the timing, the political framing and the implications were different. West Germany’s migration can be divided into three phases, (a) mass immigration (1955–1973), (b) family reunification (1970–1980), and (c) settlement and building of new ethnic minorities. Phases b and c did not happen in East Germany; see Bernd Bröskamp, “Vom Auswanderungs- zum Einwanderungsland: Die DDR, ihre Ausländer, die deutsche Wiedervereinigung und die Folgen,” in Schwarz-Weiße Zeiten AusländerInnen in Ostdeutschland vor und nach der Wende. Erfahrungen der Vertragsarbeiter aus Mosambik. Interviews- Berichte- Analysen., Ahmed Farah, Eva Engelhardt, and Bernd Bröskamp, eds. (Bremen: IZA, KKM, tdh, BAOBAB, 1993), 17; Ulrich Herbert, A History of Foreign Labor in Germany 1880–1980: Seasonal Workers, Forced Laborers, Guest Workers, trans. William Templer (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990), 193–257.
I draw on the title of Francis B. Nyamnjoh’s novel Intimate Strangers (Mankon, Bamenda, Cameroon: Langaa RPCIG, 2010).
The East German government portrayed itself as a champion of liberation movements and young independent socialist states in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, Brigitte Schulz, Development Policy in the Cold War Era: The Two Germanies and Sub-Saharan Africa, 1960–1985 (Münster: LIT Verlag, 1995), 20.
I use affective to delineate emotional relationships, whether connoted positively (a romantic or friendly relationship) or negatively (a racist encounter) and regardless of the intensity of emotions. Often scholars distinguish between affect and emotion whereby affect also embraces less well-defined states including feelings, moods, and sensations; see Nancy Rose Hunt, “The Affective, the Intellectual, and Gender History,” Journal of African History 55 (2014): 337.
See, for instance, Jochen Oppenheimer, “Mozambican Worker Migration to the Former German Democratic Republic: Serving Socialism and Struggling under Democracy,” Portuguese Studies Review 12, no. 1 (2004): 163–87; Sandra Gruner-Domic, “Zur Geschichte der Arbeitskräftemigration in der DDR: Die bilateralen Verträge zur Beschäftigung ausländischer Arbeiter (1961–1989),” Internationale wissenschaftliche Korrespondenz zur Geschichte der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung 32 (1996): 204–30.
Lisa A. Lindsay and Stephan Miescher, Men and Masculinities in Modern Africa (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2003); John Iliffe, Honour in African History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), Chs. 15;16.
“Anjo Lezewik” by Regina Vera Cruz, February 27, 2007, original in Regina’s possession. Regina from Maputo wrote the poem in 2007 as part of a creative writing class. Almost twenty years elapsed between her experience and her processing of the memory in this poem.
Marrabenta refers to a style of dance music developed in Maputo during the 1930s and still enjoying great popularity today. It is a mélange of traditional Mozambican and Portuguese folk elements.
A famous Mozambican Marrabenta singer, Humberto Carlos Benfica, is known as Wazimbo.
Today some young Mozambican women from the lower classes specifically seek out relations with European men to gain access to social and spatial mobility and wealth with which to satisfy their own desires and give back to their families; see Christian Groes, “Men Come and Go, Mothers Stay: Personhood and Resisting Marriage among Mozambican Women Migrating to Europe,” in Affective Circuits: African Migrations to Europe and the Pursuit of Social Regeneration, Jennifer Cole and Christian Groes, eds. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016).The fact that transactional relationships of this kind were not common during the labor migration underscores the importance of the female migrants’ relative independence with regular access to their own incomes.
Carina Ray and Ann Laura Stoler examine the power dynamics in interracial intimate relations as key sites for consolidating but also contesting colonial rule in Ghana and Indonesia respectively. They demonstrate the intricate ways in which thinking about race, gender, and sexuality are intertwined, illustrating how administrative racism interfered with strong bonds of affection from below and created social colonial categories. See Ray, Crossing the Color Line; Ann Laura Stoler, Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995).
Ilíbio, interview conducted by the author, Luanda, Angola, April 16, 2015.
Andreas Müggenburg, “Die ausländischen Vertragsarbeiter in der ehemaligen DDR: Darstellung und Dokumentation,” ed. Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für die Belange der Ausländer (Berlin: Bonner Universitäts-Buchdruckerei, 1996), 18f; Ulrich van der Heyden, “Zu den Hintergründen und dem Verlauf des Einsatzes mosambikanischer Vertragsarbeiter in der DDR-Wirtschaft,” in Mosambikanische Vertragsarbeiter in der DDR-Wirtschaft: Hintergründe - Verlauf - Folgen, ed. Wolfgang Schwanitz Ulrich van der Heyden (Münster: LIT Verlag, 2014), 52f. East German women who were meeting male foreigners were often followed by police and Stasi; see Bröskamp, “Vom Auswanderungs- zum Einwanderungsland,” 23. Annegret Schüle’s studies situate Mozambican workers in specific companies and provide telling material of East German opinions on their Mozambican colleagues and East Germans who were engaged in biracial relationships; see Annegret Schüle, “‘Proletarischer Internationalismus’ oder ‘ökonomischer Vorteil für die DDR?’: Mosambikanische, angolanische und vietnamesische Arbeitskräfte im VEB Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei (1980–1989),” Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 42 (2002): 191–210; Annegret Schüle,“‘Die ham se sozusagen aus dem Busch geholt’ - Die Wahrnehmung der Vertragsarbeitskräfte aus Schwarzafrika und Vietnam durch Deutsche im VEB Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei,” in Fremde und Fremd-Sein in der DDR: Zu historischen Ursachen der Fremdenfeindlichkeit in Ostdeutschland, Jan C. Behrends, Thomas Lindenberger, and Patrice G. Poutrus, eds. (Berlin: Metropol, 2003), 309–24.
Augusto, interview conducted by the author, Luanda, Angola, April 12, 2015.
The role of European and African women as enabler for African men is also discussed in Hélène Neveu Kringelbach, “The Paradox of Parallel Lives: Immigration Policy and Transnational Polygyny between Senegal and France,” in Affective Circuits: African Migrations to Europe and the Pursuit of Social Regeneration, Jennifer Cole and Christian Groes, eds. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016), 146–68. Hélène Neveu Kringelbach’s study shows how Senegalese men see polygamy with a French and a Senegalese wife as a legitimate way of obtaining spatial mobility while also retaining claims to their possessions in their region of origin. Just like in the migration system under study, some of the older migrants interviewed by Neveu Kringelbach had already established families back home, but the vast majority I interviewed were single upon leaving, albeit in the case of female migrants, often single with children. Despite living in committed long-term relationships, many of the returned workers never formally married and therefore continue to describe their marital status as single.
Bernardo, interview conducted by the author, Luanda, Angola, April 2, 2015.
Tina Campt, Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender, and Memory in the Third Reich (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004); Larry A. Greene and Anke Ortlepp, Germans and African Americans: Two Centuries of Exchange (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011); Volker Langbehn and Mohammad Salama, German Colonialism: Race, the Holocaust, and Postwar Germany (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011). To understand the longer trajectory of racism in (East) Germany, refer to Sara Friedrichsmeyer, Sara Lennox, and Susanne Zantop, eds., Imperialist Imagination: German Colonialism and Its Legacy (Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press, 1998); Britta Schillig, Postcolonial Germany: Memories of Empire in a Decolonized Nation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
José Antonio, interview conducted by the author, Luanda, Angola, March 8, 2015.
Scherzer, Die Fremden, p. 114–15.
Group interview, interview conducted by the author, Luanda, Angola, March 11, 2015.
Augusto, Luanda, April 12, 2015.
For an exploration of how this behavior ties in with gendered notions of honor, see Iliffe, Honour in African History, 263, 270.
Alfredo, interview conducted by the author, Nampula, Mozambique, June 12, 2014.
This is also true for other foreign workers; see Gertrud Hüwelmeier, “Socialist Cosmopolitanism Meets Global Pentecostalism: Charismatic Christianity among Vietnamese Migrants after the Fall of the Berlin Wall,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 43 (2011): 331–45.
Lufaquenda, interview conducted by the author, Luanda, Angola, April 22, 2015.
Kathleen E. Sheldon, Pounders of Grain: A History of Women, Work, and Politics in Mozambique (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2002); Allen F. Isaacman and Barbara Isaacman, “The Role of Women in the Liberation of Mozambique,” Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies 13 (1984): 128–85; Isabel Maria Casimiro, “Rethinking the Relations between Woman and Man During the Time of Samora,” in Samora: Man of the People, ed. António Sopa (Maputo: Maguezo Editores, 2001).
Ray, Crossing the Color Line, especially Part II.
Santana, interview conducted by the author, Luanda, Angola, April 9, 2015.
The sexual revolution that changed the relationship to sexuality in the 1960s in West Germany did not occur in East Germany. Instead, there was a gradual opening of sexual mores as gender roles changed and the regime increasingly desperately tried to bind citizens, especially the youth, to the party. By the time the workers came to East Germany in the late 1970s, socialist morality in East Germany had opened up. Premarital, youthful heterosexuality was ubiquitous and even promoted by the regime, and unwed motherhood was a frequent occurrence; all legal discrimination of children born out of wedlock was abolished as early as 1950 and one in three children were born out of matrimony, Herzog, Sex after Fascism, 215. A high divorce rate among young marriages was the norm and often interpreted as the absence of economic imperatives to stay together. Herzog, Sex after Fascism, 187, 192, 193, 209. This was the atmosphere in which the predominately male migrant laborers integrated. Knowing this general background lets the prevalence of uncommitted relationships and the frequency of children born out of wedlock in relationships with foreign workers appear in a less exceptional light. It also shines a different light on the premature end of most young interracial families of worker-trainees.
See, for instance, the interview with Frau R.F. from Bautzen and Frau K. from Hoyerswerda, “Für Hoyerswerda ist das wichtig” in Farah, Engelhardt, and Bröskamp, eds., Schwarz-Weiße Zeiten, 63.
Lúcia, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, September 5, 2011.
For example, pastor Almuth Berger set up the Cabana movement as a space for worship and socializing across nationalities which spread throughout churches in East Germany; see Almuth Berger, interview conducted by the author, Berlin, Germany, November 17, 2014 and Berger, “Vertragsarbeiter.”
244, Interview conducted by the author, Luanda, Angola, April 17, 2015.
Jacinto, interview conducted by the author, Beira, Mozambique, June 3, 2014, names of host parents changed.
Tempo illustrated a letter to the editor discussing the problematic communication with learners abroad with a cartoon of a turtle working as post-man, wearing a cap that reads “express” and losing letters from a bag slung over its shell along the way. This illustration goes a long way toward describing the postal service at the time in Mozambique. See, for instance, the letter to the editor written by Etelvina Adelina José and Lopes Muhambe in Maputo who lament that the letters from students in Cuba to Maputo took six months in 1978 when initially they only took two months. Resposta aos Alunos que estudam em Cuba, Tempo No. 440, 1979-03-18, 7 https://www.aluka.org/stable/10.5555/al.sff.document.ahmtem19790318.
Pedido de Correspondência, Tempo No. 439, 1979-03-04, 7.
Interview with Ewald Seiler, Direktor für Kader und Ausbildung im VEB Fahrzeug- und Jagdwaffenwerk [Director for cadres and training in a publicly owned company for vehicles and hunting arms], cited in Landolf Scherzer, Die Fremden, 37.
Jacinto, Beira June 05, 2014.
This mirrors how witchcraft was used among the Southern Tswana peoples of South Africa during the late colonial period; see Comaroff and Comaroff, “On Personhood,” 272.
This interpretation is inspired by Leroy Vail and Landeg White’s reading of Vimbuza spirit possession among Tumbuka speakers whereby one important form of being possessed is that it allows women a public voice, to speak truth to power and voice their grievances in a safe way through the spirit. See Leroy Vail, Landeg White, Power and the Praise Poem: Southern African Voices in History (Oxford: James Currey, 1992), Chapter 7.
Article 10(6) states that the Mozambican workers who wanted to transform their status from a work contract under the agreement to an independent work contract and stay on could do so provided they could demonstrate proof of employment and proof of place of residence, Agreement between the Government of the GDR and the Government of the People’s Republic of Mozambique on the temporary employment of Mozambican workers in enterprises in the GDR, 28.05.1990, PA AA MFAA.
Paulo, interview conducted by the author, Nampula, Mozambique, June 11, 2014.
For a discussion of the role of magic and spirit possession in the migration of Africans, see Cole and Groes eds., Affective Circuits.
For an examination of how Angolan and Mozambican workers and their East German descendants navigate bi-national relationships in a politically charged environment see Johanna Wetzel and Marcia C. Schenck, “Love in Times of Socialist Solidarity: Racism, Knowledge and Mixed-Race Relationships in East Germany” Peripherie, 165/166, no. 42 (2022): 31–55.
Marriages between contract workers and East Germans needed the approval of both states, Dennis Kuck, “‘Für den sozialen Aufbau ihrer Heimat’? Ausländische Vertragsarbeitskräfte in der DDR,” in Fremde und Fremd-Sein in der DDR: Zu historischen Ursachen der Fremdenfeindlichkeit in Ostdeutschland, Jan C Behrends, Thomas Lindenberger, and Patrice G. Poutrus, eds. (Berlin: Metropol, 2003), 278. Interestingly in the absence of visas for unskilled labor today, marriage migration and family reunion are one of the only legal ways for unskilled Africans to migrate to Europe; see Cole and Groes, Affective Circuits, “Introduction,” 4.
Group interview Luanda, March 8, 2015; Catrin, interview conducted by the author, Hamburg, Germany, November 20, 2014; Müggenburg, “Die ausländischen Vertragsarbeiter,” 24.
By “public life” I am referring to the worker-trainees’ life within the company gates including work, training, and company related leisure time activities. I am referring to their “private life” as the life they carved out for themselves away from the official realm, such as on self-organized outings to visit friends or spending time with romantic partners or host families.
These buildings were often on or in the proximity of the company territory and either housed just one or multiple nationalities in segregated sections; rent was heavily subsidized, but worker-trainees were subject to regulations governing visitors and the maintenance of their rooms and their common spaces. Conditions varied but most interviewees shared a room with at least one roommate.
Ilíbio, Luanda, April 16, 2015.
For a historical ethnography on the material and social aspects of how spaces that Mozambican workers used in East Germany shaped their lives and practices of placemaking featuring prominently the company dormitory, see Lea Marie Nienhoff, ‘We Are Workers, Not Inmates!’: The Politics of Space in Mozambican Workers’ Company Dormitories in East Germany (1979–1990) (MA Diss., Department of Urban Studies, University Basel, 2019).
To the chagrin of East German neighbors, dormitories were often the site of parties; worker-trainees cooked Angolan and Mozambican meals and invited colleagues and friends; they celebrated birthdays and national holidays, they tested their new sound systems to the fullest, danced, and drank to let off steam on the weekends. In many ways, dormitories became akin to safe spaces where workers felt at ease to talk freely among themselves; see, for instance, Pedro, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, March 7, 2014.
Augusto, Luanda, April 12, 2015.
By implicitly discouraging interracial offspring, a homogenous East German identity, however fictional, remained unchallenged. If East German officials had promoted interracial youth sexuality—as Herzog argues was done for relationships between East German youth—East Germany would have been forced to confront a visibly diverse society. Herzog, Sex after Fascism, 188, 195–6. This would have run counter to the notions of racial rainbows (discussed later in this chapter) whereby each archetype belonged to a certain cultural and geographic realm and to a socialist brother state in which each was to contribute to the advancement of socialism.
Gaspar, interview conducted by the author, Luanda, Angola, April 24, 2015.
Ançelmo, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, August 30, 2011.
This tension of inclusion by exclusion, or “exclusionary incorporation” persisted in Berlin discos after the fall of the wall, as Damani James Partridge shows in his article “We were dancing in the club, not on the Berlin Wall: Black Bodies, Street Bureaucrats, and Exclusionary Incorporation into the New Europe,” Cultural Anthropology, 23, no. 4 (2008), 660–87.
Luzia, interview conducted by the author, Luanda, Angola, April 16, 2015.
Interview with Lina, by Eva Engelhardt, in Farah, Engelhardt, and Bröskamp, eds., Schwarz-Weiße Zeiten, 48. Damian Mac Con Uladh, “Die Alltagserfahrungen ausländischer Vertragsarbeiter in der DDR: Vietnamesen, Kubaner, Mozambikaner, Ungarn und Andere,” in Erfolg in der Nische? Die Vietnamesen in der DDR und in Ostdeutschland, Karin Weiss and Mike Dennis, eds. (Münster: LIT, 2005), 57.
Augusto, Luanda, April 12, 2015.
Paulo, interview conducted by the author, Nampula, Mozambique, June 14, 2014, and Bernardo, Luanda, April 2, 2015, were in relationships with older women; Luís David’s girlfriend became pregnant by him at age fourteen. They lived together as a family and he still maintains contact with his son today. Group interview (with Rosa, David, Inocêncio, Isaías), interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, September 2, 2011.
Looking at this variety of intimate ties, I do not intend to naturalize stable, continuous, monogamous heterosexual relationships as the a priori outcome of interactions between Angolan and Mozambican migrants and East Germans, even if my examples in this section primarily engage such relationships. Moreover, this chapter tells a heterosexual story because I have no evidence for same-sex encounters. The only case is found in Jens Vilela Neumann, “Identity a bloody romance.” Neumann’s theater piece and exhibition presents a story of a female worker-trainee having been romantically approached by a close female friend in East Germany, Catalogue, 38–9. https://issuu.com/paradisegardenproduction/docs/140130_katalog_einzelseiten_kl. However, the same worker has distanced herself from the story in a personal conversation with me. The silence around same-sex romantic encounters in this labor migration contrasts with the experiences recorded about migrant laborers in South Africa; see Dunbar T. Moodie and Vivienne Ndatshe, Going for Gold: Men, Mines, and Migration (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), Ch. 4.
Juma, Fieldnotes, Maputo, Mozambique, March 6, 2014.
Tanja Müller, Legacies of Socialist Solidarity: East Germany in Mozambique (Lanham, Md: Lexington Books, 2014), 86–8. Müller argues that the death of Carlos Conceição was a turning point for many Mozambican students at the Friendship School. The event is collectively remembered as a traumatically violent racist act that instilled fear in the student body from then onwards.
“Der Mord an Amadeu Antonio vor Gericht,” by Antirassistische Initiative e.v., Berlin, in Farah, Engelhardt, and Bröskamp, eds., Schwarz-Weiße Zeiten, 95–101. This death has received attention, not least due to the establishment of an eponymous foundation, dedicated to anti-racism, anti-right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism work.
Jürgen Mense, “Ausländerkriminalität in der DDR: Eine Untersuchung zu Kriminalität und Kriminalisierung von Mosambikanern 1979–1990,” in Transit | Transfer: Politik und Praxis der Einwanderung in der DDR 1945–1990, ed. Kim Christian Priemel (Berlin: be.bra Wissenschaft Verlag, 2011), 220.
Petra Weber, “Die Gesellschaft der DDR im Widerstreit. Offene Fragen und Forschungspotenziale,” Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte 69, no.2 (2021): 316.
Ançelmo, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, August 30, 2011.
The following are excerpts from a song called “Kaltes Klima” about a Mozambican worker in East Germany. It is written and sung by Gerhard Schöne and featured on his CD Lebenszeichen, signs of life, 1994. Schöne grew up in a vicarage, remained close to the church, published songs critical of East German society, was politically active during the unification process, and remained involved with development and social projects.
This section examines the role of Mozambican and African women in family creation. Their male counterparts were free to father children with East German women, which led to the birth of a whole generation of black (East) Germans discussed in Chap. 6. For an overview of existing material regarding the gendered experience of female foreign workers in East Germany, see Leonie Klüssendorf, Migration und Geschlecht in der DDR: Die Migrationserfahrungen der Vertragsarbeiterinnen im Bereich der Produktion und Reproduktion aus geschlechtsspezifischer Perspektive, History BA Thesis (Potsdam: University of Potsdam, 2021).
Lucía, interview conducted by the author, Nampula, Mozambique, June 12, 2016. Field Notes, Namaacha, Mozambique, February 26, 2014; Graciel, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, April 19, 2014.
Lufaquenda, Luanda, April 22, 2015.
Samora Machel, “Uma revolução que não se sabe defender morre de hemorragia,” Notícias, 13 May; Samora Machel “A Study of Mozambican Youth—A Speech given in Maputo on 15 December 1976,” in Samora Machel, an African Revolutionary: Selected Speeches and Writings, ed. Barry Munslow, trans. Michael Wolfers (London: Zed Books, 1985), 179–84.
Kuck, “‘Für den sozialen Aufbau ihrer Heimat?,’” 275. Jason Verber explored the pregnancies of female Mozambican teenagers at the School of Friendship and argues that FRELIMO preferred that pregnant students return early, rather than working to prevent pregnancies through methods other than advocating politically motivated abstinence. This approach underscores the high value FRELIMO placed on motherhood, Jason Verber, “True to the Politics of Frelimo? Teaching Socialism at the Schule der Freundschaft, 1981–1990,” in Comrades of Color: East Germany in the Cold War World, ed. Quinn Slobodian (New York: Berghahn, 2015), 198–9.
Interview with Lina, by Eva Engelhardt, in Farah, Engelhardt, and Bröskamp, eds., Schwarz-Weiße Zeiten, 46.
Fernando Pedro, Magermanes na RDA vida cotidiana (Maputo: Ndjiura, 2003), 66–72. In the short story “A Agulha” Pedro writes about an illicit abortion that received medical attention just before it was too late for the patient.
Jennifer Disney, “Incomplete Revolutions: Gendered Participation in Productive and Reproductive Labor in Mozambique and Nicaragua,” Socialism and Democracy 18 (2010): 7–42; Isaacman and Isaacman, “The Role of Women.”
Jürgen Schröder, interview conducted by the author, Berlin, Germany, January 09, 2015.
See Helga Marburger, Gisela Helbig, Eckhard Kienast, Günter Zorn, “Situation der Vertragsarbeitnehmer der ehemaligen DDR vor und nach der Wende” in “‘Und wir haben unseren Beitrag zur Volkswirtschaft geleistet’” ed. Helga Marburger (Frankfurt: Verlag für interkulutrelle Kommunikation, 1993), 29; Kuck, “‘Für den sozialen Aufbau ihrer Heimat?’” 275.
Zatlin, “Scarcity and Resentment,” 714; Müggenburg, “Die ausländischen Vertragsarbeiter,” 18.
Juma, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, February 01, 2014; Graciel, Maputo, April 19, 2014.
Marieta, interview conducted by the author, Nampula, Mozambique, June 14, 2014.
Committed relationships between former worker-trainees was not uncommon at the time of my fieldwork, which testified to the shared social circles and experiences of former worker-trainees.
Fatima Selemane introduced me to her son born in Germany in 1982. Fatima stated that she knew several women who gave birth and raised their children in East Germany, Field Notes, Reunion in Pemba, Pemba, Mozambique, June 21, 2014.
Almuth Berger, Berlin, November 17, 2014. While for some women coming home pregnant brought negative social repercussions, others, especially those who expected to live with the father of the child upon his return, were welcomed joyously. Yet, an early return could represent the failed opportunity to complete the training and to make the most of the migration opportunity to Europe in terms of goods transfer.
As we will see below, their journey to East Germany was for quite a few worker-trainees the first time that they lived in a context in which the majority of the people encountered looked different from themselves. I am not aware of white Angolans or Mozambicans having participated in the labor migration programs.
Ilíbio, Luanda, April 16, 2015.
While East Germany’s population of foreigners was negligible (about 1 percent) many worker-trainees were integrated in factories which drew on a diverse workforce or had access to cities like Berlin, Dresden, and Karl-Marx Stadt where higher concentrations of foreign workers and students contributed to a socialist cosmopolitanism in the circles in which they moved, Gruner-Domic, “Zur Geschichte der Arbeitskräftemigration,” 227.
Gerald Bender argues that it is a myth that served to legitimize the Portuguese presence overseas. For proponents of the myth, most famously, Gilberto Freyre, the existence of mestiços from Bahia to Luanda to Maputo is seen as proof of freedom regarding social and sexual relationships. Finally, that Portugal never resorted to segregation politics on the basis of race as in South Africa or the United States, was treated as proof of its non-racism. Bender demonstrates the extent to which this myth was wishful thinking for the Angolan context, revealing the exploitative nature of Portuguese colonialism, something that Malyn Newitt and Allen and Barbara Isaacman do for Mozambique. Gerald J. Bender, Angola under the Portuguese: The Myth and the Reality (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), 3, 4; Malyn Newitt, A History of Mozambique (London: Hurst & Company, 1995); Allen F. Isaacman, Cotton Is the Mother of Poverty: Peasants, Work, and Rural Struggle in Colonial Mozambique, 1938–1961 (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1996); Allen F. Isaacman and Barbara Isaacman The Tradition of Resistance in Mozambique: The Zambesi Valley, 1850–1921 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976); Allen F. Isaacman and Barbara Isaacman, Mozambique: From Colonialism to Revolution, 1900–1982 (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1983).
Group interview, Luanda, March 11, 2015.
This claim for Angola as a multiracial society was stronger in the interviews that I conducted with Angolans who studied at institutes of higher learning in East Germany. This has to do with the fact that many of these students came from families of assimilado background or drawing on creole elites in coastal cities. They were thus conversant with racial diversity either through their schooling—many reported having had Cuban, East German, and Portuguese teachers and some white fellow students—and/or through their family backgrounds—including mixed social circles of the parent generation and experiences of same generation family members who studied abroad. Furthermore, this claim supports MPLA policy.
Group interview (Salimo, Abdussamimo, Abudo, Suatico, Musa), interview conducted by the author, Ilha de Moçambique, Mozambique, June 15, 2014.
Allina-Pisano and Allina-Pisano make an analogous argument for African students developing a pan-African and black identity in post-Soviet Russia, Jessica Allina-Pisano and Eric Allina-Pisano, “‘Friendship of Peoples’ after the Fall: Violence and Pan-African Community in Post-Soviet Moscow,” in Africa in Russia, Russia in Africa: 300 Years of Encounters, ed. Maxim Matusevich (Trenton: Africa World Press, 2007), 188f. While the students live in a university environment that facilitates the formation of wider pan-African solidarity networks, the worker-trainees are more likely to seek comfort in their own national group or other foreign worker groups at their workplaces.
Bernardo, Luanda, April 12, 2015.
Augusto, Luanda, April 12, 2015; see also Bernardo, Luanda, April 2, 2015.
Concepts like xenophobia and far-right extremism dominate the study of racism in East Germany, which can have the effect of externalizing racism rather than tracing a historically grown (East) German racism from within. This is beginning to change with a body of literature that discusses racism as integral to life in (East) Germany from the perspectives of, among others, East German POCs; see Peggy Piesche, ed., Labor 89: Intersektionale Bewegungsgeschichte*n aus West und Ost (Berlin: Yilmaz-Günay, 2020); Katharina Warda, “Der Ort, aus dem ich komme, heißt Dunkeldeutschland,” Krautreporter (October 1, 2020) https://krautreporter.de/3521-der-ort-aus-dem-ich-komme-heisst-dunkeldeutschland, accessed September 2, 2021 and Lydia Lierke, Jessica Massochua, Cynthia Zimmermann, “Ossis of Color: Vom Erzählen (p)ost-migrantischer Geschichten” in Erinnern Stören: Der Mauerfall aus migrantischer und jüdischer Perspektive, Lydia Lierke und Massimo Perinelli, eds. (Berlin: Verbrecher Verlag, 2020), 451–67.
In their approach to racism East German thinkers were strongly influenced by Soviet ideology. To understand the Leninist argument that class struggle in Europe was tied to the “toiling masses of the East” and its implication for the Soviet policy of Soviet Internationalism, refer to Maxim Matusevich, “An Exotic Subversive: Africa, Africans and the Soviet Everyday,” Race & Class 49 (2008): 57–81.
Sara Pugach, “African Students and the Politics of Race and Gender in the German Democratic Republic, 1957–1990,” in Comrades of Color: East Germany in the Cold War World, ed. Quinn Slobodian (New York, Oxford: Berghan, 2015), 131–56. Pugach further demonstrates that there was some willingness of the East German state to respond to the demands the Union of African Students and Workers in East Germany voiced in a letter written in 1965 regarding racial bias and the lack of anti-racist education for East Germans, Sara Pugach, “Agents of Dissent: African Student Organizations in the German Democratic Republic,” Africa 89 (2019): 90–108. Yet, as the interviews with Frau K. and Frau F. conducted by Barbara Honnef and Bernd Bröskamp and with David Macau and David Zacharias conducted by Eva Engelhardt and Ahmed Farah demonstrate, it was not easy to have the Mozambican side of the story adequately represented in company reports. Often victims were blamed for the commotion, for instance, through accusations of drunkenness. See Farah, Engelhardt, and Bröskamp, eds., Schwarz-Weiße Zeiten, 55, 57–8, 67–7.
For a more detailed engagement see Pugach “Agents of Dissent,” 101.
Quinn Slobodian, “Socialist Chromatism: Race, Racism and the Racial Rainbow in East Germany,” in Comrades of Color: East Germany in the Cold War World ed. Quinn Slobodian (New York: Berghahn, 2015), 28.
Zatlin, “Scarcity and Resentment,” 717.
When I speak about silencing here, I refer to the mainstream consciousness of white East Germans and the othering of black East Germans. The literature about black German history is growing fast, among the writings Robbie Aitken and Eve Rosenhaft Black Germany: The Making and Unmaking of a Diaspora Community, 1884–1960 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013); Heide Fehrenbach, Race after Hitler: Black Occupation Children in Postwar Germany and America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005); Mischa Honeck, Martin Klimke, and Anne Kuhlmann, eds., Germany and the Black Diaspora: Points of Contact, 1250–1914 (New York: Berghan, 2013); Sara Lennox, ed., Remapping Black Germany: New Perspectives on Afro-German History, Politics, and Culture (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2016) and the renowned Katharina Oguntoye, May Ayim, and Dagmar Schultz, eds., Farbe bekennen: afro-deutsche Frauen auf den Spuren ihrer Geschichte (Berlin: Orlanda, 1986).
Langbehn and Salama, German Colonialism; Jürgen Zimmerer and Joachim Zeller, eds., Genocide in German South-West Africa: The Colonial War (1904–1908) in Namibia and Its Aftermath, trans. Edward Neather (Monmouth, Wales: Merlin Press, 2008); Campt, Other Germans.
Slobodian, “Socialist Chromatism,” 28.
As Raina Zimmering discusses, anti-fascism was at the heart of the foundational myth of East Germany; see Raina Zimmering, “Der Antifaschismus—Gründungsmythos der DDR,” in Mythen in der Politik der DDR (Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2000), 37–168.
In 1989, 190,000 “foreigners” were counted in East Germany out of a population of 16.7 million, Zatlin, “Scarcity and Resentment,” 703, 708. There were 24,098 foreign workers in 1981; by 1989 their numbers had grown to 93,562 equalling 1.4 percent of all production workers. All foreigners together never amassed to more than 1 percent of the East German population. Sandra Gruner-Domic, “Zur Geschichte der Arbeitskräftemigration,” 227.
See Alamgir,”Race is Elsewhere,” 81.
Mark Fenemore, Sex, Thugs and Rock ’N’ Roll: Teenage Rebels in Cold-War East Germany (Oxford: Berghahn, 2007), 229.
Group interview, Luanda, March 11, 2015.
José, Luanda, March 8, 2015.
Augusto, Luanda, April 12, 2015.
Group interview, Luanda, March 11, 2015.
Santana, Luanda, April 9, 2015.
In the early 1980s, the skinhead community was inspired by the British scene centered around soccer and working-class culture, an influence that spread via West Germany. Even before neo-Nazism became important, violence directed against foreigners was integral to the scene; see Jürgen Danyel, “Spätfolgen? Der ostdeutsche Rechtsextremismus als Hypothek der DDR-Vergangenheitspolitik und Erinnerungskultur,” in Fremde und Fremd-Sein in der DDR: Zu historischen Ursachen der Fremdenfeindlichkeit in Ostdeutschland (Berlin: Metropol, 2003), 27–8; Verber, “True to the Politics of Frelimo?” 200. Not all skinheads adopted the politics of the radical right, but this differentiation plays no role for my interviewees. In the East German context as perceived through Angolan and Mozambican eyes skinheads could be equated with neo-Nazis.
Ilíbio, Luanda, April 16, 2015. Ilíbio married an East German woman and stayed in Germany until after the civil war in Angola had ended.
Kuck, “‘Für den sozialen Aufbau ihrer Heimat?’” 273–4; van der Heyden, “Zu Den Hintergründen,” 70–1.
East Germans donated parts of their salaries to solidarity campaigns organized by the Solidarity Committee, the churches, and official mass organizations, in the process creating subjectivity in their endeavor to aid others, Gregory Witkowski, “Between Fighters and Beggars: Socialist Philanthropy and the Imagery of Solidarity in East Germany,” in Comrades of Color, ed. Slobodian. These attempts did not stop at monetary aid. Postcards written by East German school children arrived at the prison holding Angela Davis by the thousands. As Katrina Hagen demonstrates, Angela Davis on the one hand became an ambassador for the anti-racist cause while on the other hand challenging the SED’s politics through her continued emphasis on race and her engagement with the Black Panthers, Katrina Hagen, “Ambivalence and Desire in the East German ‘Free Angela Davis’ Campaign,” in Comrades of Color: East Germany in the Cold War World, ed. Slobodian (New York, Oxford: Berghan), 157–87.
W. Thierse, “Deutsch-Deutsche Gewalt. Vereint in die Barbarei?” in Angst vor den Deutschen. Terror gegen Ausländer und der Zerfall des Rechtsstaats, ed. Bahman Nirumand (Reinbeck, 1992), 70. I speak here of systemic access because rumor had it that foreign workers were paid in hard currency or allowed to travel to the West officially. Unofficially, through their home country networks, quite a few worker-trainees indeed had access to Western goods and sometimes money and travel possibilities.
Patrick R. Ireland, “Socialism, Unification Policy and the Rise of Racism in Eastern Germany,” International Migration Review 31 (1997): 541–68; Zatlin, “Scarcity and Resentment”; Irene Runge, Ausland DDR.
Bröskamp, “Vom Auswanderungs- zum Einwanderungsland,” 24.
Santana, Luanda, April 9, 2015.
22, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, January 16, 2014.
German reunification is now starting to be told as transnational history; see, for instance, Annette Weinke, “Ost, West, und der Rest. Die deutsche Einheit als transnationale Verflechtungsgeschichte,” in Jahrbuch Deutsche Einheit, edited by Marcus Böick, Constantin Goschler, Ralph Jessen (Berlin: Ch. Links, 2020), 120–44 and from the perspective of POC and Jewish participants; see Lydia Lierke and Massimo Perinelli, eds., Erinnern Stören: Der Mauerfall aus migrantischer und jüdischer Perspektive (Berlin: Verbrecher Verlag, 2020).
See Norman LaPorte, “Skinhead and Right Extremisms in an Anti-Fascist State,” in State and Minorities in Communist East Germany, Mike Dennis, and Norman Laporte, eds. (New York: Berghahn Books, 2011), 170–94; Jürgen Danyel, “Spätfolgen?”; Jan C. Behrends, Dennis Kuck, and Patrice G. Poutrus, “Thesenpapier: Historische Ursachen der Fremdenfeindlichkeit in den Neuen Bundesländern,” in Fremde und Fremd-Sein in der DDR: Zu historischen Ursachen der Fremdenfeindlichkeit in Ostdeutschland, Jan C. Behrends, Thomas Lindenberger, and Patrice G. Poutrus, eds. (Berlin: Metropol, 2003), 327–33; Farah, Engelhardt, and Bröskamp, eds., Schwarz-Weiße Zeiten, 23–30.
Allina-Pisano and Allina-Pisano observe a similar phenomenon in their study of the pan-African student community in post-Soviet Moscow, “‘Friendship of Peoples,’” 181.
Allina-Pisano and Allina-Pisano develop a typology of violence for the context of African students in post-Soviet Russia. While official acts of violence by the police play a major role in the interviews with African students in Russia, my interviewees are mostly silent on that point, Allina-Pisano and Allina-Pisano, “‘Friendship of Peoples,’” for example 186.
Danyel, “Spätfolgen?” 35.
Konrad H. Jarausch, “Care and Coercion: The GDR as Welfare Dictatorship,” in Dictatorship as Experience: Towards a Socio-Cultural History of the GDR, ed. Konrad H. Jarausch (New York: Berghahn Books, 1999), 47–69.
Berthold Vogel, “Arbeitslosigkeit in Ostdeutschland: Konsequenzen für das Sozialgefüge und für die Wahrnehmung des gesellschaftlichen Wandels,” SOFI-Mitteilungen 27 (1999), 16. According to political scientist Thorsten Faas, a maximum of 50 percent of East Germans between 31 and 65 experienced unemployment, compared to a maximum of 25 percent of West Germans, between 1991 and 2008, Thorsten Faas, “Jeder zweite Ostdeutsche war schon arbeitslos” October 23, 2010, https://p.dw.com/p/M5gs, accessed July 2, 2019.
Danyel, “Spätfolgen?” 29, 39–40. It was not only the family heritage and individual memories which made continuity possible but the SED itself. It externalized the NS past in the 1950s and focused on its anti-fascist identity to the detriment of a critical examination of the role of the average East German during the Third Reich. In addition, a closed-society ideal of a nation continued to assume a central reference point of SED ideology. This resulted in a balancing act between nationalism, patriotism, and international solidarity that was difficult to comprehend. In fact, as stated above, the ritualistic “friendship” expressions of official party protocol were not necessarily congruent with the experiences that East Germans had with migrants; see Behrends, Kuck, and Poutrus, “Thesenpapier,” 327–31.
Tempo 21/04/91 cited in Farah, Engelhardt, and Bröskamp, eds., Schwarz-Weisse Zeiten, 142.
A first-person account from a Mozambican who was in the hostel during the attacks on September 17–18, 1991, can be found in “Sie haben uns geschlagen. Wir gehen nach Hause, o.k. Aber warte ab, ob es denen dann besser geht,” recorded by Eva Engelhardt and Ahmed Farah in Farah, Engelhardt, and Bröskamp, eds., Schwarz-Weiße Zeiten, 51–6.
Robert Leicht, “Anschlag auf die Republik,” Die Zeit, August 28, 1992, https://www.zeit.de/1992/36/anschlag-auf-die-republik, accessed April 13, 2017; Bernd Bröskamp, “Epilog: Notizen zu Rostock,” in Farah, Engelhardt, and Bröskamp, eds., Schwarz-Weiße Zeiten, 153.
Azarias, Maputo, March 20, 2014.
22, Maputo, January 16, 2014.
Abilio, interview conducted by the author, Quelimane, Mozambique, June 7, 2014.
For another firsthand account, see Paulino Miguel (2020), “Paulinos Tagebuch. Ein mosambikanischer Vertragsarbeiter erinnert sich” in Erinnern Stören: Der Mauerfall aus migrantischer und jüdischer Perspektive, Lydia Lierke and Massimo Perinelli, eds. (Berlin: Verbrecher Verlag, 2020), 299–319. For a discussion about the Wende and the struggle for the rights of the former contract workers to East Germany, see Christiane Mende, “Lebensrealitäten der DDR-Arbeitsmigrant_innen nach 1989—Zwischen Hochkonjunktur des Rassismus und dem Kampf um Rechte,” Telegraph. Ostdeutsche Zeitschrift 120/121 (2010): 103–22.
A group project at the Center for Contemporary History in Potsdam investigated everyday life in East Germany; see, for instance, Thomas Lindenberger, “Projektskizze: Herrschaft und Eigen-Sinn in der Diktatur. Studien zur Gesellschaftsgeschichte in Berlin-Brandenburg, 1945–1990,” in Potsdamer Bulletin für Zeithistorische Studien 5 (December 1995): 37–52. This discussion was received controversially in unified Germany because East German history was at that point told through the prism of totalitarianism and a view from below focusing on the everyday was accused of ignoring power structures. For more on the politics of contemporary history; see Klaur Schroeder and Jochen Staadt, “Zeitgeschichte in Deutschland vor und nach der 1989,” Politik und Zeitgeschichte B26 (1997):15–29.
Bernardo, Luanda, April 2, 2015.
For instance, Mense, “Ausländerkriminalität in der DDR”; Hernández, “Ma(d)jermanes”; Müggenburg, “Die ausländischen Vertragsarbeiter.”
Home networks refer to people who migrants knew from back home, like family members, people from the same village or school, or intimate partners. Host networks refer to the people with whom migrants established ties while in East Germany such as colleagues, friends, neighbors, host families, and romantic partners.
Gideon Botsch studies the heterogeneous origins of xenophobia in East Germany, the rise of a radically nationalist outlook with the Wende, and the pan-German national opposition after unification, while Patrick Ireland examines the ethnic conflict that challenges Germany from a policy perspective; see Gideon Botsch, “From Skinhead-Subculture to Radical Right Movement: The Development of a ‘National Opposition’ in East Germany,” Contemporary European History 21, no. 4 (2012): 553–73; Patrick R. Ireland, “Socialism, Unification Policy and the Rise of Racism in Eastern Germany,” International Migration Review 31 (1997): 553–73.
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Schenck, M.C. (2023). The Social Life of Socialism: Intimacy and Racism. In: Remembering African Labor Migration to the Second World. Palgrave Macmillan Transnational History Series. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-06776-1_5
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