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BY Mildred Europa Taylor, 3:00pm March 17, 2022,

The painful true story of the Afro-German dancer and activist brutally murdered by the Nazis at 24

Hilarius Gilges. Public Domain image

For the mixed-race children in Germany during the Nazi regime, their fate was decided for them. It began when the Treaty of Versailles was signed by the Germans after their defeat in the First World War and they had to take a step back.

The French then brought in soldiers from their colonies, mainly from North and West Africa. These soldiers settled in western Germany – the Rhineland area. There were about 20,000 troops. These soldiers were to guard the area. For the Nazis, the Aryan race (the Nordic people of Germany, England, Denmark, The Netherlands, Sweden and Norway) is pure and should not be mixed with any other race.

However, the soldiers, having settled in their new home, went on to have relations with German women. Out of these unions, they had children – mixed-race children. This would not go down well with the Nazis as their fear of “racial mixing” was now inevitable.

There had to be a way to save their pure race. Medical sterilization and forceful separation of interracial relationships were the next plans of action. The Nazis were just not ready to take in what they described as the “Rhineland bastards”, a degrading term used to describe the offspring of the Black French and White German courtships.

By the end of 1937, the Gestapo (the political police of Nazi Germany) had forcibly sterilized many Afro-Germans. Others disappeared under mysterious or unknown circumstances. Besides being persecuted for their race, Afro-Germans were persecuted for other reasons. Hilarius Gilges, an Afro-German dancer and Communist activist from Dusseldorf, Germany, was murdered in June 1933 by the Nazis for his politics and race. He was just 24.

Not much is known about the early days of Gilges, also known as “Lari”. What is known is that he was born on March 4, 1909, in Dusseldorf. His mother was a White textile worker while his father was an African who possibly worked on a boat on the Rhine. Gilges was given his stepdad’s name when his mother married in 1915.

In 1926 while in his teens, Gilges joined the Young Communist League of Germany. He was first arrested following a fight with the police and a gang of racists. He spent a year in prison. Many thought he would disappear after his release from prison but he stayed and continued his activism largely through theater.

Being a dancer and actor, Gilges and others founded a Communist theatrical group known as the Nordwest Ran in 1930. The group’s aim was “to take ­arguments about socialism and revolution around the area using a mobile stage,” according to a report by socialistworker.co.uk.

While sharing his political views through agitprop theatre, Gilges organized demonstrations against the rising Nazi party. He traveled around towns campaigning against Adolf Hitler during the 1932 elections.
When the Nazis assumed power in January 1933, they stormed the working-class areas of Dusseldorf going after the Communists who had been based there for a long time.

Gilges became a target but declined to go into hiding mostly because of his family. The young dancer and activist feared that his family would be attacked if he escaped. He also knew that he would easily be caught if he escaped because of the color of his skin.

On June 20, 1933, around 10 pm, the Nazi Gestapo and some SS soldiers dragged Gilges out of his flat in the Altstadt district of Dusseldorf, Germany, and took him to jail where reports said the Nazis tortured and killed him.

“My father was grabbed in front of my eyes,” Gilges’s daughter Franziska recalled what happened the night her father was captured. “Twelve big SS ­officers dragged him out of the house. The next time I saw him was here [the river Rhine in Dusseldorf], floating under the bridge. He’d been stabbed 37 times and shot through the head,” Franziksa said, according to socialistworker.co.uk.

Years after his death, 24-year-old Gilges, who left behind a wife and two children, was remembered by his city. A square was named after him.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: March 17, 2022


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