‘Black Shame’

In the Iraq war a radical Muslim group claimed that they prefer to attack black American soldiers, because ‘To have Negroes occupying us is a particular humiliation. Sometimes we aborted a mission because there were no Negroes’*. As Dick van Galen Last shows here, such prejudices were also common in the 20th century when an occupation by black soldiers was considered an exceptional humiliation: in the years after the Great War the German people called it the Black Shame.

When the German army conquered France in June 1940, the Nazis pressed Jean Moulin, then prefect of Eure-et-Loir, to blame the black African soldiers in the French army for raping and murdering women and children. Moulin recognized these grisly remains immediately as victims of bombing and he refused to sign ‘any such infamous statement’. Fearing that he would not be able to resist the German torture any longer, he attempted to take his own life – the first act of resistance of a man who would become the icon of the French Resistance.

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