The effects of a world war, race and identity would be challenging subjects individually, but two documentaries are taking on all three issues at once, in an attempt to shed light on a forgotten population.
"Brown Babies: The Mischlingskinder Story," which was released last summer and "Brown Babies: Germany's Lost Children," which aired on German television this fall, reveal the virtually unknown stories of the offspring of white German women and African American soldiers in the years following World War II, CNN reports.
These children, who were called "mischlingskinder," a derogatory term for biracial children, were oftentimes adopted by African American families after their parents were forcibly separated. Both documentaries follow their stories, as they search for their roots.
"It's a part of our history," Regina Griffin, an Emmy award-winning journalist and executive producer of the films, told CNN. "It's not just African American history, it's not just American history, it's world history. There were a lot of people who were caught between two countries, two warring nations. And we allowed those children to be abandoned, and people should know that."
According to the digital archive "The Civil Rights Struggle, African American GI's, and Germany," about two to three million black civilian personnel, military member and their families lived in Germany from 1945 until the end of the Cold War, CNN reports.
Many black soldiers took advantage of their freedom from Jim Crow America, while some German women found them much kinder than their white counterparts, and the two therefore developed relationships and had children. However, after the babies were born, soldiers were moved to other bases by disapproving military officers and single mothers were deemed unfit by child welfare officials. Their children were commonly adopted by black couples in the United States, where some remained unaware of their adoption until adulthood.
Although the exact number of children born from these biracial relationships is unknown, an article published in a January 1951 issue of Ebony magazine titled "German War Babies," publicized the amount of black couples who wanted to adopt the "brown babies."
Scattered throughout Europe today there are thousands of "war orphans"--children of European girls and American soldiers who loved and left. Hundreds of these homeless children are the offspring of Negro soldiers and their mulatto status makes adoption by European families extremely unlikely. But in America there are hundreds of childless Negro couples who wish to adopt these "war babies" and bring them to the U.S. Up to now government red tape has prevented all but a trickle from being adopted.
Both documentaries reveal a group of people who have discovered how the world's obsession with race and skin color intimately affected their lives.
"My mother couldn't marry my father because of color. I couldn't stay in Germany because of color. Here in America they couldn't figure out my color," Daniel Cardwell, a "brown baby" featured in both films, told CNN. "Maybe I should just be an American and just let it be with that. They won't let me be German."
Now, some are racing against the clock, trying to locate parents who they've discovered didn't want to give up their children in the first place.
"People's mothers are passing away, their fathers are passing away, and people are starting to wonder who they are," Henriette Cain, another "brown baby" told the news outlet. "Now even we are passing away, and it's a story that needs to be told."