Germans Agog At Negro GIs

Descriptions of white explorers meeting dark-skinned tribes who have never seen a white person before are pretty common in travel/exploration literature. So common they're almost a cliche. Leave it to the Germans to switch things around a bit: Teutonic tribespeople bewildered by the sight of dark-skinned travelers from across the ocean. From the Chicago Tribune, Apr 14, 1947:

     Posted By: Alex - Wed Mar 21, 2012
     Category: Ethnic Groupings | Racism | 1940s | Europe

In the northern European homogeneous societies, before WWII, someone with dark skin would be very much a novelty.
Posted by KDP on 03/21/12 at 09:37 AM
Even here, in Greece, in the mid '70s there were very few black skinned people. Add to that the lack of television in the remote villages in the mountains and those people never saw anyone darker than, say, a Gypsy.

While in Athens they were still doing black-face comedies for the movies.

While visiting one of those remote villages, where we had baptized our friend's grand daughter, I was approached by a local and accused of being a "stranger" until he figured out that not only was I a "stranger" I was a "stranger, stranger" meaning that not only did I not "belong" to the village I wasn't even a Greek. That is until he learned that I was "Koumbari" to George because we'd baptized the girl. Then, I wasn't even a "stranger" I was member of the village.

Such was life here in the Mediterranean even 30 years after the war.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 03/21/12 at 11:16 AM
ROM or ROMA. Saying Gypsy is on the level of using the "N" word in the States (at least in Sweden)
Posted by Lars-Göran on 03/21/12 at 12:05 PM
I thought of that but in the era that I was writing about "Gypsy" was the word.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 03/21/12 at 12:08 PM
My mother was English. She said that it was very unusual to see blacks even in London before the war. Those she saw were important people (diplomats and the like).
Posted by ges on 03/21/12 at 03:40 PM
I heard a comedian refer to Europe, or at least Great Britan, as the 'honky motherland'. Sounds pretty accurate.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 03/21/12 at 05:07 PM
My grandparents came from a tiny village in the Dolomite Alps and had never seen Asian- or African-(American) people. Probably never saw anyone taller than about 5'6" for that matter, either, from what I saw of the "paisanos".
Posted by ScoutC on 03/21/12 at 06:20 PM
In that era the "N' word was the word too, but I wouldn't have used it. My father coming off a mid-western farm to boot camp in the south was very surprised to find out it was not the proper term for black men.
Posted by Techs on 03/22/12 at 04:12 AM
My mother came to Baltimore from England as an exchange teacher soon after the war. She innocently referred to her "n-word brown shoes." That's what some particular shade of brown was called in England.
Posted by ges on 03/22/12 at 09:05 AM
The article is funny because of its parochial view of small-town Germany; what makes it novel is the object of its amusement is white people -- usually these condescending pieces would target other ethnicities.

Until the world got homogenized, anyone traveling outside of their ethnic zone would attract a lot of curious locals. As recently as the 80s I drew big crowds in China and Japan. Now nobody gives me a second glance there. So much for my momentary celebrity.
Posted by Harvey on 03/22/12 at 10:20 PM
When we went with a group of dutch people to the town of Kirov in Russia in 1993, we were approached by some townsmen. "Are you The Foreigners?"

We (14 people) were the talk of the town (700.000 inhabitants).
Posted by Jeroen on 03/23/12 at 07:45 AM
And with impeccable timing come this...
Posted by Dumbfounded on 03/23/12 at 12:51 PM
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