Tuesday, April 07, 2009

How racist was the past?

This racist:
Yet the BBC's Document programme has seen evidence that black colonial soldiers - who made up around two-thirds of Free French forces - were deliberately removed from the unit that led the Allied advance into the French capital.

By the time France fell in June 1940, 17,000 of its black, mainly West African colonial troops, known as the Tirailleurs Senegalais, lay dead.

Many of them were simply shot where they stood soon after surrendering to German troops who often regarded them as sub-human savages.

Their chance for revenge came in August 1944 as Allied troops prepared to retake Paris. But despite their overwhelming numbers, they were not to get it.

The leader of the Free French forces, Charles de Gaulle, made it clear that he wanted his Frenchmen to lead the liberation of Paris.

Allied High Command agreed, but only on one condition: De Gaulle's division must not contain any black soldiers.
Now, there's one -- slight -- reason I can think of to do this in wartime, and that's the objective of not providing the Nazis with more propaganda along the lines of "the allies are using blacks to come and rape your women". That said, the Nazis probably did that anyway (too rushed to Google!) so the Allies should have done the right thing.

Oh well.

1 comment:

celestialspeedster said...

You can't blame it all on the Allied High Command. The presence of black colonial soldiers would have marred De Gaulle's rousing xenophobic speech: "Paris - liberated by itself[...]"
Not surprisingly, the French had either forced black colonial soldiers to enlist or falsely promised them French citizenship, should they survive the war.
My favourite, "The Current" featured the "White Liberation of Paris"recently.