The Grey Storm
by Lee Knafna
New book highlights forgotten stories of black German history
A new book is set to tell the largely untold story of black soldiers fighting for Nazi Germany during World War Two.
Blending fiction with fact, Liverpool writer Lee Knafa has used his debut novel, The Grey Storm, to form a protagonist who draws on the many ‘grey’ areas of Nazi racial policy concerning black people and those of mixed race.
Fresh out of military school and thrown into a war that he doesn’t fully understand, mixed-race Wehrmacht officer Josef Herzog must quickly
come to terms with the fact that in Hitler’s Germany, citizens’ rights are only skin-deep.
After finding himself a target of the notorious SS, he is forced to fight a battle that transcends duty or glory, as he and his fellow members of the self-styled ‘War Council’ struggle to protect his freedom to exist in a country that has lost sight of its humanity.
There was no universal non-white experience during this time, but all black and mixed-race citizens were banned from having relationships with white Germans and were excluded from certain forms of education and types of employment. Some were also sterilised, while others were put into concentration camps. Often forgotten, however, is that there were those who fought as soldiers.
Due to the Nazis wilfully destroying much of the documentation detailing what happened in camps, it is difficult to reconstruct the lives and fates of many individual victims, making stories like this all the more important.
“I got the idea for The Grey Storm while watching the documentary Hitler’s Forgotten Victims,” says Lee Knafa. “It told of the plight of an estimated 20,000 black Germans living in the Rhineland during the Second World War, who were there as a result of the French occupation post-Versailles. Black colonial troops were sent to oversee the area, and relationships developed between German females and black soldiers, resulting in the birth of many mixed-race children. I wanted to spread this little-known story.
“I also realised that there had not really been a black hero in my lifetime, at least not when I started writing this novel in the late-nineties, and so I created Josef, a complex, extremely moral character, often horrified by what he sees the Nazis doing, but also fiercely loyal to his German homeland. He wants to help win the war for his country, despite the discrimination he faces outside of the small military circle that he has found acceptance in.”
The Grey Storm is to be published by the Liverpool Publishing Company, an imprint of the Liverpool Editing Company www.liverpoolediting.co.uk
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Cover Design: Bodhi Design