The 93rd birthday of Fasia Jansen, an influential Afro-German singer, composer, and political activist who helped develop the postwar peace movement in West Germany, is honored in today’s Doodle, illustrated by Hamburg-based guest artist Ayşe Klinge. .
Jansen was born on this day in 1929 in Hamburg, Germany, at a period when the country was plagued by racism, inflation, and economic despair. Jansen, who aspired to be a dance superstar, enrolled in a dance academy when he was 11 years old. Her dreams were dashed two years later when she was expelled from the academy because the Nazis threatened to punish the school for accepting Black students.
She was soon forced to work as a cook at the Neuengamme concentration camp. Most teenage girls may work easier occupations in domestic houses under the Nazis’ Dienstverpflichtung order, which forced people to undertake a year of unpaid labour. Her only option as a Black girl was to work in a concentration camp.
Jansen began singing with political prisoners in the Neuengamme concentration camp, where she worked ceaselessly with them. Singing together helped them get through this difficult time.
Jansen dedicated her life after WWII to making strong music to protest injustices all across the world, from the Vietnam War to labour infractions in the Ruhr Valley. Jansen also became a vocal supporter of the German and international Women’s Rights Movements.
In the 1960s, she rose to fame after singing Unser Marsch ist eine gute Sache (Our March is a Good Thing) with Dieter Süverkrüp at the Easter March in protest of the nuclear arms race. Her song Verbrannte Erde in Deutschland (“Burnt Earth in Germany”) became a rallying cry for the European anti-nuclear movement.
The government honoured her efforts to establish a more equitable Germany by awarding her the medal Verdienstkreuz der Bundesrepublik Deutschland in 1991. Her name is honored by a roadway, a municipal school, and an African education centre.
Fasia Jansen, happy 93rd birthday! Nobody was going to be able to stop you from spreading hope. People will sing because of your tale and legacy.