Enemies in Love: A German POW, a Black Nurse, and an Unlikely Romance

Posted in Biography, Books, Europe, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2019-02-10 22:57Z by Steven

Enemies in Love: A German POW, a Black Nurse, and an Unlikely Romance

The New Press
May 2018
288 pages
5½ x 8¼
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-62097-186-4

Alexis Clark, Adjunct Faculty
Columbia Journalism School, New York, New York

Enemies in Love

A true and deeply moving narrative of forbidden love during World War II and a shocking, hidden history of race on the home front

This is a love story like no other: Elinor Powell was an African American nurse in the U.S. military during World War II; Frederick Albert was a soldier in Hitler’s army, captured by the Allies and shipped to a prisoner-of-war camp in the Arizona desert. Like most other black nurses, Elinor pulled a second-class assignment, in a dusty, sun-baked—and segregated—Western town. The army figured that the risk of fraternization between black nurses and white German POWs was almost nil.

Brought together by unlikely circumstances in a racist world, Elinor and Frederick should have been bitter enemies; but instead, at the height of World War II, they fell in love. Their dramatic story was unearthed by journalist Alexis Clark, who through years of interviews and historical research has pieced together an astounding narrative of race and true love in the cauldron of war.

Based on a New York Times story by Clark that drew national attention, Enemies in Love paints a tableau of dreams deferred and of love struggling to survive, twenty-five years before the Supreme Court’s Loving decision legalizing mixed-race marriage—revealing the surprising possibilities for human connection during one of history’s most violent conflicts.

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A Black Nurse, a German Soldier and an Unlikely WWII Romance

Posted in Articles, Biography, Europe, History, Media Archive, United States on 2013-05-16 17:04Z by Steven

A Black Nurse, a German Soldier and an Unlikely WWII Romance

The New York Times

Alexis Clark

The nurse and the soldier may never have met – and eventually married – had it not been for the American government’s mistreatment of black women during World War II.

Elinor Elizabeth Powell was an African-American military nurse. Frederick Albert was a German prisoner of war. Their paths crossed in Arizona in 1944. It was a time when the Army was resisting enlisting black nurses and the relatively small number allowed entry tended to be assigned to the least desirable duties.

“They decided they were going to use African-Americans but in very small numbers and in segregated locations,” said Charissa Threat, a history professor at Northeastern University who teaches race and gender studies.

Ms. Powell was born in 1921 in Milton, Mass., and in, 1944, after completing basic training at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., she was sent, as some other black nurses were, to tend to German prisoners of war in Florence, Ariz.

“I know the story of how they met,” said Chris Albert, 59, the youngest son of Elinor and Frederick Albert. “It was in the officers’ mess hall, and my father was working in the kitchen. He kind of boldly made his way straight for my mother and said: ‘You should know my name. I’m the man who’s going to marry you.’”

Frederick Karl Albert was born in 1925 in Oppeln, Germany. “He volunteered for the paratroops to impress his father, who served in WWI,” Mr. Albert said. “His father was an engineer and not really interested in his children. My dad ended up getting captured in Italy.”…

…The American military officially ended segregation after WWII, but for the Alberts, the issue of race would resurface throughout their lives. Their unlikely romance resulted in Stephen’s birth in December 1946. After Frederick was able to return to the United States, he and Elinor married on June 26, 1947, in Manhattan.

“I would say the first 10 years for my parents were a struggle to find some kind of economic security and a safe haven for an interracial family,” said Chris Albert, who plays the trumpet with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

“They moved to Boston and my father worked several jobs,’’ he said. “At some point, he decided it was best if they moved to Göttingen, Germany, where his parents lived. He could work for his father’s cement manufacturing business.”

But Kristina Brandner, 70, a niece of Frederick Albert, said life in Germany was difficult. “Göttingen is a small town,’’ she said. “My grandmother never had contact with black people so it was strange and uncomfortable for her with Elinor. Kids used to ask me how come there was a black woman living with us, and why is your cousin another color. Sometimes, I saw Elinor in the kitchen crying.”

In less than two years, Frederick, Elinor, Stephen and Chris, who was an infant, returned to the United States….

Read the entire article here.

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