By Bryan Mark Rigg
The Birth of Loving Day
Loving Day, which takes place June 12, is inspired by the Supreme Court decision, Loving vs. Virginia (1967) that made it law that interracial marriage was no longer illegal. Caucasian Richard Loving and his African-American wife Mildred, née Jeter, fought against the laws of the state of Virginia to have their marriage recognized and they won their battle by taking it all the way to the Supreme Court.
“Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers”
In my first book about World War II and the Holocaust, “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers,” I dealt with a nation, in this case Nazi Germany, which made interracial relationships illegal and persecuted people who were already married in mixed unions. These relationships were called Mischehe (mixed-marriages) and such couples were treated like second-class citizens (most of these relationships were between a Jew and a Gentile, or a person of Jewish descent Untermensch and a Christian-“Germanic” citizen). The offspring of these couples, Mischlinge (“half-Jews” and “quarter-Jews” according to Nazi Racial Laws), were forced to serve in the Nazi military during World War II while their relatives were slaughtered in the Holocaust (and these soldiers were treated in inferior ways being denied promotions and sometimes sent to Forced Labor Camps). The Nazi Racial Laws that were used to persecute these people ripped German society apart and was a chapter of the Holocaust that is difficult to study.
It is horrible that nations throughout time have persecuted people because of ethnic or religious backgrounds. I am related to Thomas Jefferson by marriage through my half-aunt, Mary Dalbey, née Rigg. On her mother’s line (Edith Jefferson Hughes), she was a descendant of Thomas Jefferson’s family. As a result, when thinking about Loving Day, I think of Thomas Jefferson’s torrid relationship with his slave Sally Hemings (who was the half-sister of his deceased wife, Martha). Thomas Jefferson’s father-in-law, John Wayles, sired Sally out of wedlock and, like Thomas Jefferson, slept with enslaved African-American women. Thomas Jefferson would eventually sire five children with Sally out of wedlock, like his father-in-law. In some respects, in looking at Thomas Jefferson’s disgraceful behavior with a woman held in bondage by her own family, I am somewhat glad I am not directly related to him through my bloodline. In the South during Jefferson’s time, many slave owners slept with their female slaves and often, these relationships were not consensual. In other words, many slave owners outright raped their female slaves, making many African-American people today partially Caucasian as well as Southern, giving them Confederate ancestors. With these facts in mind, I find the history of the Jim Crow laws in the South and the prevention of interracial marriages disgraceful, especially when many White slave owners found it perfectly fine to sire children with Black women. When will society realize we are part of one race, the human race? Racism was never intelligent; it is the ownership of bigoted, uneducated ignoramuses.
The landmark Loving decision also makes me think about the Civil War and the sacrifices our nation made to end slavery. Through my mother, (Marilee Gladys Rigg, née Davidson), I am related to the Deacon of Springfield Massachusetts, Samuel Chapin (my 12th great-grandfather). Through him, I am related to the fiery abolitionist and freedom fighter John Brown, and Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin). Her book on the crimes of slavery was so effecting that President Abraham Lincoln is said to have remarked upon meeting her: “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” I also had three great-great grandfathers who served in the Union forces and helped defeat the rebellious South (David L. Davidson of the 116th Illinois (fought at Vicksburg under General Grant), John Beebe of the 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry (fought at the Second Battle of Winchester) and Asa Haines of 118th Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry (fought at Gettysburg under General Meade)). I take special pride in these three great-grandfathers who fought bravely to preserve the Union and end slavery. Yet, many of my relatives just mentioned had brothers and cousins who died fighting the Rebels so that others might become free and be able, eventually, to marry whomever they loved.
Third Reich Love Story
I want to share a love story from the Third Reich that hopefully will inspire people as an example of what true love is all about, just like the Lovings showed America in 1967. Hopefully, it will inspire people to realize that there is no such thing as interracial relationships, there are only relationships.
Edgar Jacoby was a German Jew who served bravely during World War I in the trenches on the Western front. He earned the Iron Crosses Second and First Class (basically a Bronze Star with V and a Silver Star). He also suffered two wounds and received the Wound Badge in Black (the equivalent of two Purple Hearts). In one action alone, he killed 20 enemy soldiers. He was a war hero in Germany. During the 1920s, he participated in the glory years of film, making movies in Germany and in Hollywood. When Hitler took power in 1933, he was able to obtain false documents that claimed he was “Aryan” and returned to the military, where he served in the German Armed Forces in a propaganda unit that made military films. At this time, he married a beautiful “Aryan” blonde, blue-eyed woman named Marianne Guenther, and had a son and a daughter.
However, things took a turn for the worse in the summer of 1941 when the Nazis finally figured out that Captain Jacoby was a Jew. He was dishonorably discharged and thrown into prison. However, he was not killed immediately by the Nazis because he was married to a German, “Aryan” citizen. In the bizarre world of Adolf Hitler, there were laws in the land that stated one had to divorce his or her Jewish spouse before that Jewish person could be fully deported and killed. Thousands of Jewish spouses were protected, somewhat, during Nazi Germany if their “Aryan” spouse refused to give into the demands of the Nazi authorities to divorce. Those who did divorce their Jewish partner saw them immediately deported to a death camp. However, Marianne refused to be bullied by the Gestapo and refused to divorce Edgar declaring her love for her husband to the Nazi thugs who threatened her with punishment and persecuted her and her children. As a result, Edgar’s brave wife, Marianne, kept his status of being in a privilegierte Mischehe (privileged mixed marriage). Towards the end of the war, in late 1943, the prison Edgar was in under the Gestapo was bombed to the ground. He luckily escaped the bombardment and a guard who pitied him as a World War I veteran helped him escape. The guard told Edgar that he would ensure the authorities believed Edgar had been burned up in the bombing and to go home. As a result, Edgar walked several miles to his wife and children in Nikolassee, outside of Berlin, where he remained in hiding and remarkably survived Hitler’s Holocaust.
Such love stories are rare in the histories of humankind. In the heart of Hitler’s Empire, Marianne remained loyal and true to Edgar, even though it would have been easier for her to have abandoned him like thousands of others in Nazi Germany.
The Lovings’ love and dedication to one another, and their fight to remain together in 1967 Virginia, is no different than the fight Marianne and Edgar had to remain together from 1941-1945. Love is powerful and often trumps the dominant view in society of what a relationship “should” be like. Prejudice is always problematic, but in the end, love will find a way and shows us that anyone who focuses on race when loving another person is an ignoramus. People’s education, morality and skills should mean far more than the color of their skin. It is my hope that we build a better society so that marriages like Edgar and Marianne Jacoby are not persecuted because of their “mixed” union, or couples like Mildred and Richard Loving do not have to fight in court to have their marriage recognized. Even today, there are many places like in the Islamic world, and even Israel, where marriages between people of different religions and/or races are not allowed. And although there are no more anti-miscegenation laws currently in First World nations, there are still places in the world, and in America for that matter, where interracial and interreligious relationships are frowned upon. Let’s hope that when loving one another, we stop viewing people according to their pigmentation and view them on the quality of their humanity.
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