“Enemies in Love”: An Unlikely Romance Between a Black Nurse and a German POW


SOLEDAD: TODAY ONE IN SIX
NEWLYWEDS MARRY SOMEONE OUTSIDE
OF THEIR RACE. THAT’S A STEEP RISE SINCE 1967,
WHICH IS THE YEAR THE SUPREME
COURT LEGALIZED INTERRACIAL
MARRIAGE IN THE LANDMARK CASE
LOVING VS. VIRGINIA. BUT TWO DECADES BEFORE
THAT,THERE WAS ANOTHER
FORBIDDEN LOVE STORY THAT WOULD
TEST THE BOUNDARIES OF
AMERICA’S TOLERANCE. ELINOR POWELL WAS
AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND A NURSE
DURING WORLD WAR II. BECAUSE OF HER RACE, SHE PULLED
A SECOND-CLASS ASSIGNMENT,
WHICH WAS WORKING AT A GERMAN
P.O.W. CAMP IN ARIZONA. ARMY LEADERS PUT THE BLA
NURSES WITH THE P.OW.S TO
AVOID THE RISK OF ROMANCE. THEY DIDN’T THINK THE PRISONER
WOULD FIND THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN
NURSES ATTRACTIVE, BUT AN
UNFOLD. FREDERICK ALBERT, A SOLDIER IN
HITLER’S ARMY, FEL IN LOVE
WITH ELINOR. JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR ALEXIS
CLARK UNCOVERED THIS STORY. I SAT DOWN WITH HER TO TALK
ABOUT HER BOOK, “ENEMIES IN
LOVE
IT’S SO NICE TO HAVE YOU WITH
ME. ALEXIS: THANKS FOR HAVING
ME. SOLEDAD: SO HOW DID THEY
MEET? ALEXIS: THEY MET IN THE MESS
HALL AT THE PRISONER OF WAR
CAMP AND FREDERICK WAS A COOK
AT THE TIME AND THIS WAS DURING
ONE OF THE LUNCH OR DINNER
AND SO ELINOR ENTERS AND FREDERICK SAID THAT IT WAS LIKE
HE APPROACHED HER AND SAID YOU
SHOULD KNOW MY NAME. I’M THE MAN WHO’S GOING TO
MARRY YOU. SOLEDAD: SO YOU WRITE ABOUT
THAT’S SO STRANGE AND THAT’S VERY, VERY ROMANTIC. BUT LET’S REMEMBER FREDERICK IS
FIGHTING IN HITLER’S ARMY AND
ELINOR IS A BLACK WOMAN AND
WE’RE TALKING ABOUT THE 1940
SO SORT OF EVERYTHING IS WRONG
ABOUT THIS IN EVERY WHICH WAS FREDERICK NOT IDEOLOGICALLY
ALEXIS: SO HE JUST WAS A
SOLDIER DRAFTED LIKE ANYONE
ELSE WHO HAD TO BE DRAFTED. SO HE DIDN’T HOLD THOSE
VIEWS. SOLEDAD: HOW DID THEY GROW
THEIR ROMANCE AND THEI
RELATIONSHIP WHILE ONE IS A
PRETTY NOT GREAT
CONDITIONS? ALEXIS: HE WAS KIND AND THEY
BASICALLY STARTED TO FALL IN
LOVE WHEN HE VOLUNTEERED IN TH
HOSPITAL AND THROUGH THEIR OWN
FLIRTATIONS OR SOMETIMES H
HELD CLASSES, BAKING CLASSES, SHE WOULD ATTEND. AND HE MADE HER FEEL VERY
DESIRABLE AND WANTED. AND THEY ACTUALLY JUST FELL IN
LOVE AND THEN WOULD BE TOGETHER
IN SECRET. APPARENTLY WORD GOT OUT THAT HE
WAS SEEING HER AND HE WA
PUNISHED SEVERELY, BEATEN. SO THAT WAS THE IRONY. THAT HE WAS BEING WITH AN
AMERICAN. HE WAS BEING WITH AN
AFRICAN-AMERICAN. SOLEDAD: ONCE THE WAR ENDE
THEY WERE ABLE TO MAKE THEIR RELATIONSHIP, UHM, STRUGGLING
FOR THE WORD BECAUSE IT’S NOT
REALLY OFFICIAL, BECAUSE —
ALEXIS: OF COURSE NOT
SOLEDAD: INTERRACIAL MARRIAGE
WOULD BE ILLEGAL UNTIL 1967. ALEXIS: CORREC
SHE BECOMES PREGNANT AND HE’S
DEPORTED AFTER THE WAR END
JUST LIKE ALL T GERMANS,
P.O.W.S, THEY ARE SENT
BACK. AND SO SHE RETURNS TO HER
NATIVE TOWN OF MILTON,
MOTHER PREGNANT WITH A GERMA
PRISONER OF WAR’S BABY. BUT THAT WAS THEIR PLAN BECAUSE
THEY KNEW HE’D HAVE A GREATER
CHANCE OF BEING ABLE TO RETURN
TO SUPPORT HIS CHILD. AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT
HAPPENED. SOLEDAD: EVENTUALLY THEY MOVED
BACK TO GERMANY. ALEXIS: YES. YES. SOLEDAD: WHY? ALEXIS: HE WAS THE SON OF A
VERY PROMINENT ENGINEER WHO HAD
A COMPANY. SO HE WAS BEING POSITIONED AND
GROOMED TO TAKE OVER. AND BECAUSE THEY STRUGGLED F
HOUSING, TO FIND JOBS AS A
MIXED RACE COUPLE —
STATES
ALEXIS: IN UNITED STATES. SO THEY MOVED BACK TO GERMANY
AND HIS PARENTS. LARGE, BEAUTIFUL HOME. AND IT WAS A TERRIBLE
EXPERIENCE
SOLEDAD: I WAS GOING TO SAY
ELINOR WAS NOT WELCOME
BY HIS FAMILY. ALEXIS: BY HIS FAMIL AND JUST
EVEN THE TOWN AT LARGE. THEY JUST WERE SO UNFAMILIAR
WITH BLACKS IN GENERAL. I MEAN THEY SAW THE BLACK
G.I.’S WHO WERE, YOU KNOW, IN
THE OCCUPATION. BUT AS FAR AS THIS WHITE GERMAN
FROM A VERY WEALTHY FAMILY
BRINGING HOME A BLACK WIFE,
MEAN, IT WAS JUST UNHEARD OF. SOLEDAD: THE BOOK IS A GREAT
LOOK AT THAT CHUNK OF TIME IN
AMERICAN HISTORY

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