Obit of the Day: “Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany”
Hans Massaquoi was very disappointed when his teacher told him that he could not join the Hitler Youth. Massaquoi’s friends had all joined and he was enthralled with the uniforms, the parades, the camp-outs. But Hans’ desire to join was trumped by the color of his skin.
Born in 1926, Mr. Massaquoi’s parents were a German nurse and the son of a Liberian diplomat. He would grow up in Hamburg as the Weimar Republic was collapsing and the the Third Reich was building up.
When he was in second grade, Mr. Massaquoi was so taken with the Nazi imagery that, at his request, his nanny sewed a swastika to his sweater. Although his mother removed it when he returned home from school, a picture had already been taken. (See above.)
Mr. Massaquoi’s family lived in Germany for the duration of the war. According to Mr. Massaquoi’s memoir, Destined to Witness, he theorized that there were so few blacks living in Germany that they were a low priority for extermination. Eventually he would move: first to his father’s home country of Liberia and later to Chicago.
In the United States, although trained in aviation mechanics, Mr. Massaquoi would become a writer for Jet magazine and eventual move to its sister publication, Ebony, where he became managing editor.
Mr. Massaquoi, who passed away on January 19, 2013 on his 87th birthday, was encouraged to write down the story of his unusual childhood by his friend and author of Roots, Alex Haley.
(Image is from Mr. Massaqoui’s collection and copyright of William Morrow Paperbacks via spiritosanto.wordpress.com)