Title: Destined To Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany
Primary Author: Hans J. Massaquoi
Other Author(s):
Published: 1999, William Morrow and Company, New York, NY
Type of Publication: book
Name of Publication:
Volume & Issue:
Edition: 1
No. of Pages: 443
Language: English
Original Language:
ISBN: 0-688-17155-9
Abstract: The dust cover of this remarkable book shows a youngster of African parentage sporting a swastika emblem on his sweater. This is Mr. Massaquoi. He is surrounded by his Ayran schoolmates. The photograph was taken in 1933 the year Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany.

Mr. Massaquoi was born in Hamburg to an African Liberian father and a German mother. As person of mixed race growing up in Nazi Germany he was subject to the same harsh restrictions imposed on the Jews by the Nuremberg racial laws.

However, as a child in the German school system he was imbued with a reverence for Hitler and the Nazi party. This admiration was sorely tested by the snubs and assaults he received at the hands of the Nazis he encountered who singled him out for ill treatment because of his African features--his curly hair and dark skin.

Over time Mr. Massaquoi learned the sinister nature of the Nazi state, and that he was a marked man according to their laws. As a disaffected youth he became a swingboy, a youth movement which grooved to American music that was in reaction to the puritanical Nazi youth organization.

It was largely due to the unconditional love of his mother that he survived psychologically in a world that branded him an outcast and a parriah.

Why did he not end up in a camp? It was partly luck. As a person of mixed race he was susceptible to be rounded up and sent to a concentration camp for the slightist infraction. The other reason is that the Nazis hadn't yet gotten around to making a thorough sweep of persons of Mr. Massaquoi's racial status their attention being focused on the numerically larger group of Jews. In time he would have been eliminated.

Ironically, his racial status made him ineligble to be inducted into the army where he would have been likely killed on the Russian front like many of his friends. Mr. Massaquoi spent most of the war years working in the defense industry. He and his mother survived the terribal fire bombing of Hamburg and the hard scrabble to survive in a ruined city.

After liberation his accounts of prospering off the black market and making a living as a jazz musician are amusing. Mr. Massaquoi was reunited after the war with his father in Liberia but the reunion was a mixed success. The book ends with his immigration to the US and his stint in the US Army.

The photos show that Mr. Massaquoi had an important career as a journalist for Ebony magazine and met many of the important leaders of the 20th century.

This book is important because it gives an different take on the Nazi regime viewing it from the inside and from a highly original point of view. It reveals the moral corruption that was its very core. Mr. Massaquoi was treated decently by some Germans who saw him as an individual; he was persecuted by others who let their Nazi ideology be the filters through which they saw the world.

Home | Survivor Stories | Audio Gallery | Photo Gallery | Texts
Encyclopedia | Bibliography | Links | Discussions | About the Project

Questions, comments, suggestions? Contact

© 1999-2019, John Menszer
web site designed by dave cash