Friday, June 25, 2010

AfroGerman week: Hans J. Massaquoi growing up in Nazi Germany

Hans J. Massaquoi, former Managing editor of Ebony Magazine, tells of growing up Black in Nazi Germany in his book, 'Desitined To Witness'.

This very powerful story was brought to the German Television in a two part docu-drama in 2006.

In his autobiography, Destined to Witness, Massaquoi describes his childhood and youth in Hamburg during the Nazi rise to power. His biography provides a unique point of view: he was one of very few German-born mulattoes in all of Nazi Germany, shunned, but not persecuted by the Nazis. This dichotomy remained a key theme throughout his whole life.

Massaquoi lived a simple, but happy childhood with his mother, Bertha Nikodijevic. His father, Al-Haj Massaquoi, was a law student in Dublin who only occasionally lived with the family at the consul general home in Hamburg. Eventually, the consul general was recalled to Liberia, and Hans Massaquoi and his mother remained in Germany. (Click on the picture to enlarge.)

The daily life of the young Massaquoi was remarkable. He was one of the few mixed race children in Nazi Germany, and like most of the other children his age, he dreamed of joining the Hitler Youth. Increasingly, however, he realized the true nature of Nazism. His skin color made him a target for racist abuse.

See more videos here

However, in contrast to German Jews or German Roma, Massaquoi—as a German Negro—was not persecuted. He was "just" a second-class citizen, which was actually a blessing in disguise. During World War II, his "impurity" spared him from being drafted into the German army. As unemployment, hunger and poverty grew rampant, he even tried to enlist, but he was rejected by the officers. In this time, he befriended the family of Ralph Giordano, a half-Jewish acquaintance of their swing kid age, who survived the war by hiding and ended up being a journalist as well. (source wikipedia)


Hans Massaquoi has died Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, on his 87th birthday in Jacksonville USA. See the post here.

Links to videos of Destined to witness
Destined to witness, part 1
Destined to witness, part 2
Destined to witness, part 3
Destined to witness, part 4
Destined to witness, part 5
Destined to witness, part 6
Destined to witness, part 7


  1. Leeft Hans Massaquoi nog ?
    Is he still alive ?

  2. Ja, hij leeft nog, yes he is still alive.

  3. Massaquoi's memoirs shed light on the social and cultural landscape of the Nazi era through the lens of a German youth who gradually realizes that his complexion and hair texture defines him as “non-Aryan.”
    He survived the racial persecution of the Nazi regime as well as the bombings of World War II. His experiences emphasize that isolated circumstances rather than widespread policies decisively shaped the lives of Afro Germans during the Third Reich.

  4. I'm actually reading this book. It is a wonderful testimony and a must read. Another black german of his generation:
    Theodor Wonja Michael

  5. Just finished reading this book. What an extraordinary writer. So grateful to have read this story.

  6. Just heard of his death a week ago. I read the obit in the Final Call newspaper and then searched online. Massaquoi would be sorely misssed.

  7. Just finished the book today. Amazing story. Amazing. R.I.P. Hans Jurgen Massaquoi.


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