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Watch: ‘Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany’ – Hans J. Massaquoi’s Story

Watch: 'Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany' - Hans J. Massaquoi's Story

“Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany” is based on the biography of the same name by Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi, former Managing Editor of Ebony Magazine, who was born in Germany in 1926 to Bertha Nikodijevic, a German nurse, and Al-Haj Massaquoi, son of the Liberian Consul General in Hamburg, Germany.

It seems the book was first published (in English, anyway) in 1999 and was so popular in Germany, where it was entitled “Neger, Neger, Schornsteinfeger” (“Negro, Negro, Chimney Sweep”) that the autobiography remained on top of the bestselling list of the German weekly news magazine, Der Spiegel, for a couple of months. A screenplay of “Neger, Neger, Schornsteinfeger” was adapted from the book and a two-part film aired on German ZDF TV channel in 2006.

We’re all aware of the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany but, owing to the tiny minority of black people (most of them mixed race children of African WWI soldiers from the French colonies), other than being conferred second class citizenship, black Germans were by and large spared a similar fate. Having said that, in Rhineland, where most of the aforementioned WWI soldiers settled and had families, a secret program of sterilization and abortions on black and mixed race Germans was enforced.

While Massaquoi was spared from this indignity, he did suffer racial abuse and, despite being and considering himself German, was denied the dream of many young German children of the time, joining the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth Movement) and was also deemed unsuitable later on for service in the German military due to his racial “impurity.”

You can go to the Library of Congress website, where Audrey Fischer gives an account of Massaquoi’s life, from his privileged beginnings when he “associated black skin with superiority, since our servants were white,” to a more impoverished lifestyle after his grandparents and father returned to Liberia but his mother insisted he stay with her in Germany; how black American athletes, boxer Joe Louis and Olympic runner Jesse Owens, engendered pride in his African heritage; through to his emigration to the US where he served in the army, studied journalism and later went on to become Managing Editor of Ebony Magazine.

Hans Massaquoi died at 87 years old in January 2013.

Below are the first 60 minutes of what I’m assuming was the film that aired on German TV in 2006. If you’re anything like me, then you’ll be searching out the second 60 minutes, and will want to learn more about, not only Hans Massaquoi’s extraordinary life, but also that era of Afro-German history. One of the things I particularly liked in what I watched below are the two black American GI’s coming across the young Hans Massaquoi (played by Thando Walbaum) and being both delighted and surprised that he isn’t a soldier, but a German.

Destined to witness: Growing up black in Nazi… by Mariposalinda

Destined to witness: Growing up black in Nazi… by Mariposalinda

Destined to witness: Growing up black in Nazi… by Mariposalinda

Destined to witness: Growing up black in Nazi… by Mariposalinda

Destined to witness: Growing up black in Nazi… by Mariposalinda

Destined to witness: Growing up black in Nazi… by Mariposalinda

Destined to witness: Growing up black in Nazi… by Mariposalinda

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General Eisenhower & Montgomery

We do not forget your struggles or those at Mittal Bau Dora Nordhausen , for we will be Judged by GOD ALMIGHTY for our actions


Gods Grace through Jesus Christ be with Hans J Massaquoi as those who fought against Satan and his deception

Fan of Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer,Paul Schneider & Martin Niemoller

From the R.A.F in England who has been to Flossenburg , Dachau , Buchenwald and Mittal Bau Dora Nordhausen , Nuremberg . AMEN


I was mesmerized by this fantastic book! What a powerful writer Mr. Massaqoui was! His life story is riveting! I didn’t want the book to end! I too was saddened to learn that he had passed away because I found myself wanting to write to him to let him know what an impact his life story had on me. This is definitely a book that I will recommend to others. What an amazing individual!


Thanks for this. I read his aunt's autobiography (The Autobiography of an African Princess) earlier this year, and it made me look up info on his experience in Germany.


I have this movie and I read the book in 2006. I was a big fan of Mr Massaqoui and i was saddened by this death last ear I really wanted to meet him. The book is different from the movie of course. the movie a little more dramatized. But good!

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