Black Assimilation Nazi Style
When the Nazi party came to power in 1932, the racist policies of the German white dominated corporate culture impacted German blacks as well as the Jews. The racial purity laws enacted under Nazi rule virtually wiped out the African Germans. It is estimated that between twenty five thousand to fifty thousand Afro Germans lived in Germany prior to the Nazi party coming to power. While popular propaganda claims that the Jews were the focus of Nazi Germany prejudice, the fate of the African German population is widely ignored. Despite these facts, Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi wanted to assimilate into the Nazi Germany culture.
Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi is a retired managing editor who once worked for Ebony magazine. He was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1926. His father was an African from Liberia who was the son of a former African tribal king and Liberia’s first consul general to Germany. His mother was a German nurse’s aid named Bertha Massaquoi. He grew up privileged until his father and grandfather returned to Liberia in 1929. His mother did not want to expose her son to the tropical climate of Africa and so she chose to stay in Germany and raise her son.
According to Mr. Massaquoi, he wanted so badly to fit into the culture around him that he had his babysitter, an old lady without much political sophistication, sew a swastika on his school sweater. Despite the fact that the people involved in this organization would be more than happy to eradicate the black population, this black boy wanted to fit in. It is an unfortunate circumstance of black people everywhere to want to fit into a culture that would be more likely to work towards their subjugation than recognize the black population as honest equals.
At school, his teacher enjoyed the irony of the black boy with the swastika that she used her camera to take a photograph. He wore it proudly until his mother ripped the famous Nazi symbol off his clothes and explained why he could never join the Hitler Youth organization, a Nazi Germany version of the Boy Scouts of America. Nevertheless, with no other black people to identify with or serve as a role model, Massaquoi developed a fascination with Nazism. But as racism began to take root in Germany Mr. Massaquoi began to realize his predicament. As Mr. Massaquoi grew to adulthood he was prevented from joining the military, he was prevented from obtaining an education, and he was excluded from a professional career. He was relegated into becoming a machine apprentice.
When the war ended in 1945, Germany was a ruin and awash with soldiers from the Allied forces. Massaquoi played the saxophone in clubs that catered to American soldiers in order to earn the money necessary to keep his mother and himself from starving. He eventually left Germany for Liberia, where he lived with his father for two years. After his father’s death, Massaquoi immigrated to the United States and now lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. Says Mr. Massaquoi, “Racism is almost seen everywhere throughout the world. You see it in Rwanda, in Burundi. You see it in Kosovo. You see it in Northern Ireland. You name it, there’s racism. Racism is a universal thing, and I think all people, all decent people in the world, have to stay extra vigilant to make sure the kind of excesses that happened in Nazi Germany will not reoccur.”
When does the vigilance against excess racism by good people start though? Do we wait until it gets excessive and do our best to beat it back to manageable levels or do we take the steps to stop it whenever it appears to be taking root? And who is to say when racism is excessive and when it is manageable? I’m sure we can deduce some institutionalized systemic forms of racism when we see a proliferation of nooses hanging from a variety of vantage points and hear people suggest the primary means of countering this act is to look the other way or simply close our eyes. Quit giving the noose hanger the attention they covet. But let someone paint a swastika on a wall and people will loose their minds. One is a hate crime and the other is a harmless prank. Why do we differentiate these two symbols from the very absolute ends of the same spectrum?
These days, here in America, black people are constantly being judged as undeserving for employment and educational opportunities. And the only evidence people have to justify their judgment is the color of people’s skin. Let a person with a white mindset tell the story and black people are never the most qualified of candidates for a career or education. Does this type of racism qualify for decent people’s attention? Or do we have to wait until we get to the point where the black student or worker has to vacate their position anytime a white candidate applies? Who is to say what racism is acceptable and what racism is excessive? It is interesting to note that such a somewhat complacent concept associated with combating the propagation of racial tyranny would come from a black man who at one time wanted to be a member of the Nazi Party of Hitler’s Germany.