Hans Massaquoi, 1926-2013

by Dave Schuler on January 25, 2013

Hans Massaquoi, former managing editor of Ebony Magazine, has died at 87:

Hans Massaquoi, a former managing editor of Ebony magazine who wrote a distinctive memoir about his unusual childhood growing up black in Nazi Germany, died in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday, his 87th birthday.

He had been hospitalized over the Christmas holidays, said his son, Hans J. Massaquoi Jr.

Inspired by the late Alex Haley, the author of “Roots,” Massaquoi decided to share his experience of being “both an insider in Nazi Germany and, paradoxically, an endangered outsider.” His autobiography, “Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany,” was published in the U.S. in 1999, followed by a German translation.

Mr. Massaquoi was the son of a German nurse and a Liberian diplomat. He grew up in Germany and remained there throughout the Nazi and war years, emigrating to the United States where he served in the U. S. military, used what he’d earned under the GI Bill to get an education, and worked for many years at Jet and Ebony Magazines.

His explanation for how he avoided the gas chambers was that Afro-Germans were so few in number and thought of as second class citizens of such a low priority that they just didn’t get around to them. Sometimes being at the back of the bus has its advantages.

What an extraordinary biography!

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