MIAMI (AP) — Hans Massaquoi, a former managing editor of Ebony magazine who wrote a distinctive memoir about his unusual childhood growing up black in Nazi Germany, has died. He was 87.
His son said Massaquoi died Saturday, on his 87th birthday, in Jacksonville. He had been hospitalized over the Christmas holidays.
"He had quite a journey in life," said Hans J. Massaquoi, Jr., of Detroit. "Many have read his books and know what he endured. But most don't know that he was a good, kind, loving, fun-loving, fair, honest, generous, hard-working and open-minded man. He respected others and commanded respect himself. He was dignified and trustworthy. We will miss him forever and try to live by his example."
In an interview in 2000, the elder Massaquoi told The Associated Press that he credited the late Alex Haley, author of "Roots," with convincing him 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 and a German translation was also published.
Massaquoi's mother was a German nurse and his father was the son of a Liberian diplomat. He grew up in working class neighborhoods of the port city of Hamburg.
Massaquoi recounted a story from 1933, when he was in second grade in Hamburg. Wanting to show what a good German he was, Massaquoi said he cajoled his baby sitter into sewing a swastika onto his sweater. When his mother spotted it that evening, she snipped it off, but a teacher had already taken a snapshot. Massaquoi, the only dark-skinned child in the photo, is also the only one wearing a swastika.