Is America as Bad as Nazi Germany?
Lessons from a black man who lived in both places.
“If you were of the opinion that the United States wasn’t nearly as bad as Nazi Germany, how wrong you are,” proclaims sports commentator Jemele Hill (pictured above), citing Caste, a “masterpiece” of a book by Isabel Wilkerson. Quickly challenged, Hill pushed back that Nazi Germany “learned their systems of genocide by watching America,” and the Nazis “borrowed significantly from American racial laws,” which is why “some Nazi scholars were in America studying racial terror in the South.”
A somewhat different perspective might emerge from a black person who actually lived in Nazi Germany and the United States. Consider, for example, Hans J. Massaquoi, son of a Liberian father and German mother, and author of Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany.
“Hans-Jurgen is a remarkable pupil who has made a good adjustment to school,” his German teacher wrote, “He is unusually talented in reading, writing, drawing, music, and athletics.” Hans is “a born leader who is always willing to help slower classmates,” and “I am expecting good things from him.” Trouble was, as a “non-Aryan” Hans was barred from college but did not let that inhibit his education.
Hans read authors such as James Fennimore Cooper, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Cervantes, Dickens, Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, Victor Hugo, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Reading became an “indispensable survival tool” against “constant racist attacks.” Hans survived because “unlike Jews, blacks were few in number and relegated to low-priority status.” Hans recalls the Nazis’ Kristallnacht of 1938, when more than 1,000 Jewish places of worship were destroyed, 91 Jews killed and some 30,000 arrested.
Government propaganda hailed Nazi virtue and denounced Communist evil, but Hans found this “a distortion of facts.” The truth was, “in their many bloody clashes for dominance in Germany, the Nazis and Commies were virtually indistinguishable. Both were totalitarians, ever ready to brutalize to crush resistance to their respective ideologies.”
Like many Germans, Hans was a fan of American big-band swing, which the Nazis derided as Negermusick and banned along with American cinema. After the Allied victory, a black American GI asks Hans, “what in the world are you doing here among these Krauts?”
Hans explains that he is German, but soon decamps to Liberia, where his father holds a low opinion of “American Negroes.” On the other hand, Hans finds the black U.S. embassy staffers “refined, articulate” and college educated. When a relative secures Hans a student visa, he’s off to America his own self.
In Harlem, Hans recalled, “I saw neighborhoods peopled by active working-class folks not much different from those in my old Hamburg neighborhood. The only difference was that everyone – from the mailman to the barber to the police man to the garbage collector to the occasional big shot in a Cadillac convertible – was black.” Hans also encounters racism, even in the north.
When white workers walk out after Hans is hired, management tells them they should look for another job. In the 82nd Airborne, a paratrooper asks Hans why he has a picture of a white woman on his shelf. “That woman is my mother,” explains Massaquoi, who knocks the racist to the floor. Overall, however, “we black recruits got on well with our white comrades, and many interracial friendships formed.”
When Hans joins a military band, “we and our white buddies were like peas in a pod.” Further, “our new integrated band not only looked like one harmonious ensemble, but it sounded better than either of the two groups had sounded alone.”
Hans took advantage of the GI Bill, “which enabled me to earn the college education denied to me in Nazi Germany.” The veteran gets a job with Ebony magazine and when Adlai Stevenson and Sekou Toure sit down for an interview “it seemed to me that coming to America had not been such a bad idea after all.”
His mother arrives stateside and marries a Serbian the Allies had freed from a POW camp. The couple live in a Chicago suburb, in “exactly the kind of home with a small vegetable garden I used to dream about in Germany, when home ownership was beyond our reach.”
Hans Massaquoi remained aware of racism but never charges that the United States is as bad as Nazi Germany. Readers of Destined to Witness find nothing about Nazi scholars studying “racial terror” in the American south. That was a staple of Communist Party USA propaganda, along with the notion that blacks were not true Americans.
Those views abound in the work of Frank Marshall Davis, the beloved “Frank” of Dreams from My Father, who spent most of his life supporting all-white Stalinist dictatorships. Jamele Hill and Isabel Wilkerson are essentially recycling Communist Party propaganda, while ignoring true parallels with Nazism.
The Antifa-BLM axis spreads terror and destruction in the streets and vandalizes synagogues as Democrat politicians tell the police to stand down. Leftist sturmtruppen call for a Kristallnacht against Christians. Racist mobs burn, loot, and murder, as Democrat Party bosses look the other way.
And now abide hatred, violence and ignorance, but the greatest of these is ignorance.
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Photo credit: Jemele Hill @ Wikimedia Commons