10236181.jpgA great deal of Holocaust survival stories revolve around disguise–many Jews were forced into impersonation by the desperateness of their plight. Imagine if a person, by the accident of birth, was deigned a target of Nazi hatred but hadn’t an option of disguise. The son of a well-to-do African and a white German nurse, Hans lived a privileged toddler’s life befitting the grandson of a diplomat. Concern for Hans’s frail health caused his mother to remain with him in Germany when his grandfather and father were compelled to return to Liberia. He and his mother become part of Hamburg’s poor working class, forced to live in a cramped attic apartment without hot water and electricity. But their change in social status was to be only the beginning of their hardships. For twelve agonizing years following Hitler’s rise to power, Hans, like all non-Aryans, was dehumanized and devalued by the Nazis. Living in constant fear of death, by either the Gestapo executioners or Allied bombs, Hans’s existence became increasingly precarious until liberation by British troops in 1945. What sets Hans’s story apart from other memoirs of the Holocaust era is that his high visibility made him an easily recognizable target, stranded without the comfort of a racial community of any sort. Destined to Witness is a memoir filled with courage, feeling, and intelligence that will touch readers everywhere.

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  • Cola

    This sounds really interesting!

  • Aradhana

    This was a great read! Although Hans’s experiences were amazing, his white German mother was a real inspiration. The things she did for her son!!! Can you imagine the pressures of being a single mother with a black child in hyper-racist Nazi Germany! Another good read, although more “academic”, that provides good historical background is Hitler’s Black Victims: The Historical Experience of Afro-Germans, European Blacks, Africans and African Americans in the Nazi Era by Clarence Lusane. Both are permanently in my home library.