The proudest moment of Hans Massaquoi's boyhood was when his babysitter sewed a swastika on his sweater. He was a 7-year-old boy in Hamburg who wanted to be part of the excitement of the times he saw. But when his mother got home, she snipped off the swastika.
He also wanted to join the Hitler Youth. "They had cool uniforms," Massaquoi wrote years later, "and they did exciting things — camping, parades, playing drums."
His teacher told him that he couldn't join, without quite saying why. So when Adolph Hitler came to Hamburg later that year, Hans got his mother to bring him out into the throng that acclaimed Der Fuehrer.
"There I was, a kinky-haired, brown-skinned 8-year-old boy amid a sea of blond and blue-eyed kids," he wrote, "filled with childlike patriotism, still shielded by blissful ignorance. Like everyone around me, I cheered the man whose every waking hour was dedicated to the destruction of 'inferior non-Aryan people' like myself."
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