By JOYCE APSEL
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2000
Hans Massaquoi was about 6 years old when he started school in Germany in 1932. He was the child of parents of African and German descent. His story and vivid recollection of his experiences as a child when the Nazi regime took over the country are part of the exhibit "Anne Frank: A History for Today," showing at the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg:
"The teachers who objected to the new regime were quickly replaced by younger, pro-Nazi teachers. Some of them, including the principal, were plainly hostile to me and did their very best to insult me and to make contemptuous remarks about my race. One time -- I must have been about 10 -- one of the teachers took me aside and said, "When we've settled the score with the Jews you will be next.' "
Can you imagine how Hans Massaquoi felt? Have you ever had any personal experience where you were singled out and ostracized? How did you feel and what was your reaction?
Have you ever picked on people you know or don't know because of their background, the color of their skin or some other feature they had?
"Correct education" of youth was a major goal of the Nazis. As Mr. Massaquoi described, teachers who did not agree with Nazi ideology were slowly eliminated from classrooms. Textbooks were rewritten to incorporate Nazi ideology, including Aryan racial biology and national-socialist chemistry.
Only several hundred people of African descent lived in Germany, but they were targets of Nazi discrimination. Propaganda against Africans included everything from racist cartoons to laws banning jazz as corrupting because it was "African music." Members of other groups who were persecuted and often murdered included the physically and mentally handicapped, gypsies, homosexuals and slavs.
Ethnic cleansing, the removal of one group of people because of their ethnic background by another group has gone on throughout history and is frequently seen in world news coverage now. The concept of cleansing one group in order to purify another group, people or nation can lead to expelling and sometimes killing members of the targeted group.
Research the history of the former Yugoslavia; it is very complicated in great part because of ethnic cleansing, which different groups accuse each other of practicing.
Zlata Filopovic (see Zlata's Diary: a Child's Life in Sarajevo, Viking, 1994) wrote about how war had changed her life and the lives of those around her:
". . . I have to try to get through all this, with your support, Mimmy, (the name of her diary) and to hope that it will pass and that I will not suffer the fate of Anne Frank, that I will be a child again, living my childhood in peace." -- Sept. 29, 1993
Zlata never was able to return to a peaceful childhood in Sarajevo. She and her family fled the war and went to France.
United Nations peacekeeping forces stand watch and political leaders reach agreements such as the Dayton peace accords outlining the end of the war, conflict and suffering continues today in the different parts of the former Yugoslavia.
Next: The story of Hannes Weiss
Dr. Joyce Apsel lectures nationally on Anne Frank, genocide and human rights. She teaches at New York University. Please address questions or comments about this series to: Floridian, Anne Frank and Human Rights, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail Floridian@sptimes.com.
"Anne Frank: A History for Today," an international touring exhibit at the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, 55 Fifth St. S. The exhibit, which traces Anne Frank's life and times through family photographs and diary passages as well as examines prejudice and violence today, is made available through the Anne Frank Center USA. Exhibit sponsors include the Eckerd Family Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Paul W. Martin Jr., the Sembler Family and the state of Florida.
Survivors of the Holocaust will speak at five Barnes & Noble bookstores in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties March 11 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Using The Diary of Anne Frank and information from the exhibit at the Florida Holocaust Museum "Anne Frank: A History for Today," speakers will share their survival experiences and talk about the importance of journal writing.
The presentations, part of the St. Petersburg Times Newspaper in Education Day, will begin at noon, followed by a question and answer session. Certificates of achievement will be awarded to everyone who brings a journal to the event; there will also be a prize drawing at each location.
A percentage of sales will be donated to the St. Petersburg Times NIE Department to supply newspapers to classroom in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Citrus and Hernando counties. The five participating Barnes & Noble locations are 2501 Tyrone Blvd. N, St. Petersburg; 23654 U.S. Hwy. 19 N, Clearwater; 213 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; 11802 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; 122 Brandon Town Center Drive, Brandon.
Hans Massaquoi, now an adult, still bears painful memories of the Nazis. When he was a small child his teachers were hostile because of his race and assured him that descendants of Africans were on the Nazi hit list.