“I could neither run nor hide”: Hans-Jurgen Massaquoi’s Proverbial Autobiography Destined to Witness (1999)

Wolfgang Mieder (University of Vermont, emeritus)

Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi’s (1926-2013) autobiography Destined to Witness: Growing up Black in Nazi Germany (1999) recounts his life at Hamburg as a biracial child of a German mother and a black father from Liberia who returns to Africa leaving his wife and Afro-German son to fend for themselves in a working-class neighborhood. Their struggle to survive Nazi Germany is described in small chapters replete with proverbs and proverbial expressions that add metaphorical expressiveness to this emotional and informative account of survival among prejudice, stereotypes, and racism. The book is a telling example of how proverbs function in a family and beyond as social strategies to carve out a marginalized existence between 1926 and the early 1950s in Germany, Liberia, and the United States.

Part of 02-13 Proverb(s), Thursday, October 13, 10:30 am–12:30 pm