It’s 1933 and Adolf Hitler’s Nazis have already seized control of Germany. An impressionable seven-year-old boy gets his babysitter to sew a badge on to his sweater. The badge shows the Nazis’ instantly recognizable symbol, the swastika. But what makes this seemingly trivial incident astonishing is that the boy is both German and black.
The other thing that makes the tale of Hans Massaquoi’s sweater swastika more than a forgotten moment in history was the fact that a teacher recorded it on camera. Indeed, that same evening, disapproving of this naive display of political affiliation, Massaquoi’s mother had removed the badge.
Years later, in a 2001 interview with CNN, Massaquoi remembered that, “My babysitter was an old lady who was politically, totally unsophisticated. And of course when my teacher saw it, she saw the contradiction. She happened to have a camera, and she took this picture.”