An Afro-Caribbean in the Nazi Era: From Papiamentu to German is the true story of how Lionel Romney experienced the Nazi era as told to his daughter, Mary L. Romney-Schaab. He was one of relatively few Black people to be imprisoned in the concentration camp system and even fewer who lived to tell about it.
Lionel Romney was an Afro-Caribbean merchant sailor who, by chance, was trapped in the politics, chaos, and deadly violence of World War II. As a civilian, he spent the four years from 1940 to 1944 in captivity in Italy, and the final year of the war, 1944-45, in the notorious Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. There, he was subjected to inhumane treatment and near-starvation. He routinely witnessed atrocities that traumatized him so deeply that he was virtually silent about the experience for over four decades. After over 20 years of trying, Mary was finally able to get him to talk about it during a series of oral history interviews. These form the centerpiece of the book, which also chronicles her experience of visiting Mauthausen and Italy after her father passed away.
Framed within the context of Lionel Romney’s Caribbean origins, World War II and the Nazi camp system, as well as Mary’s own thoughts, this volume is part oral history, part memoir, and part history. As such, it is a story of an ordinary man caught in extraordinary circumstances; a father’s survival and a daughter’s journey.