|In the current of the river
Table of contents:
A new phase of life
Pseudonym 青濂 (Qing Lian / turquoise-green-blue clear waterfall)
The turning point
In military service
April 30th 1975 - End of a republic, "Ngày Quốc hận / day of national hate"
The Aggressor in power - The new state, the "Socialist Republic of Vietnam"
Book burnings, imprisonment, propaganda policy
Children as tools of the party
Under totalitarian control
Remembering the adolescence
The war and its victims - fate of a neighbour
Propaganda - One of the stagings
Economic expropriation – The life afterwards
The "Ba Mươi Tháng Tư /4.30th", the servants of the winner
Under the rule of war criminals
In hopeless situation
The truth about "liberation"
Fear, worries and misery
"If the trees had legs . . . . . . . . "
Taking a risk
"The winner is the king . . . . . ."
" . . . . . then life is painful for me . . . . . "
"Paradise" and hell
That was a time . . . . . . . . destroyed by the storm
In the vicious circle of injustice
" . . . . . to put a man's soul into a cage . . . . . "
As I feared . . . .
The second distress
Talk amongst confidants
The new followers of the "Führer"
The first sight of the "Führer"
I was born in the year 1949 in Ba Xuyên, a province in the south of Vietnam, the stars were aligned! Into the family 陳(Chen), following the rules of the ancestors of the family with the middle name 英(Ying) and the given name 義 (Yi). For the vietnamese birth certificate: Familyname Trần (陳), given name Châu (洲). In western writing: Tran, Chau.
Due to the japanese war atrocities, where as well defenseless civilians and children were massacred, my parents were forced to leave China to abroad, when they were kids. As grown-ups my parents have met and married in South Vietnam.
We lived in a small town of the province and stayed in a house by a river, which offered a wide and open view. When we moved to Saigon in 1957 the house there was similar. My father was away on business and not at home very often. My mother managed the household with four children on her own. Back then there was no washing machine, no refrigerator, no electric cooker and even no tap water. Every house had a jetty, where transport boats could deliver drinking water. I don’t know how my mother managed to do all that: Daily shopping on the market, cooking, washing, ironing and . . . and . . . . and. . . . My mother must have loved us a lot, otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to make it. Not until my sister was born and we were five children, my mother was supported by a household help.
As a child I loved to watch how my mother worked, especially when she was ironing and cooking. My mother was a passionate cook, not only for chinese, but also for vietnamese food. As a child I discovered, that from time to time neighbors dropped in to ask my mother for some clues in cookery. It was so interesting for me to watch her cook and to follow up how my mother prepared the food, cooked it until everything was ready. Steaming, cooking, frying and baking of normal every day food and sweets and food for festive days was so somehow saved in my memory. I never cooked by myself, but when I began living alone in Germany since 1979, I started to cook and it felt like I have done it ever since.
When my father returned from a business trip he used to bring us something we liked. For us, the children, it were often sweets in colorful tin cans in different shapes, back then it was luxury.
On the right side, about 200 meters away from our house, there was a small market place on the riverside. Opposite of it, just across the street, there was a large square. At the end of the square was a stage area, where from time to time my parents went with us to see some opera plays. When I was under six years old, my mother and my two elder brothers went there, my sister and me had to go home together with our father, due to our age. I was supposed to sleep, but I was so excited to hear, what my brothers would tell us about the opera play. Through the mosquito net I saw, that my father was still working in the light of the gas mantle of the gas lamp. My father has always been a diligent man, I wished I could leave the mosquito net and go to him to see what he was working, but he told me to sleep! My father registered that and came around from time to time to comfort me: "Next year, when you are older, you can go to the opera with us." Then he roughly told me the story line of the play. I slowly fell asleep.
The large painted billboards, that advertised for operas and movies in front of the stages, has always fascinated me, even then when I was a child. Back then there were no printed posters and the painter had to decide, which scene of the play could appeal to the audience best, then it was presented on the billboard. Some painted billboards attracted me very much and I would have loved to watch the painter at his work.
After supper my father usually drove with us, sometimes without my mother, with a taxi or a rickshaw out of the small town, where the country road led to the horizon. On both sides of the street you could see paddy fields, that also reached to the horizon. There was nearly no house to be seen, no trees, and there was even no traffic. On the left hand side of the horizon we saw a building. My father told us, that this was the airport of Sóc Trăng. We wished, we could fly with one of the planes.
We sat on the wide meadow next to the street. My father often was very quiet and relaxed, we picked wild flowers, played and watched insects until sunset. The taxi or the rickshaw was waiting for us, otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to return home. Some time later I flew to Saigon together with my father, my mother, my two older brothers, a younger sister and a household help. Flying to the place where my father worked was an adventure. We were welcomed cordially by my fathers friends and acquaintances! Comparing the capital of South Vietnam and the small province town, it was like heaven and earth!
When I was five years old I went to the chinese school. After one year I found school boring, my best school buddy also said: "She (the female teacher) is always repeating! And we are supposed to do so as well. But I already know everything." From time to time we talked with each other during class, chatted and were often scolded by our teacher.
One afternoon, my mother just talked to Aunt 林 (Lin) in the hall (In Chinese language culture words like "aunt" and "uncle" also mean close friends of the family, in german language "the aunt/uncle over there" is often used in a more negative way). I sat at the table and tried to fold paper into animals by using a guideline, which aunt Lin had given to me as a present. Suddenly the mother of a school buddy appeared and after a normal greeting she said: "Has she been here, the teacher? She complained, that my son is always playing together with your son during class and they do not learn. My son is under-worked . . . . . .They should teach each pupil individually. I was once a teacher too . . . . . . . ." The situation came too suddenly, my mother did not know yet how to react to her, when aunt Lin said: "Calm down, it will all be managed." My school buddies mother said goodbye, silence returned.
About twenty minutes later, when I just showed my origami-animal to mother and aunt Lin, my teacher appeared: "I would like to talk to Mrs 陳 (Chen)." "Mrs 张 (Zhang), please have a seat", my mother answered. I instantly returned back to my table. The teacher was overstrained, stressed, she told, that she was at the house of my school buddy and she was so disappointed about their behavior, they did not act ideal . . . . .and . . . . . and . . . . .and . . . . . Then she talked about me. Told, what I had done during class . . . . . and so on . . . . .Then I heard aunt Lins voice: "Ying Yi, come here and bring your books with you." I turned up. Aunt Lin: "Which lesson did you learn today, read it!" Instantly I read and afterwards explained the content in my own words. When I started to go on with the next lesson, that I had studied with aunt Lin some time ago, she interrupted me: "Ying Yi, that’s enough", and directed to the teacher: "Mrs Teacher, he did not miss anything in school, he understood everything!" The teacher had nothing to answer. She has become a little more quiet and said good-bye quite politely!
One week later, as always on the third day my class was finished earlier. I went to the sports ground of the school. Back then and nowadays nearly every chinese school has a sports ground. Nearly all sports grounds of chinese schools abroad are located close to a chinese divine temple or a temple dedicated to the ancestors, this is also the address of the chinese association. The sports ground serves also for temple festivities and as auditorium for chinese opera stages. Located around the sports ground, behind it and at both sides, are the classrooms.
I climbed upon the back of a stone lion that stood in front of the temple entrance, fetched the books out of my braided schoolbag, browsed the class book up to the lesson that was taught today and read it with a loud voice. I read so loud that all the male and female teachers turned up to the classroom doors and watched me with amazement. While I was reading on I heard a female voice in the background: "This must be a pupil of Mrs. Zhang, they finished earlier today", said one of the female teachers. "Certainly", another one said. Unimpressed by that I continued reading. Suddenly someone tapped on my shoulder, I turned around, it was one of the teachers. "What is your name? Are you in Mrs. Zhangs class?" "Yes, and I am supposed to learn", I answered. "You are very diligent, . . . . you should go home, your parents will be waiting for you. If you return home late, they will worry about you . . . . ." "Yes", I packed the books into my schoolbag and left.
The next day my teacher did not come to school, she was ill! A substitute took over and taught us up to the first break, then he sent us home. On the way home I reported to my school buddy what has happened the day before. He said: "Now she can no longer say, that you refuse to learn. Tell me next time, I will join you."
One day later, it was in the late afternoon, aunt Lin and my mother had an intensive discussion, my teacher Mrs. Zhang appeared and instantly spoke with an angry tone: "Mrs. Chen . . . . your son has again been disturbing the other students during class. This time it was the whole school." Aunt Lin felt interrupted in her discussion. As my teacher began to continue complaining, aunt Lin said: "Yes, I have been told everything about it. I also discovered, that you, Mrs. Zhang have complained at nearly every parent of your students about this and that! Mrs Zhang, some parents have to work hard, to earn the money for surviving with three meals a day, plus the money for school uniform and class material for the children. As a teacher you could be a help, by supporting the parents with the partial education of their children. They are all children, you can still teach them many things, the parents would be very grateful!" The teacher felt taught by aunt Lin and asked: "Who are you, may I hear about that?" Aunt Lin hesitated but then answered: "My name is Mrs. Lin, management board member of the chinese association." The teacher: "Sorry for disturbing you." My mother: "It will not happen again." The teacher had nothing more to say, turned around and left, as if she suddenly was in a hurry.
After the complaint of the teacher Mrs. Zhang, the director of the school invited my mother (my father was on a business trip), my school buddies parents, another couple and the concerned children
for a talk. After a previous recommendation of aunt Lin, the director decided that we should be taught in a higher class. We agreed upon the result of the discussion.
Later my mother explained to me: Aunt Lin was an elected member of the management board of the chinese association, the management board organizes the donations for
chinese schools, hospitals and temple festivities. The members of the board were very respected.
Over the years between aunt Lin, her daughter and our family developed not onyl a very trustful relationship, but also a familial friendship.
Time flew . . . . . . and later, when we already lived in Saigon for about 10 years, we heard from aunt Lins daughter, that aunt Lin had said good-bye to this world. My mother was
very sad, us too. Aunt Lin and her daughter were two close friends to our family and especially aunt Lin and my mother have been talking intimately.
When the daughter visited us later in Saigon, she told us, that she had visited her mother like always and prepared supper. After the meal, like always, the daughter washed the dishes, aunt Lin was like always sitting on her armchair and both were talking about all kind of themes. This time aunt Lin was holding a photo album in her hands. She browsed through it while talking. When the daughter noticed that aunt Lin did not say a word, she turned around and saw, that her mother had leaned her head against the armchair and had fallen asleep. The daughter thought, that todays excursion must have been a little bit to tiring for her mother. When the dishes were washed, she came to her mother and wanted to take the photo album out of her hands, but she couldn’t because her mother held it very firmly. Then she realized, that her mother wasn’t breathing anymore. It was the first photo album with the photos, when aunt Lin was a child, living in her parents house in China, photos of lucky days with her husband and daughter in China, photos with my mother and the group photo, when she was elected member of the managing board of the chinese association for the first time.
The daughter first informed our family by telegram. To prevent 霜兰 (Shuang Lan, aunt Lins daughter) from feeling lonely, my father took the time, although he was very busy at that time, he drove to the province capital to help organize the funeral ceremony. My mother absolutely wanted to drive there too, but wasn’t able to, because my younger siblings were to young and needed her. Hundreds of people came to the funeral, because aunt Lin was highly respected in the society. It was a very sumptuous funeral, although she once remarked, that she wanted a simple funeral with her closest friends only. My father told me that later.
My mother has told us, that aunt Lin grew up in a wealthy family in China and was 16 years older than my mother. She studied and wanted to work as a teacher, but her father was uncomprehending.
During that time in China, Vietnam and some asian countries the women only worked, when the families were in trouble. Especially in wealthy families, the reputation of the man and the family was then tarnished.
Her father has chosen a man of the same class of population, whom she had to marry. Aunt Lin was lucky, that her husband had studied too and led a modern life. Both fell in love at second sight and happily gave birth to a daughter. When the japanese war criminals attacked China, the man joined up voluntarily for military service against the japanese. Fate was not on their side and the man was hurt lethally. Together with her parents and her daughter they succeeded to escape from China. Finally in South Vietnam she met my mother. Aunt Lins daughter later studied too and became a teacher.
Aunt Lin is still close to my heart today. When I think about her death, I become somehow sad. But as she left gently it also gives me a good feeling. Aunt Lin, a woman, who campaigned for society, reliable, credible and cordial.
In the year 1954 Vietnam was divided at the 17th parallel due to the Geneva Agreements (1954 Geneva Conference).
But instead of pulling out to the north, a part of the communists stayed in South Vietnam
and formed the "National liberation front of South Vietnam", called Việt Cộng and declared to fight for the
communistic unity of the whole Vietnam.
Besides it came to an uprising of the Khmer (Cambodians), who wanted to reconquer a part of their land from South Vietnam.
Originally, from former times up to the French-Indochina-times this part belonged to Cambodia.
The first south vietnamese government forced the Chinese people to adopt the South Vietnamese nationality, only that allowed them to conscript the chinese to
military service, so they could fight for South Vietnam.
Otherwise the chinese would have to suffer under severe economic restrictions.
That too led to disturbances among the chinese society in South Vietnam, because most of the chinese did not want to take part in a war.
A new phase of life
In the year 1957 the situation in the province of South Vietnam has become quite agitated. My father was on business trips often and I can still remember how my mother roused us some nights and we had to lay flat on the floor, because of the gunfights in the streets between the involved parties: the Khmer, the Việt Cộng and the soldiers of South Vietnam. The next morning we saw, that our wardrobes has been perforated by gunshots. The neighbors gathered to discuss the situation and word complaints for the government, but with no success. In the same year my parents decided to move to Saigon. Two close friends of our family moved some time after us, aunt Lin stayed because she wanted to take care of the chinese in the province. On our good-bye my parents said to her, that she should follow us as soon as possible, if she was able to. Aunt Lin told me: "You write to me", and to my two older brothers: "and you . . you will write to me too." We answered: "Yes, dear aunt Lin, please follow us fast."
Saigon, called "Pearl of the Far East" during the french Indo-China times, was a paradise for the wealthy -like everywhere in the world- and hell for the poor. The traces of the colonial times could clearly be seen.
I continued to visit the Chinese school, but now full-time, because following a new law, the chinese schools had not only to teach the vietnamese language, but also teach all school subjects in both languages, chinese and vietnamese. So one half of the classes was duplicate for the pupils, for example physics, chemistry and mathematics. The vietnamese school had only half-time classes, either in the morning or in the afternoon. Of course, this arrangement was still generous compared to the communist north: There they had no chinese schools at all.
After six years I graduated on the Chinese school. My father and I decided, that I should do a personal qualifying examination. The result encouraged us to register me for the senior classes of the vietnamese school. The first reason: The diploma of the vietnamese school is officially more acknowledged than the chinese. If you wanted, you were able to study with it, or you could do a distance study in chinese in a taiwanese university, that is what my brother decided to do. The second reason: On the attained half days I was able to learn chinese history and literature. For that there was the "培才学校 (Pei Cai Xue Xiao)/Talent advancement school", a private chinese school, in which old chinese literature and history was taught.
I was able to study chinese ink painting at the same time. At first with master 陈树 (Chen Shu), but after a short time he discovered, that I was more eligible for the painting in the literary direction and so he handed me over to master 陈宾杨 (Chen Bin Yang). After about some month master Chen Bin Yang was called up for military service. He was replaced by professor master 陈章卿 (Chen Zhang Qing). A master of chinese ink painting, who also had knowledge of western art background especially in nude drawing, perspective and oil. Then I was lucky that professor 林清霓 (Lin Qing Ni) from Hongkong lived in Saigon for a time and I could help him to organize exhibitions and was able to look over his shoulder when he was working. That widened my artistic horizon a lot. Of course calligraphy mustn’t be forgotten, I studied it with master 吴铁樵 (Wu Tie Qiao). Later I also visited the art academy in Saigon for drawing and oil painting. That is when I found out, that I have a better feeling and passion for chinese painting.
I strongly noticed the feeling for this kind of art in the age of 14 during an exhibition of a taiwanese master for chinese painting. He had painted more than 50 paintings with bamboo in Chinese ink only. I felt very much attracted by it, visited the exhibition several times and passionately tried to paint that for myself. This passion was the main reason for me and convinced my father too, so I decided to study chinese ink painting, history and literature.
Chinese new year (vietnamese new year at the same time) in the year 1968: Despite of the Vietnam war and the everlasting danger of missile bombardment by the
communists onto large cities and capitals like Sài Gòn (Saigon) the people celebrated and the city was in a festive mood anyway. One thought, that war was still
in some distance to Saigon.
The ancestors altars and gods altars in every house had been equipped by heart with the best sacrificial offerings and flowers. The incense sticks smelled up to the
front doors of the houses. The grownups were busy with traditional customs and traditions and prayed for health and that war should end soon. Because every family
had someone among themselves, who was involved in war, so were my two older brothers who were drawn to military service. When you looked closer you could see the sorrows in
the faces of every grownup. As well in those of my parents.
The children were carefree. Like usual at that celebration they wore new clothes and their parents gave them money in small, red envelopes. They showed and reported
proudly to each other, how much they had received from their parents and what the family had sacrified on the altar. Everywhere in any street and lane you could hear the explosions from new years bangers and crackers. Not only the youngsters but also the grown-ups
lit up bangers and crackers to cast out evil and receive luck.
After I had solemnly decorated the livingroom, I stuck pairs of newyears-sayings on the doors. I can remember well, that above our entry door it said: "五福临门 / Fivefold
luck comes over the family." Right side of the door: "天增岁月人增寿 / Heaven spreads in years and months, man extends his life." On the left side of the
door: "春满乾坤福满堂 / Full of spring on earth and full of luck in the reception hall." Those were famous, common wall slogans, which fitted perfectly into the time and
were exactly what the people needed at that time.
One believed, whatever you do on new years day and whatever you receive then, that same thing will keep you busy and will be received throughout the whole upcoming
year. Therefore you present children money bags, as a symbol for wealth. Today I still think that this is a superstition, but when I received a present back then,
I was happy anyway! At that moment I intended to retain that happy mood on Xuan-paper. I prepared to paint a picture with just this atmosphere.
The ink was rubbed, the mineral- and herbal colours were prepared. After a short time everything was ready for painting. To receive spring, a picture with different kinds of flowers should be painted.
At first I began with a branch of the chinese plum blossom, a blossom, which is a symbol for indomitability, endurance, and brings fivefold luck . . . . . . . . For this first kind of flower only the stamina are missing.
When I wanted to finish them, suddenly my father called: "Yi (my chinese name), come here and listen."
On the radio we heard the voice of the president of South Vietnam, Nguyễn Văn Thiệu: "To the people. I am the
president of the republic of Vietnam. The whole people should please stop to light up fireworks immediately. Every officer and soldier, who is on holiday, shall
try everything possible to return to their unit. Invasion of the communists. All citizens should stay home, have their radio and TV switched on and follow the
reports." This declaration was repeated on the radio in minute intervals permanently and uninterrupted. My father tapped on my shoulder. I ran out of the house
and shouted loud: "Please everybody stop lighting up firecrackers immediately and turn on the radio. Invasion of the communists! Invasion of the communists!" I
informed a part of our neighbors and recommended them to pass the news on. All new years programs of the radio and TV very cancelled, there was just the permanently
repeated announcement of the president Nguyễn Văn Thiệu.
The army of the communist North Vietnam and the Việt Cộng had planned, that in the moment when the people of South Vietnam had forgotten the war and
were in the mood for new years celebration, to take advantage of the situation and make the invasion possible. The gunfire should be taken for firecrackers and bangers by the people and the army of
Although a cease-fire convention was dealt, the communist side had again and again broken this agreement. Also many large cities in South Vietnam were under bombardement with missiles and many defenseless
civilians were killed. As media reported, the communists from their side even had suggested a cease-fire before for the three newyears-days, which was agreed upon form both sides. That was why 50% of
South Vietnam’s soldiers were granted leave, so that they could go home and celebrate newyear reunited with their families, as it is tradition. This can be compared to Christmas Eve in the western world.
Without warning the army of the peoples republic of the socialistic North Vietnam and the People's Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam (Việt Cộng) had attacked many towns and
cities in South Vietnam.
Main targets were of course also the cities of Saigon, seat of the government, where also the US-embassy was located, and Huế, the royal conservative city, which still
strictly obeyed many traditions, customs and practices according to the teachings of Confucius, Lao-Tze and Buddha.
The army of the communist North Vietnam and the Việt Cộng intruded into houses of civilians in Saigon and took the inhabitants as a shield, among them was the family of a
former schoolmate. They forced the people to guide them to the presidents palace, the seat of the government, the US embassy and the TV-/radiostation. They bombed holes into the
walls at the sides of the houses, to be able to move on to the next house. Outside on the streets the soldiers of the US and of South Vietnam could do nothing
against it. Nevertheless the vietnamese soldiers of the south and the allied reconquered Saigon. It took weeks.
Many places in Saigon including the Chinatown in Chợ Lớn had become uninhabitable ruins. Numerous civilians also died during the invasion. Later one could see on television, that everywhere in the streets were the dead
bodies of civilians and soldiers of both sides. When the US and South Vietnamese support command arrived at the US embassy, they found the embassy staff and the guards dead.
The embassy building was completely devastated.
During reconquest of Saigon general Nguyển Ngọc Loan, police chief of South Vietnam, was caught by foreign war photographers when he
executed Nguyển Văn Lém, a Việt Cộng espionage officer from the People's Liberation front of South Vietnam, right on the street. That picture
went around the whole world and caused major indignation. But some eye-witnesses, under them prisoners of war who switched sides to the more wealthy South Vietnam,
told in front of television cameras, that the opponents of war would have done the same thing. Media in Saigon later reported, that women and children of the officers
who served the army of South Vietnam were also executed, regardless whether they revealed the position of their husbands or not. Keeping
them alive would make the children follow their parents way to support the government, the communist enemy wanted to prohibit that.
Back then in
South Vietnam there were special schools for the children of officers. Particular care received those children, whose fathers were high officers, who had sacrificed
themselves for their country. Those children were educated after their own and their parents will, so they were able to become an officer themselves.
I often saw such a school on my way to the centre of Vủng Tàu, the city on the sea: "Trường Thiếu Sinh Quân Vủng Tàu / School for the youth of the army unit Vủng Tàu."
The case of general Nguyển Ngọc Loan was a particular case, because in that moment he was angry, that espionage officer Nguyển Văn Lém had killed the wives and children of his friends and comrades on location immediately.
To be honest the soldiers of South Vietnam and their allies treated the prisoners more human than the opposite way around. They gave them food, water and even cigarettes.
That is documented in many film scenes. The screening of those films is strictly prohibted in communistic Vietnam up to today.
Many photographers of war knew very well, that the vietnamese communists themselves were masters of propaganda. In a contrarian case like the one of general Nguyển Ngọc Loan the Việt Cộng or the North Vietnamese
communist army would confiscate the film or shoot the photographer "accidentally". Mishap! Many people believe, that in a case like that, which may be interpreted negative to some potentates,
photographers of war would never take pictures due to the fear of being killed. Photographers of war want to become famous with their photos -the more cruel they
were, the better-, wanted to make money and a career, but not risk their own lives..
War is diabolic for me! And what was even more worse for me, I was supposed to be drawn in to military service. "Some people" can become rich with war!
After the invasion media of South Vietnam back then reported, that in Huế, like in many other cities of South Vietnam, most of the top-ranking
officers and functionaries were at home during new years festival. When the army of the peoples republic of the socialistic North Vietnam and the People's
Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam surprisingly invaded the city, they already knew who lived where. They went there directly and everyone was executed,
including their women and children. Huế was a headless city afterwards, the communists had taken it "in the twinkling of an eye". Until the auxiliary forces
from outside arrived, thousands of civilians, as well as many religious leaders and numerous officials were massacred or buried alive. How did the enemy of South Vietnam know, which people were against them?
Later one found out, that the conservative city of Huế, just like everywhere in South Vietnam, was
spied on by secret agents of the communistic North Vietnam. But in Huế even buddhistic monks worked for the
intelligence service of the socialistic North Vietnam for a long time. They wanted to take advantage, if South Vietnam would loose. Some monks later declared, that they were forced to spy.
The army of the peoples republic of the socialistic North Vietnam and the People's Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam used the royal palace as a safe place of
retreat during the last fight. The army of South Vietnam had the order from the higher-ups: Hie had to be reconquered at any cost. Afterwards
the royal palace was mainly in ruins!
After this Invasion the surveillance in South Vietnam became more strict. House searches and inspections on the streets happened more often.
Those who had no valid ID with fingerprint and polling certificate was led away by the police. Every male person, who had already completed his eighteenth year,
were instantly brought to the new unit for new soldiers. I was nineteen, but had a certificate, which allowed a delayed military draft until August 1969. This
certificate applied to students and persons, who had an important position in culture or economy.
Pseudonym 青濂 (Qing Lian / turquoise-green-blue clear waterfall)
After the large invasion 1968 by the communists of North Vietnam and the Việt Cộng life of the people in the big cities of South Vietnam wasn’t as safe as
before as well. The opinion "Nothing is going to happen in the big city, especially in the capital Saigon" had disappeared from the minds of the people and
most of the people had little time to worry about war issues! The only thing that stayed was the sorrows, sorrows of every days life, of how to continue, especially for the people, who had few savings.
Despite of all possibilities (modern weapons, bombing of North Vietnam, extermination of the forest in which the Việt Cộng hid) the US and
South Vietnam were not able to defeat the communist North Vietnam and the Việt Cộng in the south. One by one the people fled from the surrounding villages
and small cities close to the battlegrounds into the metropolis.
In Saigon, where we lived, some squares and parks were converted into housing areas. The
meadow by the river just across the street in front of our home was densely covered with houses by the people who have fled to Saigon. The only possibility
the see the opposite riverbank was from our hobby farm, which was located on the meadow close to the river.
During the nights the communists missiles were
fired from some place into the cities, especially into Saigon and the places where the US soldiers were based, like always. But the people responded like they
were getting used to it and didn’t show any more emotions: "If I have to die, I have to die!" or "If I don’t stand up in the morning, I am already dead!"
The big city was also a getaway for the US soldiers which returned from the front. Due to the vietnamese life’s misery and the desires of the US soldiers
there was prostitution nearly everywhere. Bars sprang up like mushrooms. Many girls and wives worked as bargirls and ought to be serving drinks and entertain
the guests and . . . . . because of money they were finally forced to have sex with them. Many lucky family lifes were destroyed, moral was devastated. Many bargirls left their
husbands and children to be able to live together with the GIs. The reason was a comfortable life and they hoped for a better future life in the US together
with the "white" or "black" man, when he would return back home. Such a woman was the wife of an uncle of one of my art colleagues. The Americans came as
friends and later they were detested from most of the Vietnamese. But when the american man left back home, he refused to take with him the vietnamese woman
and even his biological children. The left woman and her children were discriminated and spitted at whereever they appeared. Many of those children lived
on the streets, with the grandparents or in the orphanages, because their mothers were not able or didn’t want to fend for them.
Everywhere you heard of corruption and
briberies and many participated! It was a necessity for the low-level officials, otherwise they would have to restrict their life. And the top-ranking officials were
corrupt too, although they had more than enough to live.
Everywhere I went I always met friendly faces, but behind them were often souls in grief and sorrow. Especially the ones of the women, whose men were drawn to
military service, and who had to wear the burden of the care for the children and the older generation. And the ones of the families, who worried about
the sons, who may not be returning from the front. Everybody had worries . . . . . . everybody had reason to be worried! My family and me too.
Where is the peaceful world, the harmony, the lucky people, who contentedly live in harmony with nature?
Before war destroyed everything I used to go into nature as often as possible, so to the mountains and to the sea. Places which were untroubled by war.
On one hot day I wanted to leave the stressful city and from our house I went left along the stream up to the crossroads next to the large river . . . . . .
then I decided to cross the large river, although I had rarely visited the area on the other side of the wide river – if, then only close to the large
bridge. Like for the most inhabitants of the city, this area was very strange to me. After I reached the other side by passing the big bridge, I took a
small public bus and went with it for about half an hour up to its final stop.
At the final stop the road also ended in a footpath, left and right of the walkway were houses
with large front gardens. The garden fences mostly consisted of densely planted cactuses.
In every garden one could see an "altair of heaven". In the city those altairs were usually attached to the house walls, but here in the village I saw the altairs
standing on pillars. In front of those altairs the farmers had the opportunity to pray for their usual wishes, but I think they prayed for a good harvest in the first place.
Many species of flowers could be admired in the gardens. Going from house to house I instantly photographed the beautiful flowers and plants. Somewhen on the left side of
the footpath there were no more houses, but only paddy fields, which went far . . . . . far up to the horizon.
The people I met on the walkway kindly greeted
me. An old man wanted to be helpful and addressed me with "Cậu". He asked me, whether I was looking for someone in this area, because on many of the houses
around were no house numbers and the people in the village know each other well. Probably he noticed, that I wasn’t from that neighborhood, maybe because I
was dressed like townspeople. "Cậu" has several meanings in vietnamese language:
Therewith you could for example call the "uncle (mothers brother)", a "student", a "young Sir (son of a noble family)" or a servant would call his young master that way.
Some homeowners not only greeted me, but came up to the garden gate when
I took pictures of their flowers across the fence. "Come in, those are beautiful too, you can take pictures of them as well!" . . . . . . . . "This one had
its first bloom this year." The nature was so charismatic, that I was taken with it and had an incredible feeling "Very beautiful, really very beautiful."
Men here lived in an unhurried rhythm, as if they had not heard anything about war. At that place so far I only saw old men, youngsters, women and children.
Where were all the men? They must certainly have been to military service. People here had to deal with war too, although it didn’t seem to be so, that was
what I thought.
Going further, the way ended right before a river. On the riverbank were different types of trees, which provided shade. On the left, the side with the open
paddyfields, you were able to walk along the river on the boundary ridge, but there it was narrow, slippery and wet from the water of the paddy field. I went
to the right, where the way was still wider and houses could be seen up to the horizon. With a distance of some hundred meters there were
"Cầu khỉ / monkeybridges", narrow bridges,
which consisted of a long bamboopole or wooden planks and enabled you to cross the river. On the other side of the bank, close to the water, stood farmhouses,
close to them fences for fishing. All around it ducks swam freely and from time to time plunged their heads into the water to find food. It was hot and quiet.
At that time there were almost no people to be seen on the path, but you could hear the laughing voices of children on the other side of the river. They were
swimming and playing in the water.
I found a tree and sat right into its shadow. After I had taken a mouthful of water I started to sketch this peaceful,
harmonic, idyllic scene with a pencil, so that later in the studio I could transform into a chinese ink painting (see also "Early works").
After a while in which I worked concentrated I noticed that some children were standing behind me and curiously watched what I was painting. An older farmer
was also with them "Cậu / Young mister, you are an artist! You must certainly be from the city." "Yes, from over there, over the large bridge." After he saw
my drawing: "This looks like my daughters house, she is living right there . . . . . ." At that moment his wife called from the fence of the front garden:
"Invite the young man to our place, it is too hot outside, you can better talk in the house."
On the way into his house, in the front garden many species of flowers could be seen too, one of his specialty were the "Hoa Mào Gà", in chinese "Gi Guan Hua/roosters
crown blossom" in english cockscomb (Celosia argentea cristata). They existed in many different colours: yellow, orange, red and pink (see also documentation/ travel/
2000/ Greece). I was enthusiastic with the velvetly charisma of those flowers, instantly fetched the camera from my bag and took pictures. The owners were proud,
that their flowers were such an attraction for me. "Young mister, keep taking pictures, meanwhile I will pick some limes and prepare a drink for us", the wife
Before we went into his home, the farmer showed me the garden behind the house. A garden with fruit trees like coconut palms, some banana- and limetrees
and I saw many more like "Ổi" (Psidium guajava), "Mận" (Javaapple), papaya- and mango-trees. Besides vegetables, herbs . . . . . . behind the garden there were also
paddy fields. The weather was hot, so that chicken and roosters gathered in the shadow of the trees, the ducks seemed to enjoy their lucky lives in the water . . . . . .
We went inside the house, then I said "Life seems to be unworried here!" "Not the way you think, young mister." While we talked his wife appeared from the kitchen
and brought the drink she made from the limes she picked in the garden . . . . . .
After the refreshment the farmer continued to narrate: "My second son fell in war, the older one is still at the front. Now me and my wife live together with our
youngest son and the younger daughter." "My older daughter is married already, she is living together with her parents-in-law and her sister-in-law, over there
across the river, her husband is also serving in the army", the wife tells me. The farmer: "We live from day to day and try to make the best of it. Currently we don’t have
harvest time and there is little to do. Fortunately there is a small factory where coconut oil is produced, that is how some people can improve their lives. My
both daughters work there too, except during harvest time, like the most people from here. When harvesting everybody has to help at home."
After a short break
the farmer continues to tell: "From harvesting rice we have enough to live from in most of the years, apart from that we and the other farmers around have our own
vegetables, herbs and our fruit gardens, that is enough for us. We can sell the eggs from the chicken and ducks on the market . . . . . . . We heard, that many
people from elsewhere fled into the city?" "Yes, the city is packed with people, who fled from war zones. From tellings one heard, that their orchards and
paddy fields were destroyed from both sides during combat, also many of their houses have been hit accidently by missiles from the Americans, a wrong target.
But many were happy, that they were still alive!" "In this area nothing happened until now, we escaped war, but you never know what is going to happen in future
times", he said, and his wife "During invasion in the year of the monkey (1968) the communists marched past this place, over there on the river . . . . . . we were so
afraid . . . . . . How good that 'ông bà tổ tiên / the ancestors' protected us. . . . . otherwise . . . . . ."
Suddenly a neighbour called in front of the fence "Elder brother Năm, elder sister Năm, are you at home?" (Similar to chinese, "elder brother" and "elder sister" doesn’t
have something to do with family relatives, but are used for reasons of politeness, like calling someone uncle or aunt). "We are in the house, come in", my host
answered. Then: "We have a visitor from the city . . . Take a seat, take a seat. . . ." "Thank you! I’m going to stay for just one moment, I just wanted to ask,
whether you have some lemongrass in the garden and can borrow us some cloves." "What a question, of course!" Then the wife went to the back and into the garden.
"Mine are just exhausted and the newly planted are too young . . . . . Young mister, people tell, that many more people from the warzones came to the city, right?"
"Yes, the young mister just told us about it." The neighbor: "We should collaborate for this years crop, save the harvest." With an angry tone the neighbor continues:
"In some central areas some paddyfields were again harvested by the Việt Cộng and not even a little bit was left for the farmers. Like always the Việt Cộng
left behind notes which said: 'Thank you to the people for supporting the revolutionary movement for the liberation of South Vietnam'. Though the farmers do
not sympathize with them . . . . ." At that moment the hosts wife returned with a handful of lemongrass: "Is that enough?" "Yes, yes, it is enough." "Stay with us
a little longer." "Thank you, next time." Then the neighbor left.
"How can something like that happen?" I asked. "The Việt Cộng always come in the darkness of the
night. Of course the farmers knew that, but they cannot defend themselves against them. Often they can’t even inform the unit of the soldiers of South Vietnam,
because the distance is too far, and if they would have been caught by the Việt Cộng, the whole village would be punished as betrayers! Some units of the soldiers
of the republic are not large enough to control the areas. Most of them are at the front. With the notes, that the Việt Cộng left behind, the trust between farmers
and the government of the republic ought to be destroyed mistakably, which also led to the bombing of that areas by the american army."
After a break the host continued: "Many places are controlled by the government of the republic during the day, and at night the Việt Cộng come and demand supporting
taxes. Often the Việt Cộng take the people as a shield in a combat. The people are like a fish on the cutting board and under the knife at the same time." I was
speechless. Farmer Năm continued: "We would have won the war since ages, if there was no corruption. Our soldiers sacrifice their lives at the front, and in the
back country many members of government and higher functionaries stuff the money into their pockets, as much as they can! Nobody cares about the miserable life
of the soldiers families!" "Uncle Năm, you are so right, I see many of the donated goods from the allies on some markets in Saigon." "The Americans asserted, that
war would take some years only! . . .Yes, yes . . . until now too many defenseless civilians have been killed . . . . . . . But we, the farmers, do not stand on
the side of the communists, for 100% not. We experienced the "Cải cách ruộng đất / land reform" in North Vietnam from 1953-1956 and will never forget it . . . . . . No matter who
is in power, the people of the lower class are always carrying the burden."
It is quiet for a short time and I wanted to say goodbye, then the wife of farmer Năm
brought a papaya from the garden "It is just ripe, we are inviting the young mister." "Yes, the fruits coming directly from the tree taste the best." It was an
indulgence and tasted much better than the ones from the market. When bidding farewell: "Come and visit us, when it is possible." Then the son got on his bike and
brought me to the busstop of the small bus.
I then went to that area more often, when I didn’t have other targets, which were further away on the sea, like for example Vủng Tàu, Đà Nẵng,
Nha Trang or in the mountains Đà Lạt. The landscape of that area was most suitable for my studies of nature. For my sketches of flowers, plants, fruit and
trees, I visited the family of farmer Năm and, since he liked to narrate and share his knowledge, he also gave me explanations about growth, bloom, fertilization
and maturing. That was very useful later for my flower and plantmotives. At his oldest daughters place, which was across the river, he showed me the lotuspond,
lotus was one of my favourite flowers.
Everytime when I visited the family I was invited to some fruit, that was ripe in that season. It was incredibly fragrant
and tasted good! Sometimes they gave me some pieces of fruit for taking them home. I sometimes brought little presents from the city, which they got excited about.
Especially two presents made them very happy: A chinese tea service made of fine porcelain and some photos of members of his family, that I had taken.
Some years later, before I registered for military service I visited the area one more time, and also the family of farmer Năm. When I told him about military
service, he was impressed by me and had respect, because I as a Chinese went to the vietnamese army. On our farewell at the little busstop aunt and uncle Năm
said: "We pray to our ancestors for a soon end of the war and that the young mister and my son will return home soon healthy." . . . . . . "Yes! I pray for that
too and we will meet again!" although I had the terrible feeling, that we would not see us again . . . . . . "Ok then, aunt Năm, uncle Năm . . . . . all the best."
He took my hand and pressed it firmly when we bid farewell . . . . . . . . . . . . That was the last time I visited that area.
After many journeys to different places and meetings with many people some thoughts came up to my mind: Where is the peaceful world, the harmony, the lucky people,
who can live happily and unworried in balance with nature! I think this world exists in my wishful thinking only, in fact it is nowhere. It is a yearning, a yearning
inside me. Having these innermost thoughts . . . . . . . then . . . . . . . . suddenly there was a light in me and created a voice like my own: "The world you long
for, you can achieve it with your skills. The skills that nature’s creation gave you . . . . That is your real world." I woke up like from a dream.
An isolated life in balance with nature in a world with turquoise-green-blue colours of sea, mountains and heaven. Where the wind "caresses" the trees or "plays"
with them in consonance. Where the mountains let the water flow down on them, so that one of my five favourite elements, the water, can convert into different shapes
like a pond, a lake or a river. . . . . . . Where there is peaceful life like the silent flowing water in a river. Where the sound of spring water still sounds like
a chinese zither. Shielded from war, mastery, greed . . . . and . . . . . and . . . . . and this is the world of my desire, that is what I hold and put down on paper.
During the time I am busy with that, my spirit is far away from the awful world, far, far away. With this yearning and the realization of it my pseudonym also arose:
青濂 (Qing Lian/ turquoise-green-blue clear waterfall).
Towards the end of the year 1963 I started to study chinese ink painting under professor master 陈章卿 (Chen Zhang Qing). It didn’t take long, then I was acknowledged
and connected to his artists circle. Of course they supported me as a member of the younger generation for the future, when they early saw the passion I invested in art.
At that time there were not few boys, who interrupted their study, because they were fed up or the daily necessities of life forced them. Some boys had been sent from
wealthy families to study art, although they were not interested in it. At that time it was all about the trend to become famous and maybe earn a lot of money with it.
Opposite to that I placed a friend to my master, because this friend also wanted to study chinese art, with approval of his mother. After some month the friends father
came to know this and the friend had to give up the study, although the family was wealthy. His father said: "You should learn something reasonable for life."
In the chinese artists circle around professor master 陈章卿 (Chen Zhang Qing) was also 张达文 (Zhang Da Wen), with whom I often was in contact and who supported my
talent, although I did not study under him. He was the main organizer of many chinese art exhibitions, the revenue of those was used for the founding of chinese schools
in the province of South Vietnam or for financing chinese hospitals in Saigon. Of course master 陈宾杨 (Chen Bin Yang) was also in the circle. Those three were among the
most famous in the chinese traditional literary painting scene of Saigon. The artist 何嫩熊 (He Nen Xiong) from the older generation was not in the circle, but also well
known for this artistic style. Some other members of this artistic circle were also the calligraphic artist 子屯 (Zi Thun), who impressed me by his mental balance
and some others.
It was a very good time, in which I was engaged very much with chinese art, in which many new artistic ideas arose and where I could show my skills. Together
with the mentioned artistic circle, where all the artists from the generation before mine gathered, we often visited art exhibitions, were visiting other artists
or went out for a meal. With every invitation of this famous artistic circle to any extraordinary occasion I was very happy to be part of it. During that time and
despite of my young age I was able to gain experience what life looks like in different social classes. Besides the persons of the artistic circle, the master
generation, one time every two month I met students who studied under master 陈章卿 (Chen Zhang Qing) and master 张达文 (Zhang Da Wen) and we undertook all kind of
things like cooking, excursions, chinese new years meetings, and so on . . . . . Of course we owe the ability to engage in this kind of activities to our parents.
For the time of such meetings we were able to forget the unsettled, terrible, sorrowful world outside, caused by war.
In my case especially when engaged in painting,
creating the world of my wishful thinking. Of course this was some kind of suppression. After 1979, when I lived in Europe, I had the need to reduce the inner burden
of war, because the terrible experiences, caused by war, especially during my military service, always haunted me in my memories. Again I was able to reduce these
memories with my paintings. Maybe, with an adequate occasion, I will somewhen be able to show those pictures, to give people an exhorting memory.
Someday master 张达文 (Zhang Da Wen) said to me, that I should have an own pseudonym and master 陈章卿 (Chen Zhang Qing) too meant, that a pseudonym and my painting style,
content and expression of my paintings should be in consonance. To be honest, I had thought about that rarely until then. Until the day came where I decided for
青濂 (Qing Lian/turquoise-green-blue clear waterfall) as my artistic name it had taken a long time. Because my birth name 陳英義 (Chen Ying Yi) was connected with many
extraordinary memories to my childhood and youth, that even today is very alive in me, I had signed my pictures with my birth name 陳英義 (Chen Ying Yi) for a long
time. Then came a time where I alternately used my birth name and my pseudonym and from somewhen on only the pseudonym 青濂 (Qing Lian/turquoise-green-blue clear waterfall).
Parting from the past is hard, especially when you have many beautiful memories!
Little by little I had formulated my own thoughts in short texts for my artistic seals, to intensify the expression of my pictures, like for example: 自有所思
(Inner thoughts), 心之所安 (Contentment of the heart), 闲乐 (luck of free time), and so on. After the year 1975 when South Vietnam became communistic, one of my
most favored seals evolved: 落赤心思(Thoughts in red). The text developed, when I had to adapt my new life to the communist regime. Since then the colour red has
two meanings to me: In traditional chinese life it marked luck, on the other hand it is violent and bloody. A part of my seal texts have been carved into seals by
陈章卿 (Chen Zhang Qing), because he wasn’t only a master of chinese ink painting but also an art seal carver.
The artistic name 青濂 (Qing Lian / turquoise-green-blue clear waterfall) is pronounced like 清廉(Qing Lian/incorruptible, clearness, transparency). Because of this character trait
I adored many persons of chinese history, like for example: 韩愈 (Han Yu 768-824), 苏东坡 (Su Dong Po 1037-1101) who both were higher functionaries and at the same
time literary figures and thinkers, 海瑞 (Hai Rui 1514 - 1587), a higher functionary and an excellent politician, 郑板桥 (Zheng Ban Qiao 1693-1765), a functionary
and at the same time a famous painter and calligrapher. Those persons stood up for the public good of the people with their lives. The word 濂(Lian/clear waterfall) is pronounced
like 莲(Lian/Lotus), one of my favourite flowers (see Galleries / Special Themes /Lotus), a flower, growing in the mud of shallow water and blooming in the air, a symbol
of pureness and immaculacy.
Both master 陈章卿 (Chen Zhang Qing) and master 张达文 (Zhang Da Wen) found that the pseudonym was chosen very appropriately.
The turning point
On a hot day in June, it was on a weekend: Actually I wanted to visit some friends, special friends, that I hadn’t seen for some month. But it was so hot, that I didn’t want to go outside. Next to a
water-dispenser our both dogs lay with open mouth and extended tongue. They panted in a fast pace, although they had been under the shower shortly before. Opposite of our house, just across the
street on the riverbank in our hobby farmhouse the chicken and roosters sat closely in the shadow of the nightcage. They also had their beaks open and at their throats you could recognize, that
they were breathing fast too. The ducks had the advantage, that they could stay in the water. Our three cats were somewhere in the house in some shady cool corner.
The fans in the house were standing still, because with the heat they would only produce hot air. It was also too hot to sit on the sofa. We sat on mats on the cool floor, which consisted of 40x40
cm large and 4 cm thick ceramic tiles.
Two chinese female neighbours came to visit us, they were looking for some company with my mother. Both belonged to the grandma generation and they were both
aged over seventy. One came from some streets away, the other one lived right behind our house. They came to visit us regularly and felt comfortable with us, especially on hot days. In their small
houses they lived together with three generations, which was unbearable for them. From time to time the neighbours told stories about China, where my parents came from and I listened gladly, and so
did especially my younger siblings.
"It is so hot, I can’t stand it any longer." one of the neighbours said, when she arrived at our place. "There often were droughts in China", the older one told. The other neighbour: "That was bad, I also experienced
it as a child." "In the small city, where I lived as a child, there was a drought which lasted for nearly one month. A part of the inhabitants of the city demanded from the municipal authorities
to pray for rain from 'heaven/god’. A table with many sacrificial offerings was erected on the citysquare, plenty of incense sticks and candles were lit by the city residents and they prayed and
begged with all rituals . . . . . ." I interrupted the talk: "And? Did it rain thereupon?" "Of course not!" the older neighbour replied and completed: "Because the son of the city head was on
holiday from his studies and lived in his parents house at that time." I asked: "And . . . . why?" "The son believed it was superstition. Therewith he insulted the inhabitants and 'heaven/god’."
I laughed until I almost had tears in my eyes! The other neighbour was stimulated by me and also laughed deliciously, . . . . . . then she asked where my sister was. "英婵 (Ying Chan) is just cooking green
bean soup in the kitchen, 英梅 (Ying Mei) and 英芳 (Ying Fang) meet with their fellow students and school buddies for a swim." my mother answered. "Different from former times, todays girls are often on the move
like the boys. I was not very often allowed to go out of the house at that time. And if, then only in company", the older neighbour told. The other neighbour: "Back then this happened in distinguished
families mostly, it wasn’t so strict in our place."
With every hot or cold season alongside to the main meal my mother always prepared suitable snacks to cool or warm the body. For the hot days: Green chinese beans with seaweed or other natural
chinese ingredients, which are also used in TCM. A traditional recipe. "The green soup is ready." My sister brought a large tray from the kitchen, it held small bowls filled with the green soup,
and put it on the mat. My mother requested both neighbours to start with the meal.
I just lifted up my bowl, when I saw a shadow, which fell from the terrace door up to the front door. I wondered who
this could be. Because of the back light I had to shield my eyes with one hand to be able to see properly. "Diểm, come in", after I had called him, I stood up, went outside and opened the
terrace door. "Come in." The dogs also stood up, waggled with their tails and wanted to jump up on him. "No." I said. Diểm fondled the dogs heads, they already knew each other. My mother:
"Come in, sit with us, it is too hot outside!" My sister offered him a bowl of green soup as well.
Diểm, a vietnamese friend of me, which I hadn’t seen for more than three month, came with a "message" from his father, that there was a free position as a lecturer for "Tranh Thủy Mạc / ink painting"
in the academy of arts. The position was still vacant, because it hadn’t been published yet. His father wanted to know, whether I would like to have it and Diểm explained to me, that one of course
would avoid the military draft. The salary wouldn’t be high, because the state needed more money for the country's defense and economy, the culture budget had just been cut by the half. After a short consideration
I agreed. My mother was happy about it and both neighbours also wished me luck.
Because of the joy one totally forgets the time and the heat. It was almost evening, I said goodbye to my mother, my sister and the visitors, then I went out with Diểm.
Diểm’s father was a civil servant of the ministry of culture and Diểm had just been hired as an assistant of an art professor. Diểm had studied western art: oil painting. There were only few
vietnamese artists left, who engaged in ink painting, and those were already very old, too. I was almost sure, that I would get that position!
On the day of the interview, I had shown my abilities in the art academy for more than one hour, although no one requested that from me. After I had shown my pictures, I got the job already and
the interview was just mutually getting to know each other.
The vietnamese, korean, and japanese ink painting originally came from china: "水墨画(shui-mo hua) / ink painting", they almost have the same painting technique and motifs. The motifs of ink painting
are mostly influenced by the philosophy and ethics of Laotse, Buddha and Confucius. Since the ancient world pictures from great chinese artists have always inspired artists from those other countries. Western painting like oil- and watercolour painting had been brought to Vietnam and Asia by the europeans in the
colonial era. During the colonial era in Vietnam more and more young vietnamese engaged with western painting. It was about the market, because the colonial masters were not able to appreciate ink
painting that much! It happens to be the same in China nowadays. Many young chinese study western art, often not passionately, but to adapt to the art market in europe and the west.
In military service
Somehow war begrudged me my employment as a lecturer in the art academy. War has become worse and spread, after one year it reached me and forced
me into a vicious circle. South Vietnam had to call
all young people to military service to defend the country with the slogan "Without a country there is no culture, no economy, no families, simply
At the end of the year 1970 I registered for the military
of South Vietnam by command and chose the navy. The art academy assured me to keep my workplace until war was over.
After a short time of working as a chart-drawer in the administration of a unit for new navy soldiers in Saigon, I entered the military basic
education. After that I was chosen to start a navy-training as a radio operator
in the United States, before that I was supposed to have a special english language training in the american army-academy in Saigon. There was
uncertainty and joy in me at the same time. Uncertainty, because the american
unit was the main target of the Việt Cộng missiles. Joy, because I was able to visit school from late morning for half a day and in the early
afternoon I could go home to my family. I used this opportunity to enjoy my
passion for art.
After graduating the language education a suprise was waiting for me! The navy soldiers with chinese ancestry were not allowed
being educated in the US, but in Vietnam only. The reason: A part of former
educated soldiers went underground in the US and did not return to their home country Vietnam, which was still at war. To be honest, many vietnamese
navy soldiers did the same, when they did not want to serve the war in
their home country any longer! I would have loved to go to the US to escape war for a certain time, but after finishing the education I would have
returned to Vietnam, because my family was still there.
For an education as secretary I as seargant had to go to Đà Nẵng in Cam Ranh Bay. A profession, which in the navy meant not only typing, but
you were expected to formulate and write, complete administrational
work and all that on demand of the commanding officer or the captain.
After finishing the education I was appointed to the the editorial department of the navy magazine "Lướt Sóng/ wavetravelling". From the department of
psychological warfare to the navy headquarters in Saigon as a designer
for magazine pages with lettering and pictures. Like few others I was also lucky, that my family lived in Saigon. So I was able to go home in the early
evening of every day and didn’t have to stay overnight in the
headquarters, unless there was a curfew or guard service. In these two years I participated in exhibitions, even helped to organize them and despite of the military service I had a feeling of contentment and well-being.
In the year 1973 in Paris there was a treaty between the USA with the republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) and the republic of the socialistic North Vietnam with the
National Liberation Front (Việt Cộng) for peace in Vietnam and the fallback
of the american soldiers back to their home. The agreement was mainly made, to let the US not appear as a loser (like the french in earlier times) and
giving them the opportunity to save face. Besides there was a
anti-war mood in the US, the war costed many americans their lives, didn’t bring the advantages they hoped for and was hardly financially feasible either.
Too long the vietnam war already was a red-hot potatoe in the
hand of the US. The communists in Vietnam broke the agreement instantly and repeatedly, instead of making peace with the south! South Vietnam needed more
soldiers at the front and I was installed on a coast guard ship,
and then after one year in a coast- and river-transport ship of the navy.
With the Sovietunion's support of any kind the army of the communist North Vietnam intruded into the south. The army of South Vietnam defended
desperately but heroically its country. The government asked
America for weapons as a support, but the GIs gave the cold shoulder. Many army units of South Vietnam had to quit the battle because of
unavailable ammunition and weapons, they withdrew to the south by
and by. The population fled from their home full of fear and panic.
In the beginning of 1975 when our ship anchored in Đà Nẵng, I was on vacation and was back at my familiy in Saigon. Just then my older brother was on vacation
from military service and at home with his family.
The mood in Saigon was still a little relaxed, daily life of the people was still in a normal rhythm. But I reckoned that this could change fast and the
situation in the capital could become serious.
I used the opportunity to visit friends and professors of the art scene, that I knew, but most of my generation, who were in military service, were not at home.
Back to the ship in Đà Nẵng. In the beginning the mood of my comrades and me was easygoing. Just some days later we received the news that some areas of northern
South Vietnam were abandoned by president Nguyễn Văn Thiệu.
The fallback of the army and the evacuation of the civilians to the south to Huế and Đà Nẵng was ordered. A sorrowful athmosphere spread all across the country, especially in the middle of
South Vietnam. Nobody knew how long one could endure against
I then received a sad letter from home, saying that on the place where my younger brothers unit was positioned, they had to defend against the invasion of the
communists with heavy losses. Many soldiers and officers were
dead or had been heavily injured.
The whole family worried about the situation of my younger brother. Instead of my father, my mother herself rather wanted
to go to him. At once and despite of all circumstances
and difficulties to go into the warzone my mother headed for the long way. The journey to my brother took two days.
With permission of the captain I went to see my injured younger brother, who was stationed close to Đà Nẵng. My mother had visited him there before, when he
was injured in the hospital. When I arrived at his unit,
a unit for returnees from the front, the athmosphere was very turbulent and chaotic. I searched for him everywhere, asked for him, but I wasn't able to find
him. In my despair I returned back to the ship.
Some days later our ship received the order from the top to establish contact to the army unit of the armed forces close to Huế, with the objective of helping
soldiers and civilians with the fallback. In the
rain of the communist missiles our ship wasn’t able to land and was hit by a heat-seeking missile.
From above the missile flew through the ships bridge and steering room and exploded down in the engine room.
During the explosion I sat in the rear part of the ship on a wooden bench, the crossbar of this bench was hit by a piece of metal. Miraculously I was just injured by splinter on my left leg.
In the steering room a comrade had lost both of his hands. Then I heard, that two
machine operators had died in the engine room. Now the ship
sailed to the south without the army unit and without civilians, but with a damaged machine.
Then the captain had recommended that the casualties, which I
belonged to, should go ashore and try to reach a hospital on
their own. By foot and with every means of transportation we arrived an army units hospital ward in the evening. Two kilometers away from the clinic many
wounded were lying on the cold ground on the left and the right
of the drive. Many were still waiting to be examined. Because it was already dark and we were exhausted too, we then decided to lay down to the others. We
wanted to wait until the next morning to then determine whether
we wanted to stay or leave.
Since we were able to move on with mutual help, we tried to reach the harbour of the city of Đà Nẵng on the next day. What a stroke of luck: There was an
ocean transporter of the navy, who wasn’t able to start due to
overcrowding. The civilians on the ship were afraid that the communists would soon be capturing the city, so they wanted to flee to the south and refused
to leave the ship. Because we came from a navy unit and were
wounded, we had an advantage, were allowed to go aboard and were assigned a place on the roof behind the captains bridge.
Finally a large part of the
soldiers and civilians gave up and left the ship, so not everyone
had to die, if the communists arrived. The transporter finally sailed to Saigon.
One after another the army units of my three brothers were liquidated too. My
two older brothers came back from Vũng Tàu and a
province of the middle of the area of Quảng Ngãi. My younger brother also came back from the middle area, close to the city of Đà Nẵng,
he had lost a leg.
From the marine headquarters in Saigon
I was transferred to the marine hospital, where I should have removed the splinter of wood and have my leg medicated. Due to overcrowding the injured over there lay even on the corridors. Because of
the waiting time for the treatment I was granted leave.
April 30th 1975 -
End of a republic, "Ngày Quốc hận / day of national hate"
On April 8th 1975 the presidents palace in Saigon was already bombed by a pilot of the South Vietnamese airforce, who worked as a spy for the vietnamese communists. Anyway president
Nguyễn Văn Thiệu stayed in his residence and governed on from there.
On April 21st 1975 we together with some neighbours excitedly followed the presidents state of the union address on TV, that the communists would soon be capturing Saigon. In the long speech the
president thanked the people for their confidence in him but criticized, that the Americans had let South Vietnam down halfway fighting against the communist North Vietnam and the Việt Cộng in the south.
Several times he had asked the american "friend" to go on providing South Vietnam with weapons, to support the fight. The friend answered with a cold-blooded "No".
The people of South Vietnam believed anyway, that there would never be peace with the vietnamese communists,
because in the year 1954 on the Geneva Conference it was decided to split the Vietnam nation at the 17th parallel.
On their fallback to the north Hồ Chí Minh had left a part of his people in South Vietnam, the later so called Việt Cộng.
This allowed the north to join with them and "liberate" South Vietnam directly.
However, in the year 1973 the Americans had forced South Vietnam to sign the peace agreement with the communist Vietnam. The US-army withdrew back to the US, although they knew, that the North would
instantly attack the South. The communists utilized the "peace"-agreement to capture South Vietnam fast with the support of the Soviet Union.
After his speech president Nguyễn Văn Thiệu commited his position to vice president Trần Văn Hương, an old reputable politician, then resigned and emigrated to Taiwan. The new president
struggled for peace negotiations with North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front (Việt Cộng), to avoid more bloodshed.
It was nearly a wonder, the heavy inflammation on my leg declined and I was already able to walk without crutches. Despite of all circumstances I went to the area of the marine headquarters after some days.
In the area there was not only the marine headquarters, where I had already worked, but also the marine dockyard, the private residence of the highest ranking commander of the marine and the marine hospital.
There I wanted to inform myself about an appointment for a surgical treatment to have the wooden splinters removed from my leg. At the same time I wanted to visit my badly injured comrades.
Already in front of the entrance to the locked area of the headquarters I saw, what I couldn’t have imagined: In the area of the headquarters was an indescribable atmosphere, like in a city that would soon be abandoned.
The whole headquarters with all the marine units was discomposed, the soldiers reacted like little chicks, whose parents had already died and were not able to protect them anymore. They ran around scary,
desperate and in panic on the unprotected compound, and on the sky the vultures were circling, ready to take their meals.
Already at the entrance marine security formed small groups and discussed the current
situation instead of attending to their duties. I went inside. One of the guards asked me: "Where do you still want to go? They are all gone, all the bosses are gone!" Another one: "We just heard it, when we started
our shift today." "Yesterday everything was normal", another guard said to me. He just joined us and continued: "All the ships are gone too! They certainly must have taken the ships last night and
left . . . . . . surely to America, and we didn’t know it." One of the guards to me: "We all will soon leave this place. If you still would like to go in, then do it fast, and also leave fast. The situation may be
changing very quickly."
I went into the headquarters to see what was going on. Files and papers were spread around everywhere on the floor, in the staircase and on the whole compound. Some dozens of soldiers were still to be seen.
They ran around in fear and panic, just packed their belongings and wanted to leave this place as fast as possible, but they also asked themselves: "How and where to?" That were the marine soldiers who were based
in the headquarters, like me in former times. I didn’t know for which reasons they they still were there. Their home wasn’t in Saigon, but in the regions, the communists already had conquered. I left the headquarters
building quickly and went along the Saigon-river to the zone of the marine hospital.
On my way to the marine hospital I could see not a single ship on the waterside, only the swimming marine printing plant was there. The marine soldiers, who were in the area, moved in a hurry too, but were like
In the marine hospital was a very sad atmosphere: The linen and the dressing material, some still being besmeared with blood, lay around very chaotic everywhere, like the files and papers . . . . . . and that was
also the way it looked in the surgeries, where I passed. The rooms were empty. Not one man! I wanted to leave this place in a hurry . . . . . . . . then I heard "Hello!" I was shocked and turned around.
"Ah" a male marine nurse, he talked to me: "Why are you still here?" "I am looking for comrades, they have been treated here." "They were all discharged, yesterday. The hospital is dissolved since yesterday."
"And you are still here?", I asked. "I can not leave, there are still some severly injured here . . . . . Đà Nẵng, my home town is already under control of the communists since a long time, . . . . . I have no
news from my family since months . . . . . . I hope . . . . . . . " He wasn’t able to go on speaking. I noticed that he tried to hold back the tears. A young man in my age, he appeared to be intelligent and likeable.
Whether you wanted it or not, war had drawn man into his viscious circle and turned nearly all man’s life to hell. . . . . . . . If there wouldn’t have been the war . . . . . I was just lost in thoughts, then he
suddenly brought me back to reality: "Will you help me to pack the cardboard boxes and will you come with me?" "Of course!" I packed three boxes with infusions, it wasn’t lightweight, followed him through a long
corridor, we passed some empty sickrooms and ended up in a large room.
In this room eleven hurt marine-soldiers were laying in their beds. Many cardboard-boxes were stacked against the wall, probably collected from the whole hospital: medicine, medical equipment and food. I saw
another male nurse, a little older, who just entered the room with some more of those cardboard-boxes in his hands. He looked at me with an astonished facial expression and said: "Don’t you know, what has already
happened here? . . . . dissolved! They are going to intrude into Saigon, the communists." "Yes! Of course I noticed that already!" "We are extradited!"
For some minutes the silence in the room was absolute. But it somehow felt very long and so as if the world was standing before its downfall. It was unbearable, I had to smash the pane of silence and told of my situation. After I finished reporting about me, the older
male nurse said: "My hometown is Huế, last year I was there for the last time. I am still hoping to see my family somewhen . . . . . . The comrades still laying here are heavily injured, they are also not able to
go home and also don’t know the situation of their families. They are far away from here. Those injured, who were able to move, although their wounds were not healed yet, tried with every possiblity to return back
to their families. Some even don’t know the situation of the places, where they want to go to."
Some minutes of silence, then the younger male nurse spoke: "We both try to relieve their pain as far as it is possible. They still have to get their surgery, but there is no more doctor here." "Last night all ships of the marine started with all the higher ranking marine-officers, the ship’s staffmembers and their relatives,
probably they are on the way to the United States.", the older male nurse said. "We would have tried to come with them onto the ships . . . . but we couldn’t let our comrades down, besides the ships were very much
overloaded. Many of those, who were not part of the ship’s staff, had to stay behind on land." One of the heavily wounded soldiers told us his opinion: "You should have tried to go with them, we have nothing more
to loose . . . . . but you . . . . . ." He wasn’t able to go on speaking, because suddenly the pain became stronger. Another one of the injured: "Yes, you should have tried to get away from here, who knows what is
going to happen to you."
The other heavily wounded soldiers were laying silently on their beds, like half dead, only from time to time they moaned because of their pain, maybe they were probably only waiting for . . . release.
The younger male nurse, whom I had met first: "You should go away from here fast, back to your family, before it is to late." "Yes, he is right, go back to your family fast . . . maybe you can take any action",
said the older male nurse. "And how will it go on with you?", I asked. The younger one: "You should go, we can meet again, if the situation changes." He took my hands and held them firmly, then: "But alive."
"I hope!", I answered, although I did not have a lot of hope in that moment.
After good-bye I went outside in a sad and sorrowful mood. Sad about what I had seen in the hospital. Sorrowful, because I
had to think of my family.
I left the area of the headquarters fast and wanted to go home quickly. In front of the entrance of the compound I met a former comrade, who asked me whether I wanted to go with him, because he knew a possibility to
leave Vietnam. A good friend of him was positioned as second captain on a ship, which was bound to be departing soon. The ship was located in Vủng Tàu and we should try to reach it with every available possibility.
If we would hurry up, we might also get aboard. I answered: "I would like to go home first to say goodbye to my family." He said: "Then we will not make it on time, I also haven’t seen my family for days." That was a
difficult decision for me, because my family was close to my heart. After I thought about it speedily, I patted on his back: "I wish you good luck in America. I can not go with you. My family needs me."
President Trần Văn Hương had struggeled, but the peace negotiations with the communist government of North Vietnam and the Việt Cộng were unsuccessful. The aggressor just wanted one thing: defeat
South Vietnam at any price and capture the country.
Despite of the liquidation of all army units, many officers and soldiers, who had retracted from other battlefronts, collected their last ammunition. Together with the soldiers of all agencies and intelligence corps
they wanted to defend the capital against the enemy as long as possible. One heard that the fight was still lasting.
Everywhere in the city was fear and panic buying. There were also people, who took their own lives. Their children could accept the will of those only, because their parents had told them that they had already
experienced horrible things in the north before 1954, and didn’t want to relive that once more. Also an old couple, owner of a custom tailor shop, which we knew very well, had commited suicide. From the letter left
behind one learned, that they didn’t see themselves able to start life new under the new regime.
During that time I noticed, that the behaviour of the people had changed. The people, who had been friends or knew each other well, had mutually broken off any contact or acted like strangers. In contrast to that,
those people, who didn’t know each other well or were strangers before, suddenly behaved like friends.
A thin vietnamese man with a Hồ-Chí-Minh-beard lived behind our house and was always restrained and quiet. In that time he then made negative remarks about the government and agitated other people against policemen
and some inhabitants of the district.
In our district lived four policemen, who were of course vietnamese too. One of them lived next to us. His wife came to our place, to share her sorrows and fears: "The friends
and acquaintances, my brother-in-law too, when they encounter us, especially my husband, then they turn around and pretend not to know us. My husband almost leaves the house no longer. What will happen to us, when they
march in here . . . . . . . . will they expose him in the public and judge him, like it happened in the "Cải cách ruộng đất / land reform" in North Vietnam from 1953-1956? We are so afraid." The neighbours wife trembled from fear and worries.
that moment my parents didn’t have a proper answer, because policemen have always been the biggest enemy to the communist spies. So my parents reacted like they would do with every other neighbour and friend and said:
"Stay calm, do not react, just ignore, if you didn’t do something wrong, you don’t have to be afraid." To be honest, we knew exactly that the communists would soon be standing in front of the door. Everybody was in panic,
afraid and worried. Those who were able to behave normal, were either not a human being or one of the communists.
Coincidentally we had just bought some sacks of rice (each a hundred kilos), large boxes with
sardines in cans and preserving glasses with pickles for a very reasonable price from a warehouse-owner. The goods were owned by an import- and export-company. Some days ago the proprietor had flown abroad. My mother
wanted to calm down the neighbour and comforted her:"We have a little more rice left over, do you need some?" "Yes, we would be very thankful! We have been everywhere, but got only somewhat. Besides they haven’t paid
the wages to my husband this month. They said that he had to wait, but since yesterday no one is in the administration office anymore." The neighbour, the wife of the policeman, got a large bowl of rice and a dozen of
the sardine cans. Together with her daughter she carried everything home, after she had thanked us one more time.
After April 30th 1975 everyone knew, that the man with the exceptional beard was one of them, a spy of the new regime. A marine officer, which I knew from the print office of the marine headquarter was also one of them.
Everywhere in nearly every sector of South Vietnam there were spies of the communist North Vietnam, even some "Thượng toạ/Thero, spiritual leaders of buddhism". And if they haven’t dropped their mask back then, you don’t
know it nowadays either!
Then on April 28th 1975 Trần Văn Hương transferred the power to general Dương Văn Minh. In the first republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) Dương Văn Minh was head of the army and military adviser of president Ngô Đình Diệm.
In the year 1963 Dương Văn Minh led the military coup against him with approval of the Americans and took over the government. President Ngô Đình Diệm, president of the first republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), was presumed to be disobidient in
the eyes of the Americans for his politics of independence against abroad and to the use of Vietnam. He refused to site Americas army in Vietnam for the fight against the communists. He agreed to a support with military
weapons only. This lead to his downfall. By intervention of the CIA-employee Lucien Emile Conein Ngô Đình Diệm was dispossessed by his generals, also supported by buddhistic monks. Years later one had found out that
most "Thượng toạ/Thero, spiritual leaders of buddhism" had been spies of communist Vietnam, and still are today. On November 2nd 1963 Ngô Đình Diệm, a catholic, fled with his brother Ngô Đình Nhu into the "Cha Tam"
church in Chợ Lớn and was brutally murdered by the rebels.
Trần Văn Hương had the hope that with Dương Văn Minh he would have the possibility to develop a rescue plan for the country . . . . or to surrender!
The communists already were just around the corner of Saigon. The important and large companies, enterprises and factories had already been closed. A week before the owners and their assets had turned away to abroad.
Right before the invasion of the Communist Peoples Republic of Vietnam from the North the intellectuals, western oriented inhabitants and normal citizens of South Vietnam had secured their valuables and
property. Western cultural goods and evidence of a capitalistic way of living were entirely destroyed as fast as possible.
At that time my family too had completely destroyed the business documents, art collection, fictional and non-fictional books from the republic of China (Taiwan), the republic of Vietnam from the South, Hong Kong and
the West. More than 30 rice-sacks (each 100 kg) were plunged into rivers, additionally a large part of my early works were sacrificed at the same time, because, so my father said, they may be recognized as capitalistic,
pleasurably and against the working class. Also nearly all exhibition catalogues and photopraphs were amongst it, as well as especially the beautiful clothes of our family, which were put on at festive occasions only.
It was hard for my mother to seperate from them. But it shouldn’t end up in the hands of strangers. The only things left were the books about mathematics and general knowledge.
In the beginning every family kept the elimination secret. The objects were sunk into the rivers during the night or in the early morning. Later everybody noticed, that they weren’t the only one, everybody had the
problem to get rid of the "things". Then nobody was in fear or was keeping it secret anymore.
For the third time I went to the river to sink the books, the sun was just rising. I was shocked, when I suddenly
saw that close to the river bank about 30 m away from me, a man and a woman also cowered there and with their hands they were just grabbing the large rice-sacks. Truly we were terrified by each other. Both looked at
me and suddenly grinned friendly, then the man nodded his head. At that moment I suddenly understood, what he meant. We simultaneously let go the rice-sacks from our hands and they slowly sank into the river.
had heard, that Hitler ordered to burn books. That was frightening, but I did not see that with my own eyes. But here and in this moment I with my own hands had to destroy our beloved pieces of art and books. In me was
not only anger, fear, sadness and desperation but also pain!
Surprisingly for the people everything went faster than expected. The reason was the army of South Vietnam had no more possibility to continue defending their country, because the ammunition ran out. The
army of the communist North Vietnam and the Việt Cộng invaded Saigon with russian tanks and was already in the presidents palace. Just two days after Dương Văn Minh had taken over the power as president of South Vietnam (Republic of Vietnam), he
capitulated on April 30th 1975 against the communists North Vietnam (Socialist Republic of Vietnam) and the Việt Cộng and he proclaimed the south vietnamese government to be dissolved.
The Aggressor in power - The new state, the "Socialist Republic of Vietnam"
On April 30th 1975 war really was finally over, just as many people in South Vietnam had always wished for, but they had envisioned it in another way. The army of the
North marched into the South and all of South Vietnam was also coloured in dark red!!! For the people in South Vietnam April 30th 1975 became the "Ngày Quốc hận / day of national hate".
Book burnings, imprisonment, propaganda policy
"Đảng lãnh đạo, Nhà nước quản lý, Nhân dân làm chủ! / The party leads, the government administers, the people are the owner!" - Vietnamese communist party
After the communist Vietnam had taken South Vietnam and declared the victory, the first step was to close academies, technical colleges, universities,
schools, publishing companies, printing plants, public libraries, bookhouses, bookstores and newspaper stands, all, really all, with immediate effect. Every literary
creation, reference books, magazines, pictorials, publications and newspapers of the above mentioned institutions were all, really all collected bit by bit, thrown into
the fire until they had been transformed to ash.
All sculptures and memorials in every city have also been smashed on the first day of "liberation". Only few monuments of vietnamese heroes of the ancient world have been
spared. All pieces of art, whatever style they belonged to, had been taken down from the walls of every public building, agency, company and factory. A part of them had been
destroyed at once, another part was taken away to some place. Instead portraits of uncle Hồ (Hồ Chí Minh) were "neatly" presented at important spots, additionally the propaganda
posters of the party.
Everywhere on the squares of the city, at the entrances to the parks, wherever you looked you saw the portraits of uncle Hồ. Even on the
altairs of the temples and churches his portraits were presented. Of course also the propaganda posters of the party, giant billboards and banners like: "Không gì quí hơn độc
lập tự do! / Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom!"
Immediately also members of the government, higher officials and army officers of South Vietnam were searched for, led away and arrested, furthermore individuals,
people from associations and organisations which were against the communist system. Amongst the population of the former South Vietnam there were questionings and
searchings for the above mentioned persons, which were lasting for month after April 30th 1975. It stirred up an atmosphere of fear, worry and stress amongst them.
Some days later my sister came home to change clothes. Her three best classmates from university were with her at our place, but only for a short time, because they had to go back,
where they came from, the university.
One day after South Vietnam had been coloured in dark-red, all students, pupils and workers of publishing companies, printing plants,
public libraries, bookhouses, etc., had been called via radio from the new regime to return to their positions and to cooperate with the revolutionists, if they didn’t want to be
regarded as reactionists! With this appeal the people were of course "willing to do so" and returned to their positions "voluntarily". They joined up, because they were afraid and
full of cares something bad may happen to them.
With a stressed, desperate, angry and scary tone my sisters classmate told us, that every student had to repeat loudly a
prewritten text, which said, that all books of the library and the whole university belonged to the degenerated culture and therefore all of them had to be burnt. Then all students
had to shout out loudly: "Decayed, decayed". . . . . . "burn, burn". With tears in her eyes the other classmate said: "They compelled us, . . . . . compelled us!"
sister: "In the laboratories they foolishly smashed all the test glasses with their guns." "With the machines the companions constantly asked us, what it was. We explained
it to them, but they also smashed all of them furiously", one classmate told us. She continued: "The expensive imported equipment from Europe and America . . . . . . . They supposed
some of the machines to be radio transmitting sets for keeping contact to the "reactionists", especially the telephones." My father: "They have never seen such modern machines.
Especially the Việt Cộng, until now the most of them have been hiding in the jungle, how should they know them!"
My sister and her classmates from university didn’t have real food since days. Everyone of them ate a bowl of rice and sardines from the tin – good, that we still had them - and
somewhat vegetables with it, then they had to set off again. Otherwise it was imminent, that they might "learn the value of work" . . . far, far away from Saigon, how it had
already happened to dozens of students before.
From mutual narrations the student groups found out what had happened to the other groups during "cooperation work" with the communist comrades in university.
A student of
another group told, that in the universitys library a comrade called up a female student and asked her: "Cô kia / Miss over there, what do you have on your hand?" "Do you mean me?"
the student answered. "No, the other one next to you." The adjacent student: "Me?" "Yes, you, what do you have on your hand?" The student was irritated: "Books for the collection
point!" "No, I mean on your finger", the comrade was somewhat impatient. The questioned student: "A ring, I inherited it from my deceased grandmother." "Hand it over!"
The student hesitated a little, but her fellow students whispered to her: "We have left all our jewelry at home, why didn't you . . . !" Then they gave here a sign to deliver the ring
to the comrade. The comrade took the ring between his fingertips, precisely watched it back and
forth. A few times he turned the ring in the palm of his hand and watched even closer, then: "Gold?" The student: "Gold!" "Comrades, come here, a goldring", the comrade shouted. The
other comrades looked at the ring even more precisely. One of them even scratched the ring with his fingernails, another one bit into it or rubbed it on his skin. Then a comrade from
another room entered and took the ring with him, to show it to the other comrades.
The student didn’t get the ring back. After asking twice one comrade declared, that the ring was "temporarily" confiscated by his group leader, afterwards the commanding officer would
decide the case.
The student never received the ring back. It was a simple goldring, which she had inherited from her grandmother. For more than eight years she wore the ring
on her finger in memory of her granny.
There are many more stories about what happened at the university during that time, stories told between students and being unbelievable!
Not only in the university, but also
in other institutions for normal people, stories with the "liberators" happened, which sound incredible, but they are all true, true stories. It had really happened.
mother of four children told, that on the day after the invasion, on May 1st 1975, the family was ready for supper. On the table: A plate with "Thịt kho Trứng / pieces of pork belly,
boiled eggs, braised with fish sauce (A wellknown South Vietnamese dish)", half of a a fried dry fish and a big bowl of boiled vegetable with water. Next to it a pot with boiled rice.
The woman told: "That was, what we still had left over from the last days. There was nothing more to buy anywhere, we should have to get by with the fish and the meat for maybe
When the family wanted to start with supper, suddenly the front door was pushed open, seven comrades from the "liberation army" entered the house. After they had
searched every corner of the house, they turned up to the family at the dining table. A comrade asked: "What are you eating?" The father: "Fish . . . dried fish, pork and eggs."
"Where do you have them from?" The mother explained: "I still got them some days ago from the market." Then the comrade pointed at the cooking pot: "And whats inside there?" The
father: "Rice . . . boiled rice." Another comrade: "From the new harvest?" The mother explained: "For years there hadn’t been enough from our crop for the people, nearly all of the
paddyfields have been destroyed by war. This is imported rice . . . from America." A "liberator" suddenly freaked out: "Attention, they want to poison us. Don’t eat that!" The parents
reacted totally bewildered. What did the comrades mean with "poison"? The family had been eating american rice since years! In that moment the parents could only wait, until the comrades
from the "liberation army" left, then they would be able to calmly start eating, because they were already hungry."
One comrade whispered into another one’s ear: "Be careful
comrade, don’t eat, when it is from our enemy it may be poisoned!" Then he continued speaking to the family with a loud voice: "Start eating! . . . Eat!" The children were frightened
and feared and started crying. The parents were afraid and even more bewildered. Then the comrade: "Eat, eat, let the children eat." The children cried even louder, their mother slowly
prepared four bowls, each of them with some meat and vegetables and said to the children: "Children, don’t cry, start eating, . . . . . start eating, otherwise you will soon be hungry."
With an afraid look to the "liberators" the children slowly started to eat, the parents followed up.
Suddenly one of the "liberators" again shouted loudly: "So, that’s enough!"
The comrades then gathered around the table, took the food for themselves and the parents had to drag their children away from the table.
After the "liberator"-comrades had eaten up
everything from the table, they also went to the stove, to eat the remaining food from the cooking pots. Then one of the "liberator"-comrades said with a snug and satisfied tone:
"We came to liberate you. The slavery and the exploitation is now over for you . . . . What we see here, is just poverty and distress. In the north we have a much better life than here.
Everybody there is more than happy and is full up with the good food." Another "liberator": "We have modern skyscrapers, factories and hospitals . . . all of them are very
modern . . . . . thanks to the communist party."
Of course noone believed that anyway and to be honest the life of the people in South Vietnam was different to what the
propaganda of the communist party of Vietnam told. The "liberator"-comrades, wherever and whenever they appeared, always told the untruth about South Vietnam, although they saw the
facts with their own eyes. They told lies and made propaganda for the communist party of Vietnam and their government, as if someone had implanted a speaking machine into their brain!
The truth was also, that until that time not a single high-riser could be seen in the "Socialist Republic of Vietnam". The only high building was the mausoleum of Hồ Chí Minh in Hà Nội.
The population did not have enough food to eat, they were happy, when they had just a simple meal. The facts of the "Socialist Republic of Vietnam" before 1975 had also been documented
with photos and films by journalists from America and Europe.
A large "protest march" accompanied by "escorts" marched right through the major streets of the city of Saigon. You could see banners, which were held up by the "protestors", like for
example: "Down with capitalism", "Down with individualism", "Down with the degenerated culture", "Destroy the reactionary and decayed and deteriorated art and literature", "Forever
chairman Hồ Chí Minh", and so on. Through the speakers the "escorts" repeated very loud the texts from the banners and the "protesters" reechoed them also every two minutes. You could
also hear, that the "escorts" were not satisfied with many of the "protestors" and yelled increasingly clamant: "Louder, louder . . . . . . . . . . louder!"
There were some irritated
people in the crowd on the roadside, they watched inquisitively but didn’t seem to understand completely! Because everywhere you could see the big banners: "Không gì quí hơn độc lập
tự do! / Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom!" What did the regime really mean when using the word "freedom"? There were people, who were so happy that war was
finally over and that they could freely enjoy life again. Like for example my ex-schoolmate: "Do you see that? Nothing is more precious than freedom, now we can finally live free." At that
moment the escorts of the protest march came up to them and the other bystanders and dragged all of them into the "protest march". The other bystanders instantly tried to abscond
I went into a byroad quickly too. I was under shock when I saw a small group of people about 30 meters in front of me, being controlled by two policemen. I
instantly turned around and entered another small bystreet. At the same time I shortly looked back and saw, that the people were guided in direction of the "protest march" by the two
policemen. Good, that they hadn’t seen me! With a fast speed I walked on . . . . . . . . . . . .
There was an announcement: Those, who owned printings of any kind, pictures, structures, uniforms from the old governemnt, from western or western oriented countries, were requested to
hand them over to the local authorities immediately.
When handing it over you had to specify the name and the address of the owner. Every book, every magazine, every
pictorial, etc. was made a note of by the authorities, even from every piece of art. Then the owners had to come forward for "interviews" with the authorities every day. Those who had
to go to work, received an official information for his work unit, which allowed him to get one hour off for the "interview". But actually the workers had to register with the
authorities after work on every day. The daily "interview" could take up to three hours.
They always asked the same questions in the "interviews", like: "Do you know who else owns such
deteriorated cultural assets?", "When did you read this book? Tell us about the content!", "What do you think about the subject of this book? . . . . . Good? " or "What interested
you in the subject of the book? . . . .Why?" or "What interested you in this picture? Tell us, what it means to you!", "When did you obtain this decayed piece of art?", "Do you
know the writer/artist personally?" etc.
For some people those "interviews" took month. After the "interview" some had to take part in daily "help-seminars" for up
to one year, to "orientate themselves back to healthy thoughts and spirit" and to "appreciate the value of work".
Those persons, in whose homes they found "deteriorated culture and things" during a raid, had of course immediately been brought to a foreign place for reeducation.
people, like for example us, had destroyed their "deteriorated culture" before April 30th 1975 or had stashed it away well. We had the great luck that nothing could be found by the
authorities during the raids of the new regime, so we escaped this fate. At our place they only found some books of mathematics and general knowledge, nevertheless they were confiscated
by the government.
What would have happened, if the "reactionary writers and artists" wouldn’t have been able to flee to abroad before April 30th 1975, what if they wouldn’t
have been able to destroy their own creations or bring them out of the country? The thought alone gives me the creeps! At that moment I was happy, that I was not so renowned in vietnamese
art community, but therefore more famous in the chinese community and art scene of the country, because I had and still have the most passion for chinese ink painting. That was why the
new vietnamese regime didn’t keep track of me and in that case I escaped an evil fate.
Children as tools of the party
All pupils and students, who had visited school and university during the time of the old government, my siblings were amongst them, were detached to miscellaneous and very hard-work to
"appreciate the value of work". Most of them were happy to receive a meal, be halfway full and didn’t have to starve.
Only the children of primary school were allowed to go
back to school. The chinese schools were all nationalized, the same happened to their modern hospitals. The chinese primary school pupils were taught again as well, but in vietnamese
only. There was no more chinese school system.
Everything started new, a new system of learning from the communist government. You could only have a new educational system
starting with the children.
About eight months later my youngest sister and my brothers, aged twelve and ten, told us, that up to that time they had only been taught songs and lessons, which as regards contents
praised the communist party, honoured uncle Hồ Chí Minh, and told about the evil capitalism and the agressors from the USA, who had to be destroyed.
It was quiet boring for my youngest
brothers and my sister to hear about the same topic over and over again in school and to permanently repeat that. My brother didn’t like to go to school any longer and said: "I don’t have to go
to school for that, if I wanted that then I could read that on my own at home . . . . . its always the same stuff!" That had worried my parents and me very much. My father had instructed
him, that he should continue to go to school. Not going to school would mean: Being against the school system was equivalent to being against the government.
On the other
hand my parents were happy about it, because many other children had a completely different behaviour, that let their parents be outraged: At home the children told and sang about uncle
Hồ all the time, they explained to their parents about the party and the whole lot what it had done for the people. Everybody should be thankful, that the communist party was there,
otherwise you were a traitor. "I don’t want to be a traitor, and mother, father, you should also not be traitors, right!?" The children had been very much manipulated in that short time
and were very much politicised for their age. "Back then we have just been workers, now we are the owners of the country. The government works and administrates for us. The party leads
us and shows us the right way!" . . . . . . .
The children, especially the young pioneers spied on their parents. The parents had to be careful when uttering in front
of their children and in contact with other people. It was even worse, that some children put pressure on their parents and threatened them: " . . . . . . . if not, then I am going to
tell to the party official, that you did . . . . . . . . . . . !!!!"
There was a very famous nursery rhyme, that was always sung by children everywhere and also at home: "Đêm qua em mơ gặp Bác Hồ.Râu bác dài tóc Bác bạc phơ . . . . . . . . . . / In yesterdays night
I dreamt of a meeting with uncle Hồ, uncle’s beard is long and his hair is grey . . . . . . . ." and after that nearly every child felt the desire to meet uncle Hồ. For that the children
should be faithful and obedient and well-behaved to the party, if they wanted to fulfill their dream. With their parents the behaviour of the children was the exact opposite.
Somewhen, a short time later, my younger siblings came home from school. My youngest brother had a red scarf bound around his neck. His class had been declared to a young pioneer class,
because there were so many active and "good" pupils in the class. With that a large part of the pupils had the responsibility, that they had more influence on the other ones in the class,
who were not that advanced, because they hadn’t been active enough with the program of the party.
The pupils were divided into groups, each group with one or two, who still
had to learn from the others, how to become a good young pioneer of the party. Of course in each group there was one, who was trained directly from the young party official, and was
installed as the group leader.
After school from time to time my brother met with his two best mates at our place. "Nobody can influence me, I don’t like them." "It is the
same with me, they can do what they want, but I won’t. . . . . . . . My father said to me, that I should also adapt a little." "My father is always wondering, what all that in school is
supposed to mean, but my father also says, that we should pretend a little, so that they will not become discontented with us." My youngest sister mostly behaved silent: "You should
be quiet, maybe someone is listening to your conversation, and don’t talk about it in school. . . . . . . . .."
In the year 1978 my father allowed my youngest brother together with my oldest brother and his family to flee from Vietnam by boat, following their own will. With them were also two
of my other brothers. Later in Australia my youngest brother successfully graduated at the university, and so did the children of my brothers and sisters later, they still live in
Australia and the USA today.
Under totalitarian control
After April 30th 1975 the people have been brought under strict control of the new regime's police, the so called "Công An /Public peaceful order" by integrating each ten houses (i.e. ten families) into one group, each group had one group leader. Each ten groups were assigned one "supervising policeman".
The "supervising policemen" were authorized to convoke the group leaders to a meeting anytime and inform themselves about all what had happened in the groups. Who did what,
who remarked what, who was in contact with whom, how did the people in the groups behave. If the reports were not timely, the group leader was called to account. Not only the
"supervising policeman", but any other policeman and public authorities were entitled to "visit" each family, see whether everything was "O.K." and ask questions. The group leader
also had the task to encourage the people to execute the instructions of the communist party and the government and to go to the meetings.
In each group a group leader should have been elected, but nearly in every group noone wanted to run for it and in the end someone was appointed and declared to be the group
leader by the "supervising policeman".
In our group a man had nominated himself, but the people had suggested my mother to be the leader. My mother
mentioned a lot of reasons, why she shouldn’t accept that, like for example: "We were a mercantilist family. Not one of my grownup children had really worked until this day
and instead they only studied. My children served in the army of the former government. . . . . . . . Something like that was already seen as a betrayal of the working class!
No, no I don’t want to . . . . . ." My mother had not yet finished her speach, but the people didn’t want to accept that and absolutely wanted my mother to take over the function
as group leader: "Your children did not voluntarily enlist for military service. Say, that this is the truth." Another female neighbour: "Yes! My boy was also 'forced' to go to
the army!", and of course the neighbour did not tell the truth. Another one: "Elder Sister, please accept the position as group leader, . . . . please!" "Yes,
The "supervising policeman" had watched that the whole time and showed a curious and amazed face. When he tried to get a word in edgeways,
the man sitting next to my mother whispered into her ear: "Please accept the position, Elder Sister. If he picks one, one of those, then we will not have a life anymore!" then
the neighbour suddenly shouted loud: "Elder Sister Trần (陳/Chen), represent our group, I am for her!" "Me too!" The whole room was deeply energized, then suddenly very loud, because nearly
everyone piped up: "Yes, I also vote for Elder Sister Trần!" "I am also for her." "Me too!" . . . . . . . . . It was so loud, and my mother wasn’t able to tell her own opinion to
it anymore . . . . . . . . . . . The "supervising policeman" stood up with a dissatisfied expression on his face, he turned around, went to the exit and still turning his back
to them he spoke to the people: "The meeting is finished."
On our way home one neighbour said: "Elder Sister, good, that you agreed to take over the position. We know, that there are enough of them in our neighbourhood. At least this
night I can sleep a little! . . . . . And tomorrow . . . you’ll never know what else happens tomorrow!" Another neighbour: "Yes, I am also happy about it, me and my husband were
so worried about this before! The one in the grey shirt, who nominated himself for the position, he is surely one of them." The neighbour next door (the wife of the ex-policeman):
"We know, that our Elder Sister will not betray us. If one of them would represent us, then we would be more worried and would live in uncertain fear." The whole neighbours
continued to discuss on the way home, in fear and with excitement, because they didn’t know, what would happen within the next few days!
My mother felt like the victim of all, what had happened at the election assembly. My father was "ill" and therefore not present on the meeting. When he found out what had happened
at the assembly, my father was speechless and full of cares, that my mother ended up in an unpleasant situation and how things could be regulated in the future! At that time my
mother stood in the center, between two fronts!
In the time after this, before she went to the group leaders meetings, my mother, my father and one of the children
sat together and considered exactly, how and what my mother should tell. She didn’t want to sell the neighbours out and more important, she wanted to communicate this in a credible
way to the "supervising policeman". The easiest way would have been to claim: "I know nothing about it, I haven’t heard anything and I didn’t see anything too." But there was a
problem: Maybe there was someone in the neighbourhood, who after all spied for the "supervising policeman".
My parents sent my youngest sister to the neighbours to tell
them, that they should avoid contact when meeting in public. And if they met one should be extremely careful.
Everytime we waited excitedly at home, until my mother
returned from the group leaders meeting and then listened curiously, when my mother told us, what had happened.
There were also regular meetings for women and
get-togethers for the youth, so the people had not very much time left for their private life.
Remembering the adolescence
The "liberation army" of the North had perfectly carried out the plan of their government. They knew precisely what they immediately had to undertake after victory over the invaded
At once the storehouses of the former government and of private owners were locked and put under guard. Little by little the quality-rice and all other
goods from the storehouses were transported to North Vietnam. The North had allegedly suffered a lot when "liberating" the South. Now they should be compensated for that with the
goods of the "aggressor USA" and the reactionary government of the South. The goods of the West were much sought-after over there. Later, when the communist Vietnam occupied Cambodia,
primary products, rice and other goods were transported from Cambodia to Vietnam in the same way.
I wanted to go out to the two storehouses at the quays of the river to the right side. The owners children were friends of mine and I wanted to see, what would happen over there. One
of the children was a student of professor master 陈章卿 (Chen Zhang Qing) and the other one I knew from the navy. He went to America for his marine education and had returned back to
Vietnam . . . . . . . I went to the patio and after opening the patiodoor I stood still. For some minutes I lingered there, watched across the street in the direction of the river in
front of our house. I remembered the time back then . . . . . . . . . . .
At that time . . . . . . . . . in the year 1957 our family had just moved from the province Ba Xuyên to this place, to the outlying district of the capital Saigon, a silent place, but
you could easily reach the center of Saigon with several means of transportation.
Our house was located on the quay of the river, just across the street there formerly was a
wide meadow, which led along the whole riverbank and which had a row of 楊樹 (Cây Dương / Casuarina equisetifolia / Australian pine tree). We had an unhindered view to the other side of
the river and there was few car traffic on the streets. A landscape, not ony beautiful, but also romantic.
In dry season and as children my siblings and me had been sitting
or laying on a mat on this meadow and we played there after evening meal until sunset. My father often came home late, but otherwise he was always sitting with us. From time to time
also the neighbours kids came to us to play with us.
There were pretty wild flowers on the meadow and depending on the season different kinds of insects. The most beautiful
time was the one with the fireflies.
In the Seventies war had become dramatically worse. Bit by bit people from the combat zones had been fleeing to the capital Saigon. The refugees had been cutting the trees from the meadow
which was opposite of our home to build their own little houses. Since then we could see the river and the opposite river bank only, when looking across our hobby farm, which was on
the meadow too. The hobby farm then was the only place for me with a far sight to the other side of the river for my morning gymnastics. For us, the children, the hobby farm was a
place, where we kept ourselves busy with plants and animals. But after the year 1975 only some vegetables and herbs were left over in the hobby farm. There were no more flowers and
animals. Flowers were luxury goods and animals had been confiscated by the authorities.
The river we lived at was a crosslink river between two other rivers, actually it was a channel, which was dug during the french colonial time. The river on the left hand side was
really large. The river on the right hand side was smaller, but with permanent traffic of ships, because it had more storehouses on its quay, than at the river in front of our house.
On our quay there were only two storehouses, both were on the left and right end of the street, on which we lived. Since I was a child I went there from time to time, to
watch the ships, how they landed and cast off, how the carriers with the goods on their shoulders balanced over an inclined, elastic wooden plank, about 40cm wide and 10 cm thick, up
to the riverbank and then carried it directly into the storehouse. That was an awesome effort of the carriers. They balanced like acrobats in a circus. Back then there was already a
queasy feeling in me, when I saw those carriers, how they often carried a ricesack weighing one hundred kilos just on their shoulders. I always felt sorry for them.
At the end of the right side of our street, at the river crossing there was a hill, the same on the opposite bank, vis à vis to our house. Both hills were connected by a car bridge,
which consisted of an iron construction, being covered with thick wooden boards. It was told, that this bridge had also been built during the french colonial time, and back then it has
been very important for the storehouses of the area, but later, approximately in the time of my childhood, it was not necessary any more. Since my childhood there was no car driving on
that bridge anymore, because the wooden planks were not stable enough and a collapse was imminent at any time. The bridge had never been repaired as long as we lived there. It was not
so important for the road construction office, in that area only very few cars drove anyway and they had to make only a small detour.
The war and its victims - fate of a neighbour
A loud yell got me back to present. The old neighbour, uncle Sáu, who lived diagonally across the street, was running in the middle of the street, which has happened some times before,
and he shouted: "Give my children back their life, you murderers, you barbarous . . . . . you are not even animals . . . ." The daughter ran out of the house immediately, with one hand
she held her father tight, with the other hand she covered his mouth: "Father, father, come into the house . . . there is our house!" Aunt Sáu, his wife, also came to him immediately.
Mother and daughter tried to bring the man into the house but he whirled around so heavily and again he shouted: "You murderers . . . . . you . . . . ." When I went over to them and
tried to help aunt Sáu, also the neighbour next to the family had come along. All together we brought uncle Sáu back into his house. The wife cried in deep despair: "It is already sad
enough, why do you create even more problems . . . . ." The daughter cried also with her mother. The uncle slowly settled down and regained consciousness.
I went back again. In
front of our house some neighbours had already gathered together with my parents and they talked with sympathy and sad faces: ". . . . .it is so difficult to treat a mental illness!" The
left neighbour: "Maybe he should take some tranquilizing pills from time to time, maybe this can help a little." The female neighbour: "Where can you get such pills nowadays? All
pharmacies have been closed, many doctors have also disappeared." Another female neighbour: "My husband takes a pill every day, since yesterday we looked for those in the whole city,
but we did not get them anywhere!" My father: "We hope that the family will not get into even more troubles." The neighbour: "If he continues to yell this way, he will perhaps be
arrested, even though he is ill . . . .'murderers' . . . ., you know what they think of that." . . . . . "Sad!"
The married couple Sáu and its youngest daughter some years ago (1971) fled from the combat zone into the capital Saigon. On the meadow of the riverbank opposite of our house they had
built an own little house and since then lived there as our neighbours.
Aunt Sáu had already told us and the neighbours, that before the family came to Saigon, they lived
in a rural area close to Mỹ Tho and were farmers of a fruit plantation like most other people too, who had lived there.
The couple had alltogether five children, three sons
and two daughters. With the fruit plantation the family had a good life and was contented, despite of the war situation. Then came the point in time, when both older sons have been
enlisted for military service. At first the older son, one year later the younger son.
The war became worse and the combat zone widened from day to day. After a short time
war arrived close to the area where the fruit plantations were.
After a fierce fight, that took more than ten days and nights, the allied had cornered the Việt Cộng. The
Việt Cộng had fought their last stand for more than ten days and have been pushed back close to the fruit plantations by the allies army again and again. Then the Việt Cộng fast captured
the fruit plantations, took the farmers of the fruit plantations and the inhabitants of the area as hostages and the fruit plantations as their refuge.
With the fruit
plantations the Việt Cộng had the advantage on their side. They now were able to wage a guerilla war, which they handled perfectly. They always attacked the army of the allies at
lightning speed and surprisingly during the night and withdrew with the same speed and only few casualties. The allies could only defend against them and there were many dead and numerous
injured amongst them.
With reinforcements the allied pushed into the area of the fruit plantations. A fierce battle killed not only soldiers of both sides, allied and Việt Cộng, but
also numerous farmers of the fruit plantations and inhabitants of the area became victim of it. They had been used as a shield by the Việt Cộng, that also killed the eldest daughter and the youngest
son of the Sáu family. The fruit plantations and the area around it were totally destroyed by the missiles of both warring parties.
The farmers and the inhabitants of
the area had nearly all been mentally traumatized. Uncle Sáu was injured and not able to overcome that fate and became permanently ill. Aunt Sáu had to take care of the complete
livelihood of the family and she only had the help of the youngest daughter, who also survived. They produced several kinds of sweets and sold them on the market.
years, in the year 1973, the family of aunt Sáu had slowly become accustomed to the daily life in Saigon, although it was not easy. But they still hadn’t coped with the trauma of war.
Then another shock for the family: They received a message from the authorities, that the army unit of their oldest son, was completely destroyed by hundreds of missiles from the aggressor.
The son had fallen when defending his country, South Vietnam. The Sáu couple now had the only hope, that their second son would return from the battle area in health.
In the beginning of the year 1975 the aggressor, the communist Vietnam of the North, bit by bit had also captured provinces and areas in the northern South Vietnam.
The soldiers and civilians still alive escaped in southern direction.
The message of surviving soldiers returning from the front to their families, raised hope in the Sáu
couple, that they may soon meet their son again.
On April 30th 1975 the army of the communist North Vietnam and the Việt Cộng had defeated South Vietnam nearly
twenty years after the first aggression. They marched in with russian tanks, right into the capital of the south, Saigon, along with the "voluntary cheers" of the population. They declared
the unity of Vietnam under the communist system. At that point the population of South Vietnam had to suppose, that all soldiers of South Vietnam not having returned, would
either not be alive anymore or would be prisoner of the communists.
The Sáu couple didn’t want to believe that heir son had fallen. They hadn’t given up their hope that he
was still alive. Regardless they mourned for their son!
First they had lost their eldest daughter, their youngest son and the fruit plantation, then the eldest son and the
second-eldest son, who also had fallen in the war. Uncle Sáu wasn’t in control of his mind any longer. He was heavily traumatized. Several times each day, even in the night, he ran on
the street and opprobriated the new regime as murderers, who were responsible for the death of his children! He was now a thorn in the side of the new government.
"You are murderers . . . . . you have killed my children . . . you murderers" "You murderers . . . . . murderers . . . . 'liberation' . . . . who are you liberating? I don’t need your
'liberation'. We all here in the south don’t need your 'liberation' . . . . . murderers." Or "The murderers, they should stay over there, in the north, behind the 17th parallel . . . . . . .
I don’t mind if they establish their idealistic communist country, but they should leave us, in the south, alone. We don’t need your 'liberation', you war criminals!"
very good understand such cursing statements from people like for example uncle Sáu, because their children, husbands, family fathers had been killed when defending against the aggressors
from the north:
Because of the dividing of Vietnam along the 17th parallel, following the Geneva conference of 1954, the communists received the northern part of the country (North Vietnam) and
the republic the South (South Vietnam). The government and the people of South Vietnam planned, that the reunification of North Vietnam and South Vietnam should only be brought about by diplomacy and
referendums in the form of free elections of the whole country (North and South), as it was planned in the Geneva Conference for the year 1956 - but in no case by measures of war, as
the communist Vietnam had planned. But with a referendum by a voting the communists would have lost. Because most Vietnamese longed for a democratic republic of Vietnam instead of a
socialistic, communist Vietnam after reunification.
The communists refused the free referendum and instead Hồ Chí Minh from the north and his Việt Cộng-accomplices in the south
of the republic had attacked the republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) immediately and made war with large assistance from the Sovietunion. China supported the communist Vietnam just up
to 1972. The Sovietunion wanted to widen its empire. Hereupon South Vietnam had to defend its country. When the Americans joined into the war in South Vietnam the
communist Vietnam took advantage of the situation and propagated, that they "wanted to 'liberate' South Vietnam from the aggressor USA".
Propaganda - One of the stagings
I set off to where I wanted to go before: To the two storehouses of the friends, to see what has happened over there. Out of the patio door I went to the
right in the direction of the junction of the two rivers. Nearly at the end of the quayside I went into a small walkway instead of going further under the
bridge. Left of the walkway was the hill of the bridge approach, right of it was the wall of a large storehouse, before which there were planted some trees
up to the crossroad with the other quayside.
Nearly at the end of the walkway I unexpectedly heard a voice of somebody, who spoke with a north
vietnamese accent. Usually you could only see people placing into stock and releasing from stock at this quiet place. I was kind of shocked and stood behind
the trees to watch what was going to happen at this location. I saw a group of eleven soldiers of the army of the North. They stood on the place right before
the entrance gate of the storehouse.
An old, very large film camera had been carried on the shoulders of one of the soldiers, so he presumabely was
the cameraman! A higher ranking soldier, certainly the director, explained to the group what and how they had to work and one of them wrote everything down
on his notebook. One soldier carried the flag of the communist Vietnam, he stood together with seven other soldiers, who just changed their clothes. They
took off their uniforms, left it lying around on the ground. Then they changed to some other clothes. I was astounded! What they put on was torn, dirty and
they looked like beggars. No, even worse than beggars! The beggars I had seen looked totally normal! Since then I hadn’t seen something like that before in
Back then there were people in that country, who sat in front of each temple entrance and waited for donations from the temple visitors.
Those people were called beggars! In fact many of those "beggars" were better off than any normal worker. The temple visitors wanted to donate a lot for the
temple and also for the "beggars", to be relieved of their sins and make sure that they would be better off in their next life! The "beggars" exploit this
belief up to nowadays. In fact there were also real beggars, but only very few. Those were not able to go to work, because they were already very old and
didn’t want to become a burden for their children. But the children disapproved of their parents sitting in front of the temple to cadge. Begging was a shame
for most asians! However there still were some beggars, who were just lazy or cheaters.
The cameraman stood on the one side of the entrance gate
of the storehouse and directed the camera to the other side. After a signal, the flag bearer ran in front of the camera, stood next to the entrance gate,
waved the flag and shouted: " Everybody come here quickly, get what you want, you are free now, get as much as you need . . . . . . Quick! Quick!" The seven
disguised soldiers ran through the gate in a fast pace right into the storehouse, then they came out through a small aside door, which was next to the main
entrance and behind the cameraman. Then they instantly ran past the camera back into the storehouse. So the disguised soldiers ran around in the described
circle, certainly at least twenty times. Then they ran in the opposite direction. That means they came out of the entrance gate of the storehouse, each of
them carrying a sack of rice on his shoulders, passed the cameraman, than they ran behind the camerman and through the small door back into the storehouse,
and with the sack of rice out again to the camera. They also took this spin more than twenty times. While running the disguised soldiers constantly yelled:
"Down with the aggressor America and its puppetgovernment, down with capitalism, down with exploitation, down, down! . . . . . . . . Down! . . ."
that the rice sacks the soldiers carried on their shoulders were originally meant for one hundred kilos of rice, but they seemed to be very light for the
soldiers. A regular goods carrier had to go very slowly, step by step and be careful, but those soldiers with the rice sacks on their shoulders ran as if
it would weigh not more than ten kilos. A cheap fraud, a bluff package, I thought. It instantly became clear to me, that this was for sure put on for a
documentation or a report about the "liberation" of people from "slavery under the aggressor USA and its puppet government, the republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam)".
That was always said by the communist regime in its propaganda. Suddenly I had goose bumps and wanted to leave this place before someone discovered me.
I turned around, tried to walk normally, to look unsuspicious, but my legs were somehow cramped, I wasn’t able to use them how I wanted to. I had to be careful
and watched out not to push the branches of the trees. The noise would have called the attention of the soldiers to me.
Finally I made two thirds
of the way by walking very carefully. Triggered by an automatic reaction I was now able to walk in a faster pace until I reached the place on the quayside,
where I entered the small walkway before. I went back into the direction of our house, but only up to the main street of the district and then turned left.
At the next crossroad I again turned left up to the other quayside, where amongst many others the storehouses of my two friends were located on both sides of
the river. From a distance I was able to see, that in front of one of the storehouses there was a convoi of trucks from the army of the north. Over there they
reloaded goods from the storehouse into the trucks. For sure those goods would be transported to the north. . . . . . . it is better not to go there, I thought.
From the footbridge, which led to the other quayside of the river, I saw that also every other storehouse was monitored by the soldiers of the regime!
What had happened to the friends and their families? I had this kind of thoughts, when I was heading home. On the main street of the district
I saw the residents and their neighbours discussing in front of their housedoors. Amongst them was the owner of the laundry, that was closed just one day after
April 30th, Mr Vinh. He waved to me, as he saw me. I went to him, Mr Vinh to me: "Have you already heard? Everybody has to be reeducated, not just the major ones,
but also the normal soldiers and officials." His neighbour with a very low tone: "Of course! The big ones have already been hauled away. Whereto? No one knows! How
and what are they doing with them? What do you think?! . . . . . . . Everybody has to be brought under control . . . . . . . Even what you think, just now in this
moment . . . . . They trust in nobody!" The neighbour used to be a soldier of the former government as well, he didn’t worry about himself, but more about his
wife and his three little children, if he would be forced to leave the family. Usually, when I picked up the clothes from the laundry, I would have had a
conversation with Mr Vinh, his wife or their daughter from time to time, but in this moment I just wanted to go home quickly. I had an uncertain feeling and
yet wanted to prepare my thoughts on that, what would come up to us in the next days.
Economic expropriation – The life afterwards
Over night there was no more private trading, no more private autonomous economy. Everything could only be obtained through the state. The basic thing for
life, the foodstuff, was decided on by the administration, which family would receive what amount per month. When shopping you had to carry a notebook with
you for control reasons. There was really only rice in bad quality and just enough for a normal meal. You could receive everything else on the "normal" or
the black market, but it was shockingly expensive and unaffordable.
The farmers were allowed to keep a certain amount for their own demand, the
rest had to be of good quality and was delivered to the state. Those products of good quality were partly used for export, the other part benefitted the
members of the party and officials of the administration.
The amount, that the farmers were free to keep for themselves, was allowed to
be sold on the "normal" market. The revenues could be used to buy other consumer goods, but of course only for the official price. But the farmers preferred
to bring their belongings to the black market. Often the goods went through the hands of many black intermediaries, which was the reason why it became
shockingly expensive and unaffordable until it reached the hand of the end-consumer. So this was very normal in everydays life of the people, especially
of those in the cities.
The people went to work with a half empty stomach. They not only had to accomplish more than in the past, but they also had longer working hours. Life was
very much more worse than before 1975. Before 1975 the poorest people had at least a roof over their head, three meals a day and nearly every second day meat
The communist party members and officials now had more than enough for their lives. They even brought their share of meat and vegetables
and other consumer goods, which were unnecessary for them, to the black market, anonymously of course. With the help of the so called "Ba Mươi Tháng Tư /April 30th"
and via black intermediaries the officials brought the goods to the black market and to the people.
The "Ba Mươi Tháng Tư /4.30th", the servants of the winner
The "4.30th" were people, who before April 30th 1975 were normal citizens like anybody else. Thinking of their own advantage, they suddenly blew with the wind
after April 30th 1975 and placed themselves and their services at the disposal of the officials of the communist party and the administration. With many of them
you could see, how they stooped in front of the officials and you only heard from them: "Yes! Yes! Yes!" or "Yes! I hear!" or "Yes! Yes! Immediately!" when they
met one of the functionaries. Face to face with ordinary people the "4.30th" acted arrogant and often spoke in a derogatory tone. Those people were called:
"Sniffing dogs of the officials". But . . . . . . the "4.30th" were doing well and they had more to live on.
You should have "respect"
for the "4.30th" because they had power, an invisible power. They led the people to any possible and unnecessary so called public social work on the free
days and could gossip their "observations" about any participant to the administration or the work unit. Hereupon persons were also "invited to an interview"
at the administration or at the police just as a result of personal revenge. It also happened that by the "help" of the administration those persons "were allowed"
to take part in "reeducation".
There was also a large money exchange. No matter how many persons were in one family, any family was allowed to change the same amount of money against the new
currency. The rest of the money from the old regime was instantly nugatory. "Inside the nation every family is rich in terms of equality."
families who had savings in gold, jewelry and US-Dollars before April 30th 1975 now had to fetch it from the hiding places and sell it bit by bit on the black
market to survive, and so did we.
You had to know a contact person, who was in contact with one of the "4.30th". We gave our valuables to
this person, who should deliver it to the "4.30th" and this person would offer it to "somebody", who could only be a member of the party or a relative of the
administration of the new government. Normally it took some days, then the contact person brought the achieved amount of money to us. The selling price was not
even 10 % of the original price from before April 30th 1975.
With this black deals you never met the executing "4.30th", he was always anonymous.
Same with the buyer, who of course was one of the functionaries. They had become rich by the black market and now they piled even more gold, jewelry and
US-dollars for their own needs. They saw those kind of valuables for the first time in their life. It was even possible, that the contact person never again
showed up and denied having received the valuables.
Those people, who were not able to hide their gold, jewelry or US-dollars before April 30th
1975, now had nothing left over for life. By underfeeding, permanent stress, strain and even fear there were people, who took their own life.
Under the rule of war criminals
After the communists had defeated South Vietnam, a new sovereign was found for the so called "Ba Mươi Tháng Tư /April 30th", whom they served very
willingly. The "Ba Mươi Tháng Tư /April 30th" felt like a dragon in the upwind. Most of the other people had been brought into a miserable situation by the new
The worst and most barbarous situation was those of the former members of the government, the high officials, the high- and middleranking
army-officers, the soldiers of the special units, the intellectuals, all members of the alliance who was against the communist system, persons of the former
South Vietnam with important function, and also the big business leaders and owners of accumulated wealth. Also monks, priests and nuns, who
before April 30th 1975 refused to collaborate with the communists or on April 30th 1975 refused to arrange a portrait of Ho Chi Minh on the main altar in
front of those of the saints in their temples and christian churches. All of those above mentioned people were still staying in Vietnam for incomprehensible
reasons or had missed the opportunity to flee to abroad. Those people, amongst them were also women, either immediately were detained in so called "reeducation camps"
in the north of Vietnam (for the people from the South the extraordinary climate there was hard to suffer) or they had to go to a place far away from their
home, to a place . . . . , a prison. Their relatives did not know where they were. Even the private property of the relatives was confiscated and they were
deported to a "Vùng Kinh Tế Mới /New economic area" anyway and you never heard or saw anything from them afterwards.
Nearly nobody returned
from those reeducation camps. Today you can read in the internet, that a small part of them were set free after decades. They tell, that those places in
reality were prisons with brutal kinds of torture and had nothing to do with reeducation. The large part was tortured to death, amongst them many women, monks,
christian priests and nuns. Those who survived the tortures died of starvation after the tortures and if the one was heavily ill, they just left his body in a
forest or river.
It was researched, that the methods of torture the vietnamese communists used originated from times of Stalin in the soviet union. The small
group of people, who were dismissed after decades, came back to their past place of residence. Mostly they were not able to find their relatives there, and
also not in the "new economic areas". They suffered from the damages to their health caused by the tortures and were mentally traumatized for their whole life.
The people were forced to list their property, especially the rich ones. It was said, that the information was collected for statistical reason only, the
people would be able to keep their property afterwards.
Due to missing trust in the new regime and remembering what happened in the communistic
North Vietnam after the french colonial times my father "voluntarily" delivered our transportation ships to the new government to let the family escape an
evil fate. When he had done that and came home, I saw my father fighting back his tears and he said: "Very hard times in our life are lying ahead of us!" The
house we lived in since a long time, could now further be inhabited by us just because of this reason.
Some time later people, who still claimed
their property for themselves, suddenly disappeared overnight or were deported to the so called "Vùng Kinh Tế Mới /New economic areas" empty-handed.
Month later some of those succeeded in escaping the "Vùng Kinh Tế Mới /New economic area" back to Saigon. They had to hide during the day and live as a beggar
in the night. They told, that it was difficult to survive in those areas and was only waiting for death. With their bare hands the departed had been digging
in the ground everywhere, but there was nearly no drinking water in the so called "Vùng Kinh Tế Mới /New economic area", but only saltwater. With many people,
who never had experienced hard physical work in their life, it went fast. They became weak and died within some weeks.
Years later our house too was confiscated by the regime. We don’t know for what reasons, noone had told us the cause. A house full of lovely memories of me and
my siblings in our youth. A house with the red glowing "纸花 (zhi hua)/Hoa Giấy / paperflowertree" on the patio.
Later, wenn I lived in Germany, everytime when I am on a journey, somewhere, everytime when I see such a tree , I always remember our house, . . . . . . . . . back then . . . . . . a beautiful time
. . . . . . . and then I have that sad feeling.
Certainly after April 30th 1975 all staff seargants, minor officials, administration workers, normal soldiers of the former South Vietnam, who still
stayed in Vietnam, had to enlist by command of the government to be reeducated.
My three brothers and I were staff seargants and soldiers and of course had to be reeducated. My sister who had studied medicine and my younger brother, who
was a pupil, were classified as "smaller capitalists" and had to join the functionaries and "work" by following their instructions, to acknowledge the "value"
of work. Without a wage of course. People "should appreciate", that they were not locked in a penal camp, like some others, where the administration has judged,
that they did not perform their work with full working power.
My father was supposed to be working for the river transportation company of
Hồ Chí Minh city, but my father was "mentally abnormal" and thereby unusable. After reeducation my brothers and I too had to appreciate the "value of work".
I had to take over the position of my father, to replace him, in the office as second head of department of commerce! In fact they wanted us to show them, how
everything was organized and at the same time they wanted to watch the people after reeducation. Exactly that way they treated other people that were in the
same situation like us, they worked in companies, enterprises and factories and were under control and surveillance of the vietnamese, communist party and its
We were under constant supervision and thought control. It was a time, in which I had to push all my feelings and thoughts inwards. Every
word, every movement I had to control for myself strictly. Parallel to that time I was "supported" as a drawer of propaganda posters. They tried to read my
inner thoughts by forcing me to participate in the propaganda wall newspaper. As a day fee and acknowledgement of work, we deliberately received not even the
"value" of a breakfast in a state-run restaurant. They did that to find out whether we still had other resources from former times.
In the year 1978, three years after the communist regime had taken over whole Vietnam, my older brothers still were not able to mentally adapt theirselves
to the new life situation. Especially my eldest brother, who distressed my parents, because he gave his opinion and wasn’t able to bring himself under control
and spoke out even at his workplace. One realized that he was monitored during work and even after working time.
Normally people like us should show
penitence for what we did and how we lived before April 30th 1975. And now in the time of the new regime we should be obedient and make amends to them as possible.
We feared that some day they would arrest my eldest brothers. What was bad about that was the fact that this would implicate the whole family and the
family would possibly be deported to the "Vùng Kinh Tế Mới /New economic area". There was only one possibility: The older brothers had to leave Vietnam to
avoid a bad fate for them and the family.
A secret escape organisation had contacted my father via a confidant. With his technical knowledge my father helped to fix and build up an old boat in a secret place. For security reasons
first only my father and later my mother knew of it. Some month later my two older brothers, my two younger brothers (of whom one was a ship engineer) and I were supposed to go to that
secret place and wait there for the right moment to depart. I didn’t want to take part, because I couldn’t let my parents and the other siblings alone in that situation. So my place was
handed over to my sister-in-law and my nephew. Only my father accompanied the family members to that secret place and then returned back home alone.
Some days later, when I returned
from my working unit, I heard from my mother, that my father had gone to that secret place again to finally say goodbye to the family members, just before the boat set sail. It was very dark
already, when my father then came back home in a sad mood. When my father saw my mother and me, he just stated: "They are gone!"
Years later my oldest brother told me that the farewell was very quiet and my father, my brothers and the other family members had not spoken a word. When the boat set sail, he saw despite of the darkness that
tears were running down my fathers face and everybody was very sad.
Today I still believe, that I decided correctly not to flee together with my brothers at that point. Even if the escape would have succeeded, I would have become distressed, because of the
permanent sorrows about the left behind family.
After that my father daily followed the news on the radio from early in the morning until late at night. News about people, who were discovered and arrested during the organization of their
escape, made us very sad. Same with news about people who wanted to leave Vietnam overland and failed. In particular we worried a lot about news of escape attempts with boats on the sea
route, that were detected by the regime. Those people like the others ended up in a prison.
We didn’t know whether my brothers, sister-in-law and the nephew were imprisoned at that time or whether the boat had already crossed the sea border of Vietnam! We were stressed and worried
The police, the so called "Công An /Public peaceful order" of the new regime came to us for "a visit" regularly, and the "supervising police officer" anyway. From my mother they wanted to
catch up on the latest news about the local people, because my mother was - involuntarily of course - one of many group leaders. If they would discover the unannounced absence of the family
members, the whole family would be in a dangerous emergency. That means, that my parents might be imprisoned or the whole family could be deported to the "New economic area". Because since
the new regime had taken over the power, everybody had to register at the administration when leaving or returning to their place of residence. Also one had to register at the local
administration of the destination when arriving or departing there.
Two of my brothers, who took part in the escape, were normally positioned on ships in the southern province with their working units. That allowed us to tell, that those ships were currently
not located in Hồ Chí Minh City (Saigon). But my oldest brother, the sister-in-law, the nephew and my youngest brother, they could normally be seen daily, every morning on their way to work
or school and especially in the evening in the family circle. . . . . . . . . . . . how should we explain that!? My parents and I did not know how and what we should undertake.
In hopeless situation
After April 30th 1975 the neighbour next to us - wife of a policeman of the former government - came to us from time to time like always, especially after her husband had returned from the
"reeducation measures" of the new regime. After that she visited us even more often. Us, the cildren, just called her "Aunt Năm", because her husbands name was Năm. She seemed to have
confidence in us, maybe because from the other people who knew her family, nearly everyone had broken off contact with their family. Maybe another reason for that was the fact, that Mr.
Năm was an ex-policeman of the old government and the people might have been afraid to get a problem because of that contact.
Aunt Năm told us, complained about the fate of her family: Her husband had been sent from one labor camp unit to another, where there was only physically hard work to be done. Like many of
his ex-colleagues Mr. Năm had to work for more than 16 hours each day and earned just a small, lean lunch for it - nothing else - although those policemen from the former government had only
been responsible for traffic regulations, making out of traffic tickets and collecting the money. On the one hand he was happy, because there were many other policemen just like him, who
never had been in contact with any communist, but on the very first day, April 30th 1975, they were arrested together with the main enemies of the communist regime anyway. Afterwards they
were transported to a reeducation camp somewhere and you never heard something from them. Because before April 30th 1975 in the former South Vietnam policemen were the main
enemies of the communist spies.
For the four children of the Năm family, like for other "rejected" children, there was no space in school. Those children fought on the streets for their daily survival. Aunt Năm: "My
children don’t need no school anymore. It is enough, when my husband and I teach them how to read and write. . . . . . . During his reeducation my husband has already experienced enough of
their teaching methods . . . . . . not with our children, too. . . . . ." On the other hand: If parents didn’t send their children to school without any reason, then they were regarded as an
enemy of the new regime.
Aunt Năms oldest daughter was just fifteen, the oldest son was thirteen years old. Like some other children in their age, both of them helped out some old farmers, who mostly were over 70 years
old and whose sons had sacrificed themselves for the defense of South Vietnam and whose daughters were already married away. Both children helped with the arduous work during the harvest
and on the market. They received some pieces of change and some left over vegetables as a day’s wage. The farmers could not afford more than that, because they had to deliver a large part
of the harvest to the state and could only keep a small part of it for themselves. With that the farmers infringed the system of the new regime, because they were then considered to be a
private company. Of course the helpers also became guilty thereby. But with the helpers the farmers were able to bribe the "April 30th" with some money. With that "everything was fine"
then, if the amount satisfied the "April 30th"!
Since the beginning of may 1975 there was intense activity at the large shipping port of
Saigon. Every day the ships waited in a milelong waiting queue and were anchored in three
rows next ot each other to load goods and transport them to the north behind the 17th
parallel. Goods like new or used cars, motorbikes, bicyles, tape recorders such as Aikai,
radios, record players, furniture, toys and reams of other goods. The goods, which should
be transported to the north by boat, were brought by trucks and cars, which stood on the
access roads to the shipping port and were permanently caught up in a traffic jam.
You could constantly see convoys of trucks of the "liberation army" in front of all the
storehouses and cargo boats on the river. The sought-after goods of
South Vietnam were looted bit by bit, starting from spiritus cooker and porcellain goods up
to chopsticks and . . . . and . . . . and . . . foodstuffs from the storehouses, especially the
imported ones from the capitalist countries. Almost everything was also transported by the
"liberation army" behind the 17th parallel, including fresh vegetables and meat, daily, to satisfy
the hunger of the woeful people there. That is the truth. The truth is, what people saw,
that what the communist Vietnam had done to the former South Vietnam after
the so called "liberation", nobody can deny that any longer. The opposite of that, what the
communist Vietnam always made propaganda for: They asserted that the people had
enough to eat, were healthy and happy under their regime.
On the way from the storehouse to the army truck or the cargo boat the rice carriers used
a hook to hold the rice sacks, each weighing 100 kilos, on their shoulders. Thereby always
some grains of rice gushed through the hook hole and dropped to the ground. Every day
the young eleven year old daughter and the young nine year old son of aunt Năm collected
rice grains from the street in front of the storehouses together with some other children.
Those kids all had the same fate, they were not allowed to go to school, because their
parents had been workers for the government of the former republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), or had
served as soldiers or policemen, although their function was of low degree only. After April
30th 1975 the children of the officers and higher ranking officials of the former republic of
Vietnam (South Vietnam), and those of members of the government were of course deported to one
of the new "economic areas" with one parent, because the other parent was banished to a
"reeducation camp" or they and their families were all together put to jail.
My youngest sister and my youngest brother were "allowed" to visit school, because my
parents had no special connection to the former government. Attending the school was a
"must" for both of them, otherwise they would have been regarded as counterrevolutionists.
Every day those kids, for whom there was no space in school,
collected rice grains from the street in front of the storehouses, before the soldiers of the
so called "liberation army" were able to sweep them up. The children were often insulted
and scared away by the policemen and the soldiers and named as thieves. Although the rice
grains lay on the street, since April 30th 1975 they also belonged as loot to the new regime
from the north.
The truth about "liberation"
Today - 2018 - you can learn the truth on the internet from the former soldiers of the communist
"liberation army" and even from the so called "Anh lính cụ Hồ /the soldiers of grandpa Hồ":
This is to say, that the communist party of Vietnam had drafted the youth from the age of 12
years for grandpa Hồ’s military service to attack South Vietnam and
broaden and assure their power to the whole of Vietnam and South East Asia. "Liberating"
the South was not necessary, said some contemporary witnesses from North Vietnam, but
rather the South liberated the North from poverty, when North Vietnam won the war.
On April 30th 1975 the "soldiers of grandpa Hồ" marched into South
Vietnam with enthusiasm and without resistance, because the american forces and their
western allies had pulled out back to their countries according to the Paris treaty of the
year 1973. Since that point the americans did not support South Vietnam
any longer, not even with weapons or ammunition. The contemporary witnesses found out,
that their communist party and its regime had told them lies and had betrayed them right
from the beginning and therefore all boys, girls, men and women had sacrificed their
lifetime and youth just for the power and greed of the vietnamese communist regime. A
unification of the country could have also been negotiated in a diplomatic way, say the
contemporary witnesses. In South Vietnam nearly the whole population had reached some
kind of wealth and a happy life at that time, despite of the war. Everywhere, especially in
the big cities and the south vietnamese capital Saigon, there were shops, shopping malls,
stores jam-packed with all kinds of convenience goods and luxury articles. In the markets
the vegetables and fruits were stacked to hills, and even butchers could be seen
everywhere. Nearly every street had numerous large and small restaurants, cafés,
stagehouses and cinemas. You could see cars, motorbikes and of course bicyles
In contrast to that still in 1975 every family from the communist North Vietnam received for
example three meters of rough cloth per year, according to contemporary witnesses. They often had to
wait for it for months and had to line up for it for five hours in front of the
store. Coffee and cigarettes could only be received with good relations and if they were
very lucky. If they were, they got 300 grams of coffee and 200 grams of tobacco at most
and per year of course! Savouring these goods was a huge luxury in the communist North
Vietnam. As a coffee filter they used an old empty can with holes and an inlaid piece of
fabric and they filtered and drank their coffee until it was colorless. When after their
"liberationvictory" they held a coffee filter from South Vietnam in their hands,
tears of joy ran down their faces. Old cans were usually also used as drinking pots in North Vietnam.
It was also a streak of luck, if you owned a bicyle, an old one of course! A car and a driver was
provided for higher functionaries and higher members of the administration only.
It sounds unbelievable but it was true and cannot be denied, a former "soldier of grandpa Hồ"
told on the internet: In North Vietnam there was only one state-run radio station in Hà Nội. The
programmes were broadcasted all over North Vietnam and could only be heard via loudspeakers on the
streets. Noone owned a radio, except it was a higher functionary or a higher member of the party.
You could only read state-run "literature" and newspapers, which were controlled by the communist
Vietnam with their ideology and propaganda. After April 30th 1975 there were brave and
curious "soldiers of grandpa Hồ", who secretly tucked some books from
South Vietnam into their army backpacks, instead of bringing them to the burningplaces.
Back in the North, so they told, those books were stealthily read and they found out, that
the literature of the South was very versatile and that in the South they had a freedom of
With the toys and the gold jewelry, which the "soldiers of grandpa Hồ" had "found"
in Saigon on April 30th 1975, they made their whole hometown in the North, where they
lived, be astounded and feel sorry for themselves at the same time. Each day they were
visited by dozens of people, who wanted to see the toys and the gold jewelry with their
own eyes, because they did not believe the narrations. The kind of toys, which I had
bought in the middle of the sixties for my younger siblings, were for example a doll,
which closed its eyes when you laid it down, and which cried, when you pressed its tummy. It
was also a bear with a skin of faux fur, who could walk with its four movable legs like in
reality. A helicopter, which could fly in the air etc. And of course there was the gold, that
the people from the North had not seen before in their lives. When they got to see it, they
were astonished and happy: "Gold . . . . gold . . . . is that gold?" "How much is
that? . . . . . do they really have gold shops in the South, where people can buy gold? . . . . . ."
" Why do people wear gold . . . . can gold heal sickness?" " Gold . . . gold . . . I finally saw
gold" . . . . . . etc.
A "soldier of grandpa Hồ" told, that returning from South
Vietnam back to his home in North Vietnam, this news spread around at once and a lot of
people came to visit him, to see what he had brought with him. A higher functionary of the
communist party of the village was also amongst the crowd of people, but wasn't paid
attention to by the distracted people. The functionary was very angry and told, that it
were all lies and fake claims, because in the "regime of slavery" there could not be gold
amongst the population and the toys, the tapes, etc. that would all be cheap tricks like in
Since 1975 the communist Vietnam celebrates April 30th as the
day of "đại thắng mùa xuân / great victory of spring" and also of national independence.
With this opportunity someone had interviewed some young generations, who were born and
raised up in the former North Vietnam. These interviews can be seen on the internet. One
question was, what this generation knows about the former South Vietnam. The
answer was: "Even when we were children, the male and female teachers in school taught
us, that in South Vietnam our people lived under the regime of slavery of the aggressor
USA and its vietnamese 'Chính Quyền Ngụy / puppet government'. They suck the
blood and eat the flesh of our people, especially those of our children, because childrens
flesh is very tender for them. We have to free our people as fast as possible, as soon as we
are grown-up. Today we are able to learn from the internet, that the former
South Vietnam was a very democratic country with free opinions, a country with versatile
culture. You can see, that even back then South Vietnam was a civilized
and wealthy country . . . . . . . . . and if we, the North, wouldn’t have attacked
South Vietnam, wouldn’t have won the war, and wouldn’t have received the
loot like for example 16 tons of gold bullions from South Vietnam, then we
would still live in misery and poverty . . . . . . ."
Even in former times and
today too the communist Vietnam exports manpower to abroad. The people who had lived
in the former communist North Vietnam told, that when they were exported as a worker to
the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) by pulling strings and by corruption, they
were very happy too. Although their government paid them only a fraction of what the
GDR paid to the regime of the communistic North Vietnam. Because the GDR was like a
pardise for them already. Despite of long queues and waiting for days in front of the stateowned
shops, they finally got, what they could only dream of in their country.
A woman writer named Dương Thu Hương, was once a member of the vietnamese
communist party. Like many others she followed the call of "grandpa Hồ" and the
vietnamese communist party and intruded South Vietnam to "free" the
south vietnamese people, as she told. On April 30th 1975, when she and the "soldiers of
grandpa Hồ" of the so-called "liberation army" marched into Saigon, they saw the truth of
South Vietnam with their own eyes. Years later she succeeded in leaving Vietnam
and lives abroad since then. In an interview from the year 2006 in New York she told, how
all the people stormed Saigon on April 30th 1975. The people from the North and her
companions laughed wildly and were crazy from happiness, because they had won the war
and the wealth of the South was now finally theirs. In that time, when all the other people
happily laughed like crazy, she only cried like crazy, as if her father had died, like she was
grieving for her father and she was considered to be mad.
The woman writer: "The army, who won the war belonged to a barbaric system . . . . . . . . I felt that I had wrongly lost my youth
and I was in a bewildered and bitter mood . . . . . . . ." She thinks, that the communist
regime of North Vietnam was a regime of misleading the people and that they brought a
bitter and miserable life to them. When she still lived in Vietnam she was brave enough to
critizise the communist party and its regime. In an interview from the year 2016 in Paris, where she lived, she told, that she
was opprobriated by the higher functionaries of the communist party of Vietnam and its regime and she was called a
"con đỉ / slut", who was against the (communist) party. Those words (con đỉ / slut) are normally used by primitive,
uncultivated people, bandits and pimps only. Normally, when talking about this topic, you would use the words
"gái mải dâm / prostitute". I am appalled!
Fear, worries and misery
It had just become dark outside, we had just finished supper, my sister just did the dishes
and my father turned the radio on again. We were all quiet, only the voice of the
newsreader from the radio could be heard in the house. The newsreader was from the
north and spoke with a declamatory tone. It was unbearable.
On this day in the company where I worked I just heard about a boat, which had tried to cross the seaborder
to leave Vietnam and that it was detected. The confiscated boat had been taken over from my work
unit, the river shipping company of the city. It could have been the boat, which my brothers went
with. In the company I had already been agitated and at the same time worried all day long, when
I received the news, but nobody should take notice of my inner feelings and regarding my visible
behaviour I tried to act very normal. The functionaries
were so happy, that the company now got one more boat, and that thereby it could reach
the party’s task, the annual transport plan, even earlier. All workers like me were "of
course very joyful" about it. . . . . . . When I told that to my parents in the evening, the
mood in the house was very tense and sorrowful, especially with my mother. Although only
my parents and me knew about the escape of the family members, the other siblings were
not inducted into the truth at that time.
At that tense moment suddenly someone appeared in front of the patio fence. We all were a little bit shocked. Then . . . . . . . we
heard someone talking in a quiet tone: "Grand sister, grand sister . . . ." I had recognized
her voice and said to my parents: "Aunt Năm!" My mother: "She had already visited us the
day before yesterday, may be she has found out that . . . . . ." My mother had an uncertain
feeling, because in the evening often my youngest brother and the nephew played in the
hallway, laughed and were sometimes loud. Without them it looked kind of empty at our
place. My father: "Let her in immediately, people shouldn’t see her standing outside."
When aunt Năm entered our house, we noticed that she sensed, maybe for some days
already, that it was so empty at our place. She tried to hide, that she had perceived
something, but we already got her true feelings at that moment. My mother invited aunt
Năm for a cup of tea, which was left over from our supper.
Inviting a guest for a cup of tea was not taken for granted any longer after April 30th 1975. There were often
power outages, those who had electrical hotplates, additionally had to use cooking stoves
with other fuels, for example petroleum or charcoal. But those were also not available very often
on the black market, they were expensive and therefore many people couldn’t afford
them frequently. Many collected wooden branches and dry leaves to use them as fuel.
Besides all private shops and stores had been closed and were guarded by the government.
The regime sold the people of the former South-Vietnam not even enough rice
to be full up, and that rice was only animal feed quality. Tea . . . yes . . . . . tea had
become a luxury food. Coffee wasn’t available at all. Those who had some left over from
the past could only enjoy it thriftily.
With a worried and angry tone aunt Năm wanted to instantly let out her inner emotions, because she couldn’t stand her situation
any longer. My mother: "First drink your tea, we just prepared it after our evening meal. It
is still warm. . . . . . . . . Sister Năm, drink it, before it becomes cold." Aunt Năm then
drank the tea and has gotten somewhat quieter, afterwards she promptly told us, what
she had heard from her oldest daughter Vân, who worked for some old farmers as a help:
The "4.30th" demanded more "cooperation" from the old farmers by requesting more
money from them, because their "protectors" also wanted more from the "4.30th".
Otherwise the farmers wouldn’t be allowed to claim external help (outside the family).
And if the land area wouldn’t be cultivated successfully, then these areas would be
confiscated by the regime. That was suppression and threat at the same time. Aunt Năm:
"They already live from hand to mouth, how should they deliver even more money? My
children work hard and don’t have even one meal to satisfy their hunger. They want to
push us into a forlorn way, what can we do?" Suddenly aunt Năm was silent and we noticed
that she was angry, but even larger than her anger was her concern about the future of her
family . . . . . . . . . It was silent in the room, so silent and it was such a depressing mood.
My parents were wellknown for being good hosts and good listeners. We felt a
lot of compassion for aunt Năm, but in that moment my parents and me did not utter a
word. Nothing occured to us what we should say, because at that time, especially at that
day, in our thoughts we were with my brothers, my sister-in-law and my nephew, who were
on the run. . . . . . . . . . Aunt Năm broke the silence, she continued talking in a slight and
sad tone: "The police at the store houses was very aggressive today. They did not only
chase off the children who collected rice from the street, but they also ran after the
children and took the rice away from them. When running away my youngest son Tấn ran
into one of the concrete benches on the river bank and now his leg is swollen." My father:
"He should come around. We have the '红花油 (hong hua you) / Red flower oil', maybe it can help
him" - The "Red Flower Oil", an oil from Singapore, was an ordinary chinese medicine,
which all chinese had in their household. It is effective against muscular pain, swellings,
etc. - Aunt Năm: "I’ll go and get him!"
Aunt Năm returned with her youngest son Tấn back to our place. After Tấn’s leg was rubbed in with the oil, he reported with a
loud and unhappy voice. I beckoned to him to talk more quiet. Aunt Năms youngest son
told us the following: A policeman ran after him and took away the bag with the ricegrains,
he had collected from the streets so far. Tấn: "He took away the bag and pushed me, so I
fell onto the edge of the concrete bench. At first it was not that painful, but now it
is . . . . . ." The nine year old continued reporting in an enthusiastic tone: "Minh held his
bag very firmly, he didn’t let go. The policeman punched his face and opprobriated him as
a thief. Minh then started crying in a very loud voice. Trung suddenly shouted very noisily:
'You are thieves too, the rice isn’t yours either'. The policemen wanted to drag them
away, but both refused to come along, tried to break free and shouted and cried loudly, so
that many people came out of their houses and watched" . . . . . . . It was silent in the
room again. Aunt Năm said to her son, that he should already go home and she would
follow him soon. My father: "He should come along a few times for further treatments with
the oil, then it will soon be better." The boy said: "Thanks aunt, thanks uncle!", then he
I closed the patio door and returned back into the house, at that moment my
mother said: "Back then we only worried about our children on the war front line, today
troubles come from every side." Aunt Năm drew her chair very close to my mother, took
my mothers hand into her hands and said: "If my husband, the children and I had the
possibility, we too would leave the country at once . . . . . ." Then she shortly looked to
my father and then back to my mother: "For those, who are on the run: I wish them to be
very lucky." My mother was close to tears and she wasn’t able to speak a word. My father
too. Our neighbour said goodbye to us. I went to the patio door with her. It was already
dark and silent outside, only the crescent moon solitarily hang in the sky. Aunt Năm and I
watched to the left and then to the right, then she walked over to her house with brisk
steps. When I returned into our house my father said, that aunt Năm had detected the
absence of my brothers, the sister-in-law and the nephew and that she would have figured
out, that the family members were on the run. I kept this day in my mind for years and it still
The next day my father heard from uncle 邓康 (Deng Kang), a close friend of our family
and former manager of the rice carriers labor union, that at the store houses on the big
river also some people had been arrested. My father retold us that this were not only
children but also rice carriers. When the policemen had arrested the children because of
collecting rice grains from the street, the children started to shout and cry loudly. The rice
carriers had called, that the policemen should leave the children alone: "They are only
children and they have nothing to eat!", "Please set the children free!", etc. In this
atmosphere some rice carriers must have talked to each other: "They don’t 'liberate’ us,
they 'liberate’ our merchandise, for them of course!" "For the North!" One of the rice
carriers angrily: "'Liberation' . . . this is not liberation, this is plundering!" "Soon we will
not have enough to eat, not even in pig food quality." . . . .etc. The policemen had heard
that and the rice carriers were also lead away.
My father continued: "Uncle Deng Kang told us that the store houses are nearly empty. If this years harvest will be bad
too, then we will be starving to death at first, because the 'comrades' would then of course
transport the good quality food including rice to the north behind the 17th parallel, particularly
to Hà Nội. There would remain only somewhat, but not enough to fill the stomaches." My father
continued: "Those from the North are good at war, but they don’t have a clue with agriculture
and irrigation systems for the rice plantations . . . . . . . . All the people know that,
including themselves. At the time when they led the war of aggression against South-Vietnam
they were mainly supported by the Sovietunion. China was also on their side, up to 1973 when
China opened its door to the western world. Particularly China, there was a famine in China
in the sixties. Nevertheless China supported the communistic Vietnam at the front and in the
back country with i.a. enough food to cover the communistic Vietnams back, so the aggressor
was able to concentrate on its aggression war." My father proceeded and also told, that since
1973 the "comrades" from the communistic Vietnam scurrilously
opprobriated China as "traitor of the international communistic brotherhood and enemies
of the working class". They were especially fierce since the year 1978, because China
brought the reforms and the opening-up of politics to the country, "改革開放 (gaige kaifang) /
reform and opening-up" of China in economy and politics towards the world, especially USA and Europe. That was why uncle Deng
Kang and a present friend worried about the people with chinese roots and ancestry, who
lived here in this country.
"If the trees had legs . . . . . . . . "
Supper was already on the table. At that evening we had not only vegetables, but also
meat, which we had fortunately obtained directly from the farmer on the black market.
That was our first meal with meat since nearly one month. For
all the family members who lived at my parents house at that time, we had about 300
grams of meat, but it costed more than 3 kilograms of meat before April 30th 1975.
My mother wanted us to eat speedy, as soon as the food was on the table. We might
have an unpleasing "visit" by some "comrades", who would enter directly through the
kitchen, to curiously watch, what we were able to afford . . . . . . During our meal we
suddenly heard a call from someone at the patio door: "Is someone at home? . . . . . .
Hello, is someone at home?" My father signed me to go to the front to look, who it was. My
sister immediately put the plate with the meat into the kitchen cabinet. At the front door I
saw Mrs Hai Thanh standing at the patio door. Instantly I reported that to my parents:"Mrs
Hai Thanh". My parents were astonished and surpised at the same time: "What does she
want from us?"
Mrs Hai Thanh lived in our street on the left end of the block next
to a narrow alley, where there was also located a large store house. Mrs Hai Thanh, a
woman, nice to look at for her age, many people said that. For me the woman looked not
so much different than many others. Maybe I was too young to sense the beauty of a
woman or the good looks of a man. It is more interesting for me, when I can like the
character of a man or woman.
People narrate about Mrs Hai Thanh, that her
parents worked together with the french during the times of french indochina. That was
how they became very rich. Many natives considered them to be "traitors of the fatherland
Vietnam". In her youth Mrs Hai Thanh had visited the french colony school in Saigon, later
worked as a secretary for the french administration, and then lived together with a french
officer. Whether they were married or not, it was not known in the vietnamese community.
Her "husband", the french officer, allegedly had built the small villa, which was still
standing there today. . . . . . . .
When we moved from the province Ba Xuyen to Saigon in 1957 this villa was already there. In the year 1954 the french indochina times
ended. The communist North Vietnam and the republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) came into existence
and the french colonial rulers little by little withdrew back to france. Amongst them was
also Mrs Hai Thanh's "husband". But Mrs Hai Thanh remained in Saigon, noone knows for what
reasons until today. Shortly after that she married a vietnamese translator for french, Mr
Hai Thanh. This is where her name came from: Mrs Hai Thanh. Now and then I saw her only son
on the patio of the villa. The young man had a pale complexion and brown instead of black
hair. People tattled, her son was from the french guy and not from the vietnamese, Mr Hai Thanh.
The Hai Thanh couple lived nearly isolated from the outside world. Both of them virtually did
not work, the son didn’t go to school either. Probably because his classmates called him names
and picked on him. One also narrated, that Mrs Hai Thanhs first "husband" had left a lot of
money behind for her and that was the reason why Mr Hai
Thanh married her. Some people guessed, that she inherited her wealth as the only child
from her parents. Mrs Hai Thanh and her first "husband", the french officer, were paired
by her parents through the french colonial administration. The "husband" had zeroed in on
the fortune of her parents, who also financed the villa. She married him because of her
parents and for social reasons and because she had no alternative, that’s what people
narrated . . . . . . . . .
Mrs Hai Thanh had no private contact to us at all. Not before
1975 and also not after 1975. When from time to time my mother met her before 1975 at the
flower stand on the market, then there was just a short greeting. One time I went to the large
store house, passed the villa and saw her son on the patio. I had greeted him and he
looked back to me with an extraordinary gaze. Somehow he wanted to tell me something,
but then he suddenly went back into the house.
My mother instantly went to the front, wanted to welcome her and offer her a seat, but Mrs Hai Thanh was faster: "Mrs
group leader, how are you?" "Fine, thank you, I can’t complain. Healthy and content." Mrs
Hai Thanh stared at my mother with an amazed expression. With a little hesitation she
then continued: "Yes, everybody hopes that." The she asked: "Are there any news?" My
mother wasn’t prepared for that suprising question and asked herself, what this woman
really wanted. I: "What kind of news do you mean? You can receive all information via the
administration and the radio." Mrs Hai Thanh: "No, I mean . . . . . I mean, whether we have
something to do next sunday?" "Didn’t your group leader inform you? Like every sunday
each family should send one person for works to serve the public good. The meeting of the
youth and the men is in the afternoon and the womans gathering is in the evening", my
mother said. Mrs Hai Thanh: "Ah yes, . . . . . that is what I knew before. . . . I mean . . . .
", Mrs Hai Thanh leaned forward to my mother and continued to speak to her quietly
"Didn’t you already hear, that many people try to leave the country? I mean, escape across
the border. On the countryway to China or via Laos to Thailand, many try their luck on the
sea route . . . . you used to own a shipping company." I instantly had to interrupt her:
"We delivered our ships to the government to serve the people and the country. Of course
we heard the reports of the adminstration on the radio, that people who tried to flee
across the country’s frontiers finally ended up in prison or in a labor camp." My mother:
"Why do people flee from our country, I don’t understand that." Mrs Hai Thanh was calm
at first, then she spoke with a strong voice: "If the trees had legs they would also try to
leave the country and flee." The woman bid farewell without saying a word, turned
around and went away.
After that conversation with Mrs Hai Thanh we immediately
decided, that on the next day my mother should go to the administration, because we
feared that we couldn’t keep our situation a secret any longer. The whole night we were
not able to sleep.
Taking a risk
On the next day my mother went to the administration and asked, whether they knew,
where the missing family members were. Because, when removing oneself from the place
of residence, you should register at the local administration. The policeman checked the
journal and was outraged: "No!" My mother pretended to be desperate and appalled and
said untruthfully: "They did not return since two days. I hope nothing happened to
them. Where are they? Where are my children?" She asked the administration to search for
the relatives and if they should find them inform us immediately. "I hope, that nothing bad
happened to them and they will return home safely. Please help us, please!"
My mother visited the administration several times, to inquire the current status of the search
for the "missing" family members.
Some month later we received a short coded
message, that my brothers, my sister-in-law and my nephew had been picked up from the
malaysian island of Bidong by representatives of the USA and Australia and were brought to
those countries to start a new life there. That was a major relief for us. Anyway we
continued to inquire at the administration because of the "missing" family members, up to
the day when they suspended the investigation.
Some month after the conversation with Mrs Hai Thanh we could see, that her villa was
closed off by the administration. People whispered, that the family was on the run already.
Up to today we cannot estimate, why back then Mrs Hai Thanh came to our place to have such an
open talk with us. How came, that she confided in us? Had she been looking for
possibilities to escape and thought that we were in the same emergency situation? If yes,
then we owe her something and hope that she had a happy life abroad. Up to today I still feel,
that Mrs Hai Thanh had a remarkable character and did not deserve the social exclusion. Being
born into a family as "traitors of the fatherland", fate had predetermined her
future. Possibly she had fought for a life that she wanted, but girls and women were not
able to determine their lives at that time. Like many other people she also had a fate, that
she couldn’t change.
"The winner is the king . . . . . ."
Shortly after April 30th 1975, under the Vietnamese communist regime, the citizens of the former South Vietnam were in a very bad state. In
1979, almost four years under the regime, they were even worse, dramatically worse. They had defended their country, but then finally lost it. They felt
abandoned by the Americans, many even had the feeling that they were sold and betrayed by the Americans with the Treaty of Paris (1973).
South Vietnam found the treaty unfair, but in the end the Americans forced them to sign it. "The Americans should have accepted the opinion of Ngô Đình Diệm,
the President of the First Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). Ngô Đình Diệm asked the Americans only for weapons and ammunition to defend South Vietnam with it. He
did not ask for an army because the Americans could not stand the tropical climate and they did not know the communist Vietnam well. But . . . . . . No! The
president was murdered. The Americans preferred to go into the swamp themselves and dragged down South Vietnam with them . . . . . . . We
certainly wouldn't have lost our country if the Americans hadn't only thought about their own position of power!" That is what most of the former citizens of
South Vietnam think.
Since the so-called "liberation" under the regime of communist Vietnam, the citizens of the former South Vietnam have lived under constant threat,
fear and concern. Especially people who were or were not deported to the "New Economic Areas" and who had relatives in the so-called
"re-education camps" - in reality torture prisons - in mostly unknown places, did not get access for a visit. They were not only worried about their
relatives, but fought daily and constantly for their own survival.
People often had to work more than 12 hours a day, 6 days a week and still didn't have enough to eat. They only got poor quality rice from the state shops,
but they already had to pay a large part of their wages. Everything else they could only get on the black market and that was priceless with their wages,
despite their hard work. Of course, the demand for everyday goods could not be met either. For example, they still wore the same clothes that they had
before April 30th 1975, which were very worn out, as well as shoes and slippers that had already been mended by them several times, etc. Many were also ill,
but they had no access to medical care. The five Chinese private hospitals that were financed by donations from wealthy Chinese before April 30th 1975 and
that had treated the low-income earner and the average earner free of charge had now become state-run. These and also the state hospitals refused to accept
them as patients. Nevertheless, they had to come to their work unit. They now felt as the communist propaganda had always falsely claimed before
April 30th 1975, namely that "the citizens of South Vietnam were treated like slaves". But in reality they were now treated like slaves under
the new regime, the regime of Communist Vietnam.
Those who still had savings in gold, jewellery or US dollars before April 30th 1975 and had hidden them in time, could then sell them one by one and thus survive
sparingly. Selling valuables was only possible in one way: By a contact person connected to a "April 30th" The buyers always stayed in the dark background. They
were not seen or known, but it was known that these people were party officials and officials. These people reached out their long arms and reached for the
hidden savings of the citizens of the former South Vietnam in gold, jewelry or US dollars, on behalf of the regime and also for themselves.
In Chinese there is a proverb: "胜者王 败者贼", in Vietnamese there is such a similar one: "Thắng là vua, thua là giặc", that means: "The winner is king,
the loser is the robber."
The aggressor - the war criminal from North Vietnam - felt like a king, with the spoils of war he had reason to celebrate. They lived in villas, high-rise
buildings, houses of those who were able to flee abroad before April 30th 1975, or who were imprisoned in one of the "re-education camps" or deported to
one of the "New Economic Areas" after "Liberation Day". The officials tried with all possibilities to get a position in the fertile country (the former
South Vietnam). To lead a better life and take some of the spoils of war quickly. Gradually their families, relatives and close confidants from
the north followed. Gradually, houses, especially in the city centres, were also confiscated with pretended reasons or even for no reason to meet the needs
of the officials. The former owners of the houses were of course deported to one of the "New Economic Areas".
Many residents of houses and high-rise buildings were asked to cooperate with the revolutionary government that they should share the living space with the
officials or police officers: "You should be glad that you can live with the revolutionaries to thank them for the liberation!"
The "kings" who had won the war now drove cars and motorcycles from those people whom they saw as the "robbers" - the losers of the war - cycling had become
a humiliation for the "kings". They now smoked brand cigarettes such as "Salem", "Dunhill", etc., which were made by the capitalist companies that they had
always badmouthed as slave owners. Each of them wanted to have a "Zippo" lighter. Almost all of the war criminals wore dark "RayBan" glasses, even on cloudy
days, of course. It was important for them to show that they had achieved something. They were now dressed in the best imported quality fabrics of the
former South Vietnam. They wore expensive shoes of the best shoe brands and also the only shoe from the USA at that time: "Bata", of course
imported also in the time of South Vietnam.
The female war criminals had to "occupy themselves" with even more than the men. They tried to dress up to show that they are now on the sunny side of life.
They now wore "color" on their faces, which they had never done before, but now very intensively. They tried and hoped it would at least make them look a
little younger! . . . . . . . Before South Vietnam was defeated, women and their husbands from the Communist North had the same idea in
mind, namely that they would finally get fed at some point. Well, after April 30th 1975, almost all of the men had different thoughts: They turned their heads
as soon as a younger, female person passed by. Now the wife was worried and tried to prevent this with all possibilities . . . . . . . but unsuccessfully.
Not only the higher officials and members of the authorities had at least a second wife or a secret lover, one could hear everywhere that the normal lower
rank also had a relationship with her or him.
Like everyone else, I didn't pass the eating places, but changed to the other side of the street. For often the self-proclaimed "kings" and "queens" stood
close in front of them, chewing in their mouths on a toothpick in a proud posture. They told stories, laughed, smoked, cleaned their teeth and spat the
leftovers on the street. Some of the "April 30th" were also always with them to serve their masters. You could always see that they were in a ready position,
for example to light their master's cigarette. The citizens of the former South Vietnam naturally also hated the "April 30th" and all those who
spied for the communist Vietnam. To them, these people were the traitors and were among those who were to be imprisoned for life.
" . . . . . then life is painful for me . . . . . "
My opinion: "Man not only needs daily consumption, he also has spiritual needs. If daily consumption is not covered and the spiritual need is not fulfilled,
then life for him is painful, worse than that of an animal."
It was a painful life for the citizens of the former South Vietnam. For them there was no longer the daily entertainment, such as international
films from Asia, Europe and the USA, no versatile theatre performances, concerts or different kinds of operas to see. Because all the cinemas and theatres
had been closed down. A few groups organized by the regime with famous South Vietnamese actors played only the plays prescribed by the regime, which were
broadcast from time to time on television. Now the famous actors and actresses were only used by the regime for their own propaganda. Instead of versatile
national and international literature there were only the books published by the Vietnamese Communist Party and its regime, today, 2018, it is still like
that. Nightclubs, cafes, music cafes, restaurants were all locked down. There were only eateries, but they were only intended for the comrades. There was
no access for the losers, but they themselves would also have refused to go there.
There was only one radio and one television program at the time. It was an advantage for the regime that the citizens of the former South Vietnam
almost all had a television or at least a radio at home. As a result, the regime did not need to build speakers on every street corner as in North Vietnam,
and their propaganda reached deep into people's private lives. As soon as one switched on television or radio, one always heard the same thing, namely that
"by the leadership of uncle Hồ and the Vietnamese Communist Party the evil and the scavery of the colonial ruler France was driven out of the country, that
the aggressor America had to disappear home and South Vietnam fell. On the way to the paradise of social communism we are getting closer and
closer to our goal step by step . . . . ." Of course, there was also daily news reporting on what the regime had successfully achieved and encouraging the
people to follow the party, to be faithful and obedient. From time to time a play arranged by the regime was shown on television. For even more entertainment
there were two TV series to watch every week: one from the Soviet Union, I can remember the title "Seventeen moments of spring" and one other agent
TV series produced in Poland.
I still miss the time before April 30th 1975 very much: For me this was especially the active occupation in the art scene, strolling on the book boulevards with
international book shops, going to the music cafés, restaurants and exhibitions with friends. A wonderful time for me - despite the war background - until
I contacted the military service.
The citizens of the former South Vietnam worked hard for a starvation wage, in the evening they were at home with fear and worry. Often they
could not recover from work because they could not sleep well due to worries and fear.
Their fear was (and still is today in 2018) that they would for example suddenly be "invited" by the authorities. It is said that when they arrived at the
office they were often intimidated in advance by the "comrades": "What did you say against the revolutionary government?" And when you answered and said
that you hadn't done that, then the further inquiry came up: "Why did they tell us that?" And if you asked: "Who told you that?", then it was said: "For
security reasons we can't give you the name of our informant." Then the comrades asked the summoned man to cooperate by "gathering information", i.e.
spying for the revolutionary government. This would then also erase all alleged acts by then, although those summoned were not aware of any guilt. But
they were also regularly invited to "talks" to provide the information requested. If they were unable to provide information, then "the acts" of those
summoned would remain undone. Some of the subpoenaed could no longer stand it after repeated "conversation hours", were at their nerves at the end and
simply gave a name of a person they knew in order to have peace. It was precisely because of this that they led the other into a vicious circle from which
they could no longer free themselves. It was precisely this that led people to mutual mistrust, and so the regime took, of course, advantage of the
situation for itself. Some people were so afraid that as soon as they heard anything, they immediately reported it to the police. Many did not dare to say
anything anymore, especially in public, but often also with good friends, because someone might notice it and then . . . . . . . .
People, for example, were already worried about their still young children. With the teaching program at school, the children would later only become the
tool of the regime and would then even be against them, the parents. The parents had tried everything, but they could take little countermeasures. They
were also concerned about what they didn't really have to worry about before April 30th 1975: The meals! Many people thought about this and asked
themselves: "When will we finally have enough food for a meal?" The reason for this was that they could only cover their daily needs on the black market,
but often too little was available and it was so sinfully expensive that many could not afford it. If they only ate the rice, the rice alloted to them
by the authorities, then this was not enough.
The aggressor from the north had won the war, but was then isolated from the alliance of Western countries. There wasn't enough gas and nobody wanted to
deliver it to the barbarians. The new state no longer received any support from the Communist brother countries, and China has not done so since 1973
anyway. Because the brother Vietnam had already received two large pieces of war loot (South Vietnam and Cambodia), now they should cope with
it alone. And what about the sixteen tons of gold bars from the Bank of South Vietnam? Hadn't all this already been transported to Hà Nội,
then dropped off in the Soviet Union to exchange it for gasoline? All the gas stations in Vietnam were closed. For the citizens of the former
South Vietnam, there was no more gasoline after the so-called "liberation". They didn't need it either, because they didn't own a car or motorbike
anyway, not even a bicycle, a new one. If they wanted to go somewhere, there was only one way: on foot. Because there was no public transport in the city
any more. The long-distance buses were also no longer running regularly because they were constantly defective and the petrol was also missing. And where
were the well-preserved city buses and long-distance buses that people had already taken before April 30th 1975, for example to Vũng Tàu, Quy Nhơn,
Nha Trang, Đà Nẵng and Huế, and also to the south as far as Cà Mau? These included Mercedes, Dodge, Ford, Toyota, Renault, Chevrolet and Hotchkiss. Of
course, these buses and cars were now in the capital Hà Nội to present the "wealth" of Communist Vietnam. Some citizens of the former republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) were lucky
enough to be allowed to keep their old bicycle, which had almost become a luxury means of transport.
My job, the city's river shipping company, was on the other side of a river. This river is a cross flow of the river in front of our house, at the right
end of the shore road. I could cross to the company by ferryboat - that was a boat with an old rower - or I could walk over a high pedestrian bridge, both
were about 150 meters apart. The entire walk took about thirty minutes by foot. Many other people had to walk about three hours a day to and from work
and that was painful for them, especially when they had an empty stomach.
For the party officials and authorities there was of course more than enough fuel, both for duty and for leisure. For their spoils of war, cars and
motorcycles "shall not be allowed to rust!"
"Paradise" and hell
I went as usual daily to my work unit, Monday to Saturday, on foot, step by step, step by step . . . . . . . . I heard again and again what had been
in my memory for four years: "Through the leadership of Uncle Hồ and the Vietnamese Communist Party we are on the way to the paradise of social
communism and are getting step by step closer to our goal" . . . . . . . I suddenly found myself in a thick fog. In the wall of fog in front of me I
saw . . . . . . . . human beings, . . . . . . yes, people who celebrated, laughed, danced, talked, ate, drank and . . . . . . and . . . . Everybody seemed
very happy. A carefree life like in paradise! I took a quick step forward to enter this paradise, but it quickly disappeared into the wafts of mist,
then . . . . . . . . it appeared before me again and when I went forward quickly, it disappeared again! Even after several attempts I could never reach
the paradise . . . . . . . . . . I then saw blood, blood everywhere, a bloodbath! . . . . . . . . . . . I then remembered that time . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . yes . . . . back then, at the beginning of 1975 when I was
still in the army service of South Vietnam and since one year was deployed for the second
time on a naval ship. . . . . . . this time on a coastal and river transport ship of the navy with a flat bottom,
which was also able to land on the beach. Our ship was ordered to go to the beach near Huế to evacuate people to
the south, to save them. Among the people were a few dozen soldiers, the last of a combat group of an army unit,
who had run out of ammunition in defense against the aggressor. They had to give up the fight and had survived
only by fleeing. The rest were all civilians fleeing from the Communists.
On the arrival of our ship
off the coast of Huế still on the open sea, we saw how the communists shot
rockets from hiding places on the higher hills at the long beach. Despite the long distance,
we saw a large crowd on the beach, estimated at thousands, fleeing from the aggressor's
rockets, sometimes to the left, then to the right the long beach back and forth. We tried
several times to steer the ship quickly to the beach, but from every direction explosions of
missiles close to our ship had prevented that. The rockets fell like rain from the sky, most
landed on the beach, because our ship was still at a distance, in which the rockets could
not reach us surely. Nevertheless, our ship was almost hit twice.
On the bridge, the
captain, a comrade and I saw that many of the fired rockets had hit people in the crowd
and their blood colored almost the entire long beach in red. Despite the distance we heard
the loud screaming and crying of children and adults. With the binoculars we saw that
people were still alive in this bloodbath. They lay in the blood and on the corpses, in spite
of severe injuries they stretched out their hands towards the ship and waved. . . . . . and
waved with what might be their last strength. Those who were still alive and could still
move ran into the sea towards our ship, screaming loudly for help. People who could not
swim almost drowned, for the sea water was up to their necks, but they went further and
The captain had again ordered to try again to land the ship on the
beach at high speed. My comrade passed the order on, through the speaking tube directly
into the steering cabin under the bridge and into the engine room. I decided to help the
people in distress to get them into the ship when the ship landed on the beach, I thought.
"I'm going down, Captain!" I said in a hurry. The captain had read my thoughts and nodded
his head in agreement.
I hurriedly walked down from the bridge and as I was
jumping onto the ship's deck, two rockets exploded very close to the ship, almost capsizing
it. The water blown out in masses poured over the ship and me, so that I fell on the deck
of the ship. I was thrown into the rear part of the ship and slipped violently against a
bench. I held the bench with two hands and when I had just sat on it, there was a loud
explosion that almost pierced my eardrum and stunned me for seconds.
"Heat-seeking missile, heat-seeking missile", those screams had woken me up from anaesthesia. Then I
felt that there was a lot of pain in my left leg. "Is the leg broken yet?" A terrible flash of
thought went through my head! . . . . . . . . . . . "No! I can still stand" I realized. I was
scared and saw blood all over me. . . . . blood. Due to the wet uniform the blood spread
quickly over the whole body. I then saw that the cross beam of the bench was broken, surely
by the flying splitters of the rocket explosion. I couldn't hear the sound of the ship's
engine anymore. The ship now floated on the open sea without propulsion. I walked slowly
and with careful steps forward, past the steering cabin. From the door to the steering
cabin a comrade, the helmsman, slowly approached me with two bleeding arm stumps.
Then I heard a loud scream: "The two machinists are dead!" I went to the railing and
looked towards the coast. I saw that the whole beach was covered with corpses and the
light sand was colored in dark red. The blood spread all the way into the sea and colored all
the sea water on the coast for miles and miles blood-red. Blood, . . . . . blood . . . . . blood
everywhere. Even on the water bleeding corpses drifted everywhere.
What I had seen on that day has been deeply engraved in my memory to this day.
Arriving at my company, I went to my workplace as usual and behaved very calmly, like
everyone else. Then we heard the daily propaganda of the regime, which we had already
heard everywhere, loudly through the loudspeaker and afterwards the newspaper was read
out, the only newspaper of the city, published by the Communist Party of Vietnam.
On an occasion when we were alone, I asked Nhựt, a worker in the company who was in the
same situation as me: "Will we ever be able to create paradise?" "I think never, it's an
illusion." Suddenly we were scared by a voice behind us: "Aha, you're here!" We
turned around, that was Thu. Thu: "Yes, yes, the people created a paradise, but only for
the whole upper class of party members and functionaries, even before 1954 in North Vietnam.
In public they present themselves as simple as us, but in reality they live in a luxury world
in seclusion from us. We, the people, are like the ploughing water buffalos who prepare
the luxury life for them." . . . . . . . . Nhựt and I were amazed. The three of us looked at
each other wordlessly. "You should be careful what you say. There are ears everywhere."
Then Thu turned around and left. Nhựt and I gave each other a sign with our eyes, then we
went back to our workplace. The 15 minute lunch break was just over.
Thu, a colleague at the company, was almost ten years older than me. At the end of the
French Indochina period in 1954, Vietnam was divided and he had fled with his parents to
South Vietnam. His other relatives had opted for North Vietnam, had joined
the Communists and were even in higher positions there. The people who turned their
backs on communism were a thorn in their side. After April 30th 1975 the wealthy North Vietnamese
native like Thu and his family were mostly deported to the "new economic areas". But by the
guarantee of his high-ranking relatives from the north, Thu and his family were "allowed" to
stay in the city after a short re-education, because Thu had been an administrative official
in the former republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam).
Thu later also told us that his relatives before the "liberation" of South Vietnam in 1975 thought that he and his family had to live
there in poverty and misery like slaves. When they reunited in Saigon after 1975, the relatives
were very surprised and amazed by the wealthy lives of Thu and his family. Their eyes were
opened with the truth about the life situation in North and South Vietnam.
From his relatives from the communist north, Thu also learned about the living
conditions in the communist north, the lives of the poor, and the luxurious lives of the
higher communist leadership. There was corruption, intrigue greed for power, injustice . . . . .
That was a time . . . . . . . . destroyed by the storm
On the way home from work I walked along the river to the pedestrian bridge instead of
crossing the river by the ferry boat. During the day it was always deserted on the streets.
There were only cars and motorcycles to see from the officials and higher authority employees.
But at the time I went home, there were people on the streets like always, people like me.
After work they went in a hurry, heads lowered to the ground, and wanted to be home quickly.
Many of them had an hour-long walk in front of them. As always, no sound was heard from them
except for heavy breathing or an occasional cough. Only the sounds of
the footsteps of worn shoes were clearly audible. From time to time someone drove
past them on a bicycle and many looked after the cyclist. In their eyes you could read their
thoughts, maybe they thought like I did: "Who's so lucky? A bicycle!" Such thoughts had
not occurred at all with the people and also with me before April 30th 1975, because
each family had at least one bicycle, if not even a few motorcycles. There were other
important and more interesting things in life at that time that one had dealt with.
It was already late in the evening, but it was still bright and there was suddenly no wind at
all. The time had stopped, it was very stuffy and I only got a little air and didn't feel so
well anymore. I walked with an empty stomach in quick steps, just wanted to be home
I arrived at the pedestrian bridge, a high bridge consisting of a metal
construction, the crosswalk covered with wooden planks that left gaps of 5 cm. On both
river banks steep stairs with wooden planks led up, between the steps were gaps of
approx. 20 cm. A bridge on which I already had a very insecure feeling as a child when I looked down
to the river through the gaps. With a little caution, I climbed up. On the middle of the
bridge I turned to the left and then to the right and could see almost the whole river up to
the horizon with both river bank sides. The warehouses on the river banks were closed. The
ships on both river banks had not been renovated for years and had almost fallen apart, still
waiting in vain for goods to be transported.
I also saw the ferry boat with the
old rower. Although it was already late and the roads were almost empty, the rower was still
waiting for customers in his old boat. The rower squatted at the end of the boat, with both
hands he held the two knees at his chest and his face lay on his knees. His head was covered
with a broken Nón Lá (a South Vietnamese pointed hat made of palm leaves), so I couldn't see
his face, only his thin, bony hands and legs were visible. The old rower waited and hoped that
there might still be passengers. Maybe he hadn't made any income that day, so he could satisfy
his hunger with it.
It was quiet, dead quiet, bleak, run down and abandoned. A dreary mood. At that moment I felt like crying. . . . . . . sad!
Before the socalled "liberation" period, the warehouses at Saigon harbour and on the rivers were
permanently in operation. Ships and trucks were in constant use. The goods carriers were
constantly busy storing the imported goods of all kinds, the domestic products, in
particular rice, into the warehouses or vice versa on the ships and trucks.
I could well remember that during the rice harvesting season in the southern provinces our ships,
as well as those of other companies, were constantly in intense activity, often into the
night. Because the harvest was to be transported from the south to Saigon in time,
because the trucks of the overland forwarding companies were already waiting for it to
be able to bring the rice immediately to the northern part of South
Vietnam. The ships should also transport goods to the south in time and then bring the rice
harvest back to Saigon to close the cycle. Everything had to be transported punctually
according to schedule, because the rice harvest had to be safe in the warehouses before
the rainy season. In case of need, the ships also had to sail empty to the south in order to
be able to quickly transport rice to Saigon again.
In the high season my father left the house early in the morning, came back briefly for dinner, then left again and often
came home very late at night. For my father it was best when he was on the spot, where
the ships were, so that if something did not go as planned, he could settle it immediately.
From time to time my father also went south to observe the situation and to coordinate
the transport dates with the farmers.
From time to time I had come to this river in the late evening to see the ships and the workers. From the height
of the pedestrian bridge one could view very well almost everything from above: The two river banks with the
ships and trucks were brightly lit. The goods carriers worked in a rhythm that I found very
interesting. In the short breaks the workers sat together, they told and laughed, at that
moment perhaps they had forgotten that the aggressor from Communist Vietnam was a
danger to prosperity. People worked hard, but they were happy or at least satisfied
because they had something to live on through their work. That was a time, a time that I . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . Something was moving in the air.. . . . . . . . . . Yes, suddenly the wind
came back, but it blew very violently, a warm gust of wind, so strong that I had to hold on
to the iron construction of the railing. Below at the two river banks the sand and the dust
whirled quite high. The ferryman's headgear flew in a circle through the air. Dark clouds
formed on the horizon and spread quickly, flying towards me in the direction of the city
centre. The dark clouds quickly grew bigger and bigger, flew faster and faster, hung deeper
and deeper, a creepy mood. I felt threatened by it. I immediately descended from the
bridge by holding on to the railing with both hands and taking the steps carefully.
On the street I held on to my shirt with my hands, my head down and just
walked on. The strong wind whirled the dust higher and higher, a few objects were thrown
up and landed back on the street, an old broken bast basket not far from me. I suddenly
heard the voice of a boy I knew: "Old Brother Yi, come to us, in here!" Then followed the
voice of a woman: "Ying Yi, it's too dangerous out there right now, get in here with us!"
These were the voices of aunt Thắng, the wife of uncle Phạm Văn Thắng and her son
Trung. It was already late, I had spent too long on the bridge. My parents were certainly
worried about me, but with the weather I couldn't go on my way home.
Uncle Thắng's family and ours hadn't visited each other for a long time, because no matter what
you did, one felt observed, especially when you met each other, and would quickly get
suspicious. That's why a lot of people lived very isolated. Often when I walked past my
uncle's house Thắng after work, I saw that aunt Thắng was standing behind the half-open
front door waiting for her husband. When our eyes met, we waved at each other
inconspicuously with a small gesture of our hands.
When I entered aunt Thắngs place, she immediately asked me how my parents were and told me that she
was worried about her husband. "Since he works in the brick factory, he comes home very
late and at uncertain times. I'm really worried!" I realized she trusted me, otherwise she
wouldn't have told me. Then I said: "But the factory is also far outside the city. There are
many people who work even further away from here and have to leave very early in the morning
and are often home shortly before midnight." Aunt Thắng: "I hope nothing happened
to him. Two days ago people were again arrested in the factory, he told me, because they
had expressed something critical about the superior." With a soft tone I said: "No matter
where we work, they will constantly put us under pressure, fuel fears, and we must be
obedient. Because for them we are the people from the former South Vietnam,
the reactionaries . . . . . . . Worries are everywhere."
After a few minutes of silence aunt Thắng looked at her son Trung and told: "His father heard from the
workers in the brick factory that everywhere in the shops, factories, companies, at the authorities so-called
'Tài sản Nhân Dân/national ownership' was constantly stolen and for the superiors the
perpetrators are always 'the reactionaries among us' " I also had to tell aunt Thắng the
following: "Recently a typewriter and a lot of writing material disappeared from my
company and who had stolen it? The one secretary. Of course, because she's from
South Vietnam. This woman would never dare to do something like
that, all employees like us know that and the "comrades" know it too. The "comrades"
know one hundred percent that this secretary did not steal, but a "comrade" could not be
sent to the "education work camp", but this secretary could."
The wind suddenly whirled very strong outside again and pulled through the gaps of the old door and
windows into the house. There was a noise, we saw that a picture on the ancestor altar
fell over onto the porcelain bin for incense sticks and a little ash flew out of the bin. Trung
climbed on the chair immediately: "The glass isn't broken", he said. His mother: "Fortunately!"
Trung leaned the picture against the wall again, then he prayed: "Grandpa, Grandma,
please help us stay healthy and keep distress away from us. . . . . . . . . . ."
The altar looked cold, unusual, no incense sticks, no candles and no flowers in the vase.
Honoring the ancestors is a tradition for us. That people couldn't even afford the least for
the ancestral altar anymore, sad, I felt. Besides, it was hard to get something like that in
those days. Nevertheless, my mother had always tried to get at least incense sticks to
honor the ancestors, even if it was very expensive and only tolerated by the regime.
Aunt Thắng: "I often think that it is good that the parents of his father and of me
have gone to the ancestors, otherwise they would have to suffer todays miserable life."
Aunt Thắng apparently felt no way out in the current life situation. Without thinking twice,
I suddenly spoke: "No matter what happened, aunt Thắng, we still have hope!" . . . . . . .
Trung looked at me like he wanted to ask me something . . . . . . . . . I said to him: "You
shouldn't tell it on the outside, don't forget it, not even with your friends, there are `ears`
everywhere." "Yeah, big brother Yi, I know that" Trung answered. Aunt Thắng had
become a little calmer, but I could still read the worries on her face and that would
probably always remain so.
Uncle Thắng was still not back with his family . . . . . . . . It was quiet outside again. The wind came so suddenly,
just as suddenly it disappeared again. The dark clouds were also blown away by the wind. There was clear sky again and
no downpour as I had feared, because it often happened like this. I had to go home. We
said goodbye and aunt Thắng should greet uncle Thắng from me.
Mr. Phạm Văn Thắng, for us, the children, uncle Thắng, I saw the first time when I was a
child and he was still a young man, in a warehouse. The warehouse belonged to one of the
big import companies, where he worked as an administrator. The imported goods were
transferred from the overseas ships directly into the river ships and then brought to the
warehouses located on the river in the city. On a morning my father, my sister and I wanted
to go into town, but first we went into the warehouse to inform uncle Thắng when the ships
would arrive from Saigon harbour so that he could organise goods carriers in time. For the
owner of the warehouse, uncle Thắng was a trustworthy worker. He was also a reliable, correct
warehouse manager in the forwarding business.
After April 30th 1975, all private property was confiscated by the communist regime. The warehouses were heavily guarded. After
the call of the communist regime, uncle Thắng also reported to the authorities as prescribed
and was then sent to a re-education labour camp. Why? We and the other
friends and acquaintances of him still do not know until today. Uncle Thắng was not a
soldier of the former republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), because he was the only child who had still
lived with his parents and they were over seventy, so he had been freed from army service.
He wasn't a civil servant, either. Perhaps because he had to do with Western goods, which
were much sought after by functionaries and authority employees? After one year in the camp
uncle Thắng was demoted to the city cleaning office to "appreciate the value of honest work". He
had to pull a garbage truck and sweep the streets for up to sixteen hours a day. After two years
then uncle Thắng worked in the brick factory.
Uncle Thắng had three children. The two
older ones were daughters, married and already out of the house. The son Trung was often together
with Tấn, the son of our neighbor aunt Năm, to collect rice grains fallen on the street in front
of the warehouses.
From a distance I saw that my youngest sister stepped out the patio door, and when she saw me,
she went immediately back into the house. I think my parents were very concerned about my late
return. My youngest sister was already standing behind the patio door, she opened the door as soon
as I arrived. Just as I was entering the house, my mother immediately asked: "Did something happen?"
"No, nothing happened!" I replied. My mother wanted to tell me something, but my father said
it would be better after I had finished eating. Everybody would have eaten already and I should start
After dinner I learned that last night more than ten neighbours living in the alley
behind our house had been arrested. Among them were also two Vietnam-born of Chinese descent, like me. Their mothers,
who have died in the meantime, were often with us in the past to keep my mother company. "Did people tell why they were
arrested?" I asked. My mother: "Ms. Tâm said that during the day her husband had heard only by chance as he passed a few
men talking, but then he had gone on. Nevertheless, he was arrested later." "They had talked about 'reform opening' of
the Chinese economy and politics and hoped that Vietnam would also follow this path. Mrs. Tâm could not say what they
had said exactly. . . . . . . . How can you talk about something like that on your doorstep! That was careless!" my
father said. The police had stormed the people's houses that night and arrested them, which means that a spy must have
given clues to the police.
In the vicious circle of injustice
At the beginning of 1979, almost four years after April 30, 1975, many people were arrested in our neighbourhood alone.
"How many more neighbors will be victims of the regime?" The thought went through my head. First, Uncle Sáu, who lived across
the street from us. He ran on the streets several times a day, day or night, insulting the regime as a murderer after the
so-called "Liberation Day of South Vietnam". It only lasted a few days, then he was arrested and a short time later he was
released again. When Aunt Sáu and daughter Linh brought him back home, he was even more traumatised. The uncle was totally
confused and had wounds all over his body. As soon as his wife, daughter or anyone came closer to him, he screamed loudly
in fear and panic: "Leave me alone, leave me alone, you devils. . . . you murderers!" It only lasted four days, then Uncle
Sáu had died. A neighbor: "He was in hell."
Then followed Mr. Lê, who lived to the right of our house, at the crossing to the main road. He was a qualified auto mechanic
and after April 30, 1975 he worked in the city's auto repair shop. His wife told: "His superiors always blamed my husband if
something went wrong with the repair. Although my husband always had to repair according to his instructions and not according
to his own knowledge, which my husband had collected in over twenty years." Mr. Lê also complained to his colleagues and
neighbours about the unfair treatment of his supervisor: " . . . . . . . 'Cán Bộ Nhà Nước / Comrade of the State' with
engineering degree, but he has no clue . . . . . . ." In order to learn "respect for superiors" and to punish for the destruction
of the "Tài sản Nhân Dân / Public property" he was transported to the re-education labour camp.
Another Mr. Lê lived in an alley behind our house, a former medical assistant and nurse. Even before April 30, 1975, he
always had contact with people who needed his help, especially old and sick people. He was also arrested. . . . . . . . . . . The
old and sick people, and those who often had contact with him, should all report to the police. When these people returned home
from the police headquarters after several hours and learned that Mr. Lê had been arrested, they were shocked. He was arrested
for "rushing against the government." Although they were constantly asked in the police headquarters and they had always
responded with "No, Mr. Lê has not incited us against the government, nor against anyone else.." . . . . . . . After several
hours of questioning, the "invited guests" should sign a protocol or give a fingerprint, then they could go home again. The
"invited guests": "We were so exhausted, we just wanted to get home. . . . . . . . . .", "We have answered all the questions
truthfully. . . . . . we would not have thought that . . . . that Mr. Lê . . . . ." Some of them were wordless, at that
moment they thought about how it would go on with them now, because Mr. Lê was no longer there for them. One of the neighbors
to the others: "Yes, . . . yes, it can also happen that way, quite simply!" Everyone was very worried and thoughtful.
In our neighbourhood there were still many people known to us and unknown to us, who had the same or a similar fate as the
above-mentioned neighbours. They were taken to a prison, re-education camp or penal labour camp to spend the rest of their
lives there. Aunt Năm, the right neighbour of us: "We are spied and monitored everywhere. It's hell on earth!" She almost
didn't leave the house, if she did, it was just to us. Every time her husband went to work or the children left the house,
she told that she had to remind the family members all the time: " 'Seen nothing', 'Heard nothing', and always keep your
mouth shut." . . . . . . . . In just a few years under the new regime, the lives of the citizens of the former South Vietnam
had changed so much. People's lives were overshadowed by worries, fear and threats.
" . . . . . to put a man's soul into a cage . . . . . . "
Since my youth, there was nothing more beautiful for me than to release the inner feeling and to express it visibly on paper. The meditative sounds of
inkstone rubbing on the rubbing stone and of mineral paints mortarized in the mortar at an unmistakable rhythm, the structure of the handmade xuan paper
in contact with the ink and the mineral colors. It's how I got in touch with the feeling and later it became like my own religion, holy to me! But after
the so-called "liberation time", from April 30, 1975, I had to keep this religion deep in my heart and control myself that it did not appear externally.
"Văn hóa, nghệ thuật cũng như mọi hoạt động khác không thể đứng ngoài, mà phải ở trong kinh tế và chính trị / Culture, art and other activities cannot
stand outside, but must be in business and politics." - Hồ Chí Minh (literally translated)
This means that culture, art and other activities must be merged with business and politics in one unit.
Under the regime,"art and literature are obliged to follow and serve the policies of the Party and the revolutionary government." This means that the
artists have no freedom for their works, they have to follow the given direction and themes of the Vietnamese communist party and its regime in their
works. The artists are for the regime only a tool for their propaganda. Otherwise they are reactionaries, individualists, spies for capitalism or traitors
to the country and the result was then like the intellectuals, writers and artists in the case of "Nhân Văn - Giai Phẩm / Humanistic-Masterpiece", happened
in 1958 in North Vietnam.
Thu, an employee in the company, had told me and Nhựt about the case of the "Nhân Văn - Giai Phẩm / Humanistic-Masterpiece" movement, as he had learned
from his relatives, party officials and contemporary witnesses from the former North Vietnam: " . . . . . . The movement, a movement without organization,
leadership and means. The movement demanded from the regime democracy, culture close to the people, free space for literature and art by giving them back
to the artists. The movement was enthusiastically welcomed by the people who were thirsting for a free life, a life without strict regime controls, democracy
In order to secure its power, the Communist Party and its regime had crushed the movement with all their power from the headquarters. The forty-five
intellectuals, writers and artists of the movement, among them party functionaries of the cultural authorities and persons in leadership positions in
the army, ended up in prison or in a re-education labour camp for decades. After their release, they were excluded from employment in the arts and
culture for life and their works were banned. Nevertheless, they were further punished economically with "Bao vây kinh tế / economy encircling"-measures,
which means that they were economically isolated: These people were not allowed to work anywhere for a living and had no access to food. That means they
were forced to starve. A cruel method: because if you suffer hunger, you can't think and do much anymore.
For another thirty years the
authorities had been searching for people who supported the movement (even spiritually only), sympathized with it, cheered for it or who had read only
once a "poisoned" article of the "Nhân Văn - Giai Phẩm / Humanistic-Masterpiece" movement. These people were gradually arrested and sentenced. These
people were ordinary people, students and even members of the Communist Party. Many were wrongly condemned because they had nothing to do with the
It was like the "Cải cách ruộng đất / agricultural reform" in North Vietnam from 1946 to 1956. In the last phase from 1953 to 1956,
172,008 rich farmers or landowners were immediately executed using cruel methods or tortured to death in prison. In 1956, Hồ Chí Minh and his party had
to publicly admit that 123,266 of the 172,008 killed were not rich farmers or landowners. This means that 123,266 people were wrongly convicted, that
were 71.66%. The writer Trần Mạnh Hảo, a contemporary witness, in an interview
with the reporter Đinh Quang Anh Thái about the "Cải cách ruộng đất / agricultural reform" in North Vietnam: " . . . . . . . . The 'Cải cách ruộng
đất / agricultural reform' is an annihilation of people like Pol Pot and Ieng Sari (đã làm bên xứ chùa Tháp/ executed in Cambodia) and I was an
eyewitness at that time".
"It's like putting a man's soul in a cage when feelings, fantasy and people's opinions can't run free anymore, cruel!"
At the beginning of 1979, almost four years after April 30, 1975, I had no longer been able to deal with my need for artistic activity. After a long
working day one didn't have the time anymore, and the uninvited "guests" could enter the house at any time. Once I wanted to express an idea that I
had had for a long time. On the table the ink, colours and paper were already prepared and I just wanted to start. Suddenly the local policeman
appeared at the crossroads of the street where we lived. When my sister saw him, she informed me right away. I had immediately cleared everything away
from the table, with the help of my father . . . . . . . . . . . . . . After the local policeman had "visited" a house near the crossroads, he walked
towards our house, then suddenly turned into an alley. He did not come to us that evening, as we had feared . . . . . . . . My father: "Painting a
portrait of Hồ Chí Minh or pictures in honor of the "liberation army" would not have been a problem. But you shouldn't be dealing with something, that
is against your soul and of which your feeling is not convinced, because these are the most precious property of a human being" . . . . . . . . Another
time I was in the mood to paint, despite the late evening. My sister explained that she would watch out if uninvited "guests" came. When I wanted to start
preparing everything for painting, I suddenly felt confined by the whole situation. In such a situation I did not feel free and could not focus all my
attention on art. . . . . . . . . . I also kept my ideas and desire to paint so that my family didn't get any additional problems. I had to bring them
under control. . . . . . until sometime . . . . when I could release them.
One thought crossed my mind: "How are they?" My friends from
back then, colleagues in the artistic circle, especially the masters and professors I knew well. They mostly lived in the city centre or on the other
side of the city, so I could not visit them in this situation. I could only hope and wish that they would all find a way out of this life situation.
I remember that at the end of 1974 I was still in the service of the military in a coastal and river transport ship on the
coast of Rạch Giá. On the evening when the ship arrived there, the coast was in thick fog. Early the next morning I climbed
from the sleeping cabin to the deck of the ship, the fog was not so dense anymore but the horizon could not yet be seen. Slowly
it became brighter and brighter. Because the mainland was behind the horizon, in the rays of dawn only one island appeared,
the island of Hòn Tre. The dawn changed hue as the sun rose on the horizon, and the island was in an exceptional mood. It
seemed mysterious but peaceful, magical but harmonious. It looked like the place I've always longed for! A place far from
war where you can live in seclusion and peace. In my memory as well as in the narrative „桃花源記 (Táohuāyuán jì) / Peach blossom
spring" of the famous Chinese poet 陶渊明 (Tao Yuanming, 365-427) . . . . . . . . . . Then I asked myself: "Where is there such
a place? Maybe it really exists somewhere! . . . . . . . . No, such a place doesn't exist anywhere! It was just a fantasy, because
warfare is unfortunately a natural characteristic of most people . . . . . . . . " Then I hoped my attitude about people was wrong.
But I was just in the middle of a war situation and was now very desperate.
On the orders of the Naval Headquarters, the ship had to wait on the coast of Rạch Giá for a new task instead of returning to Saigon
as usual. This made the comrades and I feel that the situation of the nation had already become very serious. The days on the ship
at the coast seemed like an eternity to me. Although we could watch beautiful sunrises and sunsets, we felt very restricted because
we were not allowed and could not go ashore. We haven't been to our families for months either - worries! I had such a longing for
home at that time and hoped that the war would soon end, and then return to my artistic activity in a normal life again.
At the beginning of 1975 our ship was just in Đà Nẵng in the bay of Cam Ranh. This was also the time when the war was in a fierce
phase. The comrades and I felt that the war was approaching its final stage. Peace! . . . . Peace! . . . . . . . all people in the
former Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) wished and hoped for that. Peace! . . . . Peace! Suddenly my inner cheerfulness and
hopeful mood was darkened by a shadow, and indeed very threatening . . . . . . . . . . I feared . . . . . . . . . . . a terrible time
would lie ahead of us . . . . . . . . .
As I feared . . . . . .
In 1972 Richard Nixon, the President of the USA, visited China as part of the Ping Pong diplomacy, and China hoped that this could
reduce tensions in the world. China is always of the opinion that "in war no side wins, but both sides lose"! Since the visit,
Communist North Vietnam considered China a traitor and an enemy of the working class. During this time, people in South Vietnam,
like my father, secretly listened to the radio station of North Vietnam, where only dirty and primitive insults were used for China,
the USA and the West. After April 30, 1975, in the year 1978, China opened the door to the West and brought the country the
"改革開放 (gaige kaifang) / reform and opening" in business and politics to the world. Now one could also hear bold insults
about China and the West on television. Insults that one had otherwise only heard from pimps, prostitutes, bandits or primitive,
After the American President's visit to China in 1972: People in the Republic of Vietnam hoped that North Vietnam would soon lose if
it no longer received support from China. But then it happened exactly the other way round, because America withdrew its soldiers to
the USA in 1973 and no longer supported South Vietnam. The people of the south had lost their land despite heroic defence. On
April 30, 1975, the communists, the aggressor, had won the war with the support of the Soviet Union and declared the north and
south of Vietnam reunited. Today this is the so-called Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
At the beginning of 1979 Vietnam took advantage of the inner turbulence in Cambodia to "liberate" Cambodia and then occupied the
country. This had triggered international outrage.
In its relationship with its big brother, the Soviet Union, which backed Vietnam up, Vietnam marched on to Laos and occupied
this country as well. As next targets Vietnam also planned to attack Thailand and Myanmar, later also other Asian countries.
The neighbors should be under the control of the powerful Vietnam and thus against the former big brother China. Vietnam wants
to become the right hand of the Soviet Union in Southeast Asia.
Worries about war spread to neighbouring countries of Vietnam. The kingdom of Thailand suddenly sympathized with communist China
and hoped that China would prevent Vietnam from doing so.
As we know, there was a famine in China during the Vietnam War. Despite this, China has continuously supported communist North
Vietnam and its allied Việt Cộng puppets in South Vietnam with food and weapons. Together they fought since 1954 for the whole of
Vietnam to become a communist system. After the communists of North Vietnam had conquered the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam)
in 1975 and declared Vietnam united, the new government allied itself only with the Soviet Union and broke off relations with China.
Vietnam refused to cooperate with reformed China because China was now the hereditary enemy of the working class.
When Vietnam tried to broaden its power in Asia, they provoked China at the same time by constant border violations. Vietnam
threatened that it could destroy China at any time in alliance with the strong Soviet Union. As a punitive action China had
invaded Vietnam across the border of both countries in February 1979 to teach the ungrateful former war ally Vietnam a lesson.
After a few weeks China had withdrawn again. That was a warning for Vietnam.
I still remember that during the border war the Vietnamese communist regime declared in constant repetition that it would win
the war. In response, however, the former citizens of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) believed the opposite. They wished
China to smash the Vietnamese communist regime in revenge for them. Many of them expressed themselves as, for example:
"Bị đánh tơi bời mà miệng còn oang oác / they were totally smashed, but still have the big mouth".
The second distress
"福無雙至, 禍不單行 (Fú wú shuāng zhì , huò bù dān xíng) / Luck never comes in pairs, misfortunes never happen alone" –王羲之 (Wang Xizhi, 303-361)
After the warning punitive action by China in the northern area of Vietnam on the border between the two countries in 1979, Vietnamese with Chinese roots were discriminated
and threatened by the Vietnamese communist regime. They were then suddenly falsely accused by the regime of working as spies for China.
Vietnamese with Chinese roots have been living in the former North Vietnam for several generations. Caused by the strict prohibition of the practice of traditions and religion
imposed by the Vietnamese communist regime, almost none of them spoke Chinese anymore because they had forgotten their mother tongue in the meantime. Besides Russian was the
most important foreign language in the country.Nevertheless, they were driven to the Chinese border and deported to China. Many others were shot immediately or taken to prison.
Among them were also members of the Vietnamese Communist Party.
When the war criminal Japan attacked China, massacred defenceless civilians, spared nothing and no one, not even children, my parents fled the country as children. In the end
they landed in the south of Vietnam at the time of French Indochina, where the Chinese had lived at least since 1600. In 1954, Vietnam was divided by the Geneva Convention and
from then on the south of Vietnam was called the Republic of Vietnam or South Vietnam. Already in the first Republic of Vietnam my parents had to accept Vietnamese citizenship,
like almost all other Chinese, in order to participate in the country's economy. In addition, the Chinese were also concerned with military conscription in order to defend the
Republic of Vietnam. If they refused, the Chinese had to leave the country. But the naturalized new Vietnamese were continued to be seen as Chinese.
The Chinese built temples, schools and hospitals in the cities. In Saigon, where my family had lived since 1957, there were more than a dozen Chinese schools, from
"小学(xiaoxue) / primary school" to "中学(zhongxue) / high school" up to "高中(gaozhong) / college", the textbooks of the schools were from Taiwan. Afterwards
one could take part in a Taiwanese correspondence course. There was also a special school for ancient Chinese literature and history. There were five large Chinese modern hospitals,
built and financed by donations from rich Chinese (who had Vietnamese citizenship since 1954). Not wealthy people of every origin were treated there free of charge.
As already mentioned, after 30 April 1975 the wealthy Vietnamese, as well as the Chinese-descent Vietnamese, had the same fate in the former Republic of Vietnam. All their
private property was confiscated by the communist regime. Anyone who belonged to the capitalists and had not left the country in time before April 30, 1975 ended up in prison,
re-education penal labour camp or was deported to one of the "Vùng Kinh Tế Mới /new economic areas" and waited there for death.
For the Chinese-descent Vietnamese, the
second distress followed when the war broke out on the border between China and Vietnam in 1979. The Chinese from the former Republic of Vietnam are capitalists, but had no
connection with the communist People's Republic of China, but at that time only with the Republic of China (Taiwan). They were nevertheless suspected by the regime as spies
for the People's Republic of China, as were those in the north. Many of them were arrested and tortured. Some were released, but many had not been heard from. Everywhere, for
example, where we lived, strangers appeared. They lived in the houses of the inhabitants, who had not returned from the arrest. You could tell the strangers were people from
the Secret Service. They came not only to observe the released ones, but to observe the entire citizenship. This stirred up fear everywhere, not only among the Chinese, but
also among the Vietnamese who lived in the former Republic of Vietnam.
It then followed that people of recognizable Chinese descent were beaten on the open road
by the aggressive and violent groups of people with wooden or iron rods, or thrown with stones or with anything they happened to find. Women and children were not spared either.
They ran after the defenseless Chinese and screamed loudly things like: "Death to the Jews, the Jews . . . . . . kill them . . . kill", "They're Jews, drown them, burn them!",
"Yes, drown them . . . burn them". Some shouted: "They are Jews, the Jews, they take everything away from us . . . . burn them, burn them, drown them, drown them . . . ."
Chinese blood flowed, but not only some people but also the policemen had watched and clapped!
An employee ran into the company where I worked with a bloody face and several injuries on her body. This had happened four times before. Previously, male employees who were in
the same situation as me, former citizens of the Republic of Vietnam, escaped the aggressive and violent groups of people and were not so badly injured. The employee told us
she was on her way to work. Behind her persons were hunted by dozens of people and they were insulted as Jews. She couldn't move to the other side of the street fast enough,
was then in the middle of the group and was also brutally beaten. The employee was a Vietnamese, also a citizen of the former Republic of Vietnam. Some colleagues had helped
her to dress the wound. All the employees who had the same origin as me were very worried. The others, including the upper class of the company, showed no reaction, they remained
It's been hot for a week. Almost all the workers in the company had a fan or something else in their hands to fan air. The ventilators still hanging from the ceiling did not
turn, they stood still, as if to provoke us, the workers. Yes! Not only the fans, but also many other furnishings of the building did not function since the company moved in.
The heat was unbearable. Everyone worked sweating, but the work had to be done. It was good that the building had a higher ceiling, otherwise it would be even more unbearable.
The company's building is one of several buildings built during the French colonial period, along both sides of the river bank. There were also many warehouses on the banks
of the river. The buildings had been renovated at the beginning of the seventies by some Chinese companies and served as office buildings at that time. I remembered I'd been
to an office building like this before. It has been a luxury for the workers to work in such a building: well furnished and equipped with many modern office equipment at the
time. After the confiscation by the communist regime on April 30th, 1975, it was plundered by the "liberation soldiers", comrades, as everywhere else, everything that was
possible was dismantled and taken away. From the buildings almost only the shell remained.
Thu came down to my department on the ground floor with a handkerchief in his hand and kept cleaning the sweat off his face and glasses. He needed information for his
department to plan. Then he asked me: "Have you already been on the high pedestrian bridge, not far from here? You have to be able to see the whole river, our company and
the ships from above, it must be very beautiful", "Yes!" I answered. With a soft tone he said: "Nhựt also comes with us. Until after work", then he turned around and left.
Although at the time in the department were only staff members in the same situation as we were, you still had an insecure feeling and Thu was always very careful. In
addition, private meetings were strictly forbidden.
The heat almost burned the skin when you stood in the sun. That's why the employees mostly stayed in the company during the fifteen-minute lunch break. Shortly after that,
a heavy downpour suddenly occurred. Everyone was happy about a little cooling down. "Standing on the bridge in this rain?" I was worried about our meeting. "What news did
Thu have?" I asked myself. But it was as planned for us: The rain had stopped after about three quarters of an hour. The sky was clear again and the temperature
rose . . . . . and the heat came again . . . .
Talk amongst confidants
As always, after work it was already late in the evening, but the sky was still bright. After a heated and exhausting day at work, everyone wanted to go home quickly. The streets
were again full of people at a hectic pace. Thu, Nhựt and I had left the company at a distance to go to the bridge. I guessed that Thu wanted to tell us some news.
We were just up on the pedestrian bridge then Thu had immediately asked Nhựt and me: "Have you read any books about Hitler and the Jews?" Nhựt: "Yes, I and my wife used to read a
lot about it. My wife was very inquisitive about the history and bought a lot of books on the subject." "I read two of them during my military service." I immediately
continued: "Why are the Chinese insulted as 'Jews'? How come something like this happens? You know what I mean?" Thu: "Yes, my wife and I also asked ourselves such questions as
you, but then we found that there are dissatisfied people in society all over the world. If they cannot achieve their goals, then it is always the others who are to blame, especially
the uneducated or lazy people think so. Some of them are so stupid that they even allowed themselves to be exploited, incited for malicious goals. The successful and rich people were
also not liked by some people in capitalist society, so as not to speak of envy and hate. These people claimed that the chances and success were taken away from them by others, so
they did not become as rich as the others or they are poor. . . . . . . Not only many Chinese work hard and diligently for their wealth, but also the successful and rich Vietnamese,
such as my family."
The question remained, why the Chinese and not the Vietnamese of the former Republic of Vietnam are called "Jews". Nhựt: "Because China is currently the hereditary enemy of the
regime, and that is one reason why the regime is rushing against the Chinese and people call them 'Jew'. Hitler is seen as a role model." Thu: "As we know, many Jews were also very
successful and rich because they were intelligent and still diligent. That's why there was 'Kristallnacht' and then later Judaism in Europe was systematically destroyed." Thu
continued: " . . . . . . . . . And they shout 'Drown them, burn them', you know, because it's common here, after catching the rats in the cage, to pour spirit over them and then
burn them alive or drown them in the river.." Thu had also meant that the regime had exploited and incited the uneducated, the stupid, as well as the dissatisfied people in
society. Because at that time the people lived under miserable conditions and the regime declared that it was now the legacy of the capitalist ex-government, which meant the
"exploiters" influenced by the West, including the Chinese. The incited and exploited people expected the regime to give them advantages like those given to the "April 30th" or a higher
position in the authority. These people and the secret police disguise themselves everywhere as normal citizen groups. They provoke against China by calling the defenceless Chinese
in Vietnam a "Jew" and take revenge by doing so. The regime also wanted to show the world that this had nothing to do with the government, but was an uprising of the people.
Nhựt: "Another reason why the Chinese were insulted as Jewish friends. I believe because China was the only country in the world where Jews entered unconditionally without a visa
before Hitler had destroyed 6 million Jews in Europe. China had thus saved the lives of many Jews. . . . . . There were . . . . . . . . .there were . . . . Yes, only in Shanghai
there were 20,000 Jews." "Unbelievable! Humans can be so cruel." I got goose bumps. Nhựt: "That's the way it is!"
After a moment of silence, Nhựt then asked about the relatives of Thu who stayed in North Vietnam in 1954 and became members and officials of the Communist Party. Thu: "After
they have experienced the truth about the 'liberation' themselves, they are internally dissatisfied but externally they must pretend . . . . . . . They are in the same situation
as the Chinese proverb says: '骑虎难下 (qi hu nan xia) / If you already ride a tiger, it is difficult to descend' I also learned from my relatives that the regime had to admit
that it had made a mistake: Namely that they had driven the capitalists to their deaths and then found out that these people had hidden somewhere another part of their fortune,
like gold bars, US dollars, etc. and that this treasure could no longer be retrieved. I believe that the still living Chinese from the former South Vietnam will not be mass murdered
or driven to China like the Chinese from the North. Because their lives have a high capital value for the regime, because the regime now needs these hidden treasures. But as soon
as it gets its hands on the treasure. . . . . . . . . . you can already imagine it. But let us hope that this time will not come. This includes all ethnic groups that have a
hidden fortune." We were speechless.
Nhựt then said: " The whole Jew hunting action is certainly only the first step of a plan to frighten the Chinese. Something worse will surely follow: torture until the people
testify where their fortune is hidden." . . . . . I was paralyzed when I heard that. How can people be so cruel!
At such a meeting we had to take a risk into account, so despite the intensive conversation we always watched out if someone climbed the bridge. With such a conversation time
passes quickly, it was almost an hour since we had met on the bridge. Thu had planned our meeting three days ago, he had already told Nhựt about it in advance. I had only known
about it a few hours before we met the day Thu had an opportunity to talk to me. The question was whether my family was worried about me when I got home late because we still
wanted to spend some time on the bridge. I didn't live so far away from the meeting point and we didn't know if such a meeting would be possible in the near future. We then
decided to stay a little while longer.
We looked at the river landscape from above, from both sides of the bridge, up to the horizon and Nhựt, with a regrettable tone: "I can imagine that the river landscape here
must have been very beautiful in former times. . . ." "Yes, that was a time, a beautiful time . . . . . On this bridge was also the meeting place of young lovers at sunset" I
told. Thu: "That must have been very romantic. . . . . . . but unfortunately . . . .", then Thu said with an astonished tone: "But look! A boat with a rower . . . . a
ferry!" "Yes, that's a ferry, that's been around for more than twenty years" I said. Thu: "How can such a private ferry still exist under this regime? . . . . . . . It must be
a spy of the Secret Service!" I explained: "It was always the same rower. If he was, then maybe he was forced by the secret service to work with them.." . . . . . . . . . For
a few minutes there was silence and no words between us. Then we said goodbye shortly before the street was deserted, fearing that we might not be able to meet in this way. On
the road there were still many workers on the way home, so that we at least had a safe feeling.
After arriving home, I first told my family about the meeting with Nhựt and Thu, then I started having dinner. During dinner I heard from the hallway that Aunt Sáu, who lived
across the street from us, came to visit us. After dinner, I went into the hallway and greeted her. My mother: "Aunt Sáu saw that you came home late and wanted to know if anything
had happened to you." I thanked Aunt Sáu for her compassion. She had lost a lot of weight since I last met her on the street a few months ago.
Aunt Sáu rarely came to us, but my mother met her regularly because my mother was the group leader of ten families. She had to inform the people that they came to the meetings
of the organization of the communist party and authorities. Aunt Sáu spoke almost nothing on that evening. She was very sad. She had only drunk two sips of the tea my mother had
brought her. Aunt Sáu was worried about the future of her youngest and only living child, her daughter Linh, who still lived with her. Her other four children had died in the
war, same as her husband, who died shortly after April 30, 1975. The daughter Linh was already engaged to a young man four years ago, before the takeover of South Vietnam by the
communists, at the request of her father, and shortly afterwards the lovers were to marry. The wedding had not taken place as planned, because the communist takeover came so
suddenly and there was grief in both families. Aunt Sáu had told my mother at the last meeting that when her husband was still seriously ill, the daughter should marry as soon
as possible. But it came sooner than the family had feared. . . . . . . . her husband died. The marriage was constantly postponed, even though it had already been requested at
the authorities almost two years ago. Although they were "invited for questioning" twice by the competent authorities , they still did not get a marriage date, presumably because
the authorities were dissatisfied with the "gift". In addition, a small private wedding meeting was not yet permitted.
Aunt Sáu: "I don't know how much longer I can stay with her. And before I go to her father, I want someone to take care of her. Then I can go in peace." Then she almost burst
into tears. My father: "We hope not, but, Sister Sáu, if anything bad happens to you, we are still here. In case of emergency, we and our close neighbors could serve as witnesses
for both as a private wedding. There can only be a simple wedding, but at least the two are already married." My mother: "Besides, Long also has a sister. Together we'll make it."
Aunt Sáu was quiet and we felt that she was not relieved by the conversation with us and was still worried.
After a few minutes she said: "What's happening outside everywhere at the moment, I can't understand it, people are shouting out loud things like . . . ." Aunt Sáu hadn't finished
the sentence yet, suddenly we heard someone calling my mother: "Big Sister, Big Sister you can tell me the meeting dates again, Tấn does not know them exactly anymore." My mother
immediately went to the patio door, and while she was opening the door, my mother talked a little louder than usual like Aunt Năm: "Come into the house, I'll write down the dates. We
have a special meeting this month. . . . ." Aunt Năm didn't come for the meeting dates. When she came into the house with my mother and saw Aunt Sáu, she first greeted Aunt Sáu and
then spoke to my parents: "My husband and I want to share the worries of you, what is currently happening outside is unbelievable . . . . . roughly it happened that way also at the
beginning with the Jews in Europe." Aunt Sáu: "I haven't heard of Jews before! How is that meant?" My father tried to explain this to Aunt Sáu:
"Before April 30th, 1975, we, the former citizens of the Republic of Vietnam, had still practiced our religion, like Buddhism, many
deities of mythology, Islam, Hinduism and Christianity. But Judaism doesn't exist here, and the Chinese who live here aren't Jews
either . . . . . . Until the foundation of the state of Israel, if I remember correctly on 14 May 1948, all Jews lived distributed
in many countries of the world, e.g. also in Kaifeng China." . . . . . . After a few minutes, my father continued to narrate: "When
Hitler, leader of the National Socialists in Germany, came to power, he attacked the neighbouring countries and later he had caused
the mass extermination of the Jews in Europe. That's what they call the 'Holocaust' . . . . . . " During the narration my father
remembered the sad past and he had to pause. Aunt Sáu heard the story with full concentration. She was very quiet and waiting for
that my father continued to tell.
After a brief interruption, my father continued: "Not only in Europe, at the same time with us, in Asia, the worst, most brutal,
most horrible, most inhuman and most monstrously cruel happened to the people as well. When the aggressor, the war criminal Japan,
formed an alliance with Nazi Germany and attacked China and Asia. Millions of civilians and prisoners of war were deliberately
murdered by the imperial Japanese army. In Nanking, China, alone the war criminals of the Japanese occupiers had massacred at least
300,000 defenceless civilians, including women, children, infants and prisoners of war. Around 80,000 girls and women were raped,
then they let them die with even crueller methods. Something so cruel and inhuman happened all over China, so we fled the country
before the Japanese arrived in our province in southern China. . . . " The sad memory was reflected in the face of my parents and
they could not speak a word anymore. It was quiet in the room.
After about ten minutes aunt Năm said with a sad tone: "I read that about 20,000 doctors from the Japanese army units had conducted
experiments on humans during the Second World War. Numerous human experiments, including the testing of biological and chemical
weapons, were conducted on living humans. The Japanese have the idea that their own race is of higher value than all others, just
like the Nazis in Germany. The other nations were regarded as inferior, having only a servant benefit. Therefore, experiments
were carried out not only on Asians, but also on American, British and Australian prisoners of war. The chemical and biological
weapons were already in use during the Second World War. . . . ." Aunt Năm suddenly interrupted her story. It was quiet in the
room again . . . . . . . Then, with a quiet voice, aunt Năm continued: "Not only women, but also little girls were raped . . . . . My
youngest aunt . . . . . . .she was only thirteen years old . . . . . . . My grandma had told . . . . It bled and bled, she screamed
loudly and louder for help . . . . . .but . . . . . but the Japanese had only laughed and . . . . laughed. These barbarians . . . . ." Aunt
Năm burst into tears because she could no longer stand it. My mother and aunt Sáu had immediately taken aunt Năm in their
arms . . . . . Aunt Năm: "My grandparents and the other aunts had to watch my youngest aunt slowly die in agony."
As you know, women and girls who looked good were left alive after the rape and had to serve the Japanese war soldiers of the Second
World War sexually as "comfort women". They had to to satisfy up to 30 soldiers a day. Many died after a short time. Torture, mass
killings, cannibalism, rape, also massacres of allied soldiers, and . . . . and . . . . . . for the Imperial Japanese Army, it was
the order of the day . . . . . . . There was a sad mood among us.
Aunt Sáu suddenly interrupted her silence: "In the past, when we still had the orchard, the Americans had also sprayed a liquid from
airplanes in an area far away from us. Despite the far distance, the strong wind brought the liquid as drizzle into the vicinity of
our orchards. It happened then that at the edge of the orchards parts of the fruit trees turned yellow and then died and many people
got health problems. The trees in the area where they sprayed all died, not one tree was still alive, nothing has grown back and
there are no animal species living there anymore." Aunt Năm: "That was the so-called 'Agent Orange'!" Aunt Sáu: "It is said that
every child born in the area has deformities, some don't look like children of humans, but like . . . . . . . . . . . ." Aunt Năm: "If
you drink the water in the area and in the surroundings, and if you eat what has grown on the ground, then the poison stays in the
body forever. It does not only affect the newborn children, but also the people themselves get disabilities." "When I was still in
the service of the military of the former Republic of Vietnam, we learned that the Americans used Agent Orange to destroy the
forest, where the Việt Cộng hid. The then Vietnamese government had received a statement from the US Army: The surrounding population
would have no problems with this, Agent Orange would be harmless to people. Then the truth came out! And worse than you could have
Aunt Sáu had finally expressed her sorrows: "I thought my daughter finally has . . . . . . . .but . . . . .", the sentence was not
over yet, but she almost burst into tears. My mother had suddenly understood her situation and looked to my father, then to aunt
Năm: "Long is of Chinese ancestry, so Sister Sáu is worried about her daughter's future." Aunt Năm wanted to comfort aunt Sáu, but
she couldn't find words . . . . . . . After a short while, my father said: "We know the Chinese philosophy of Taoism with the symbol
Yin and Yang. The opposites of the symbol interpret that there is nothing absolute in the world in which we live. There is evil, but
also good, happiness and sadness, there are people who hate us, but there are also people who love us, People who envy us and people
who grant us . . . . . . . For instance: Not only China had opened its doors to save the Jews from Hitler, but also other people had
done the same. Another case, John Rabe, a German merchant at Siemens in China, had saved many Chinese civilians from massacres and
systematic rapes of the Imperial Japanese Army (in alliance with Nazi Germany). . . . . . In the present situation, we should be
vigilant. Only grief cannot help us." Aunt Sáu seemed to have her situation somewhat under control after the utterances of my
Time passed quickly, before the farewell aunt Năm had even added: "I've read that the Japanese are driven by racist ideologies and
killed at least 15 million defenseless civilians in China alone, 30 million in the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia,
Burma. There's no word to describe it. These war crimes are also known as 'Asian Holocaust'."
My mother took the two visitors to the patio door. It was a beautiful harmonious atmosphere with moonlight outside. The two visitors
and my mother had stopped at the patio door, when they felt the quiet atmosphere outside. The roofs of the houses, the leaves and
branches of the trees received the moonlight and their shadows appeared harmonious with the moonlight on the ground. Behind the former
hobby garden of our family, which at that time had already been confiscated by the regime and had not yet been built up, the moonlight
was reflected from the sky in the river, glittering like a shining carpet of silver. My mother and both women looked longingly at the
moon with its bright glow in the sky and I immediately felt that they all had the same longing: A harmonious life with their husbands
and children . . . . . Then . . . . . . just when my mother wanted to open the patio door, aunt Năm bumped my mother lightly. My mother
had reacted immediately: "Sisters, don't forget the meetings." "No, no, I now have the note with all the meeting dates on it." "Then
I'll see you at the meetings," my mother had added. My mother opened the patio door and aunt Năm and aunt Sáu left our house.
My mother and I went inside the house and she was worried about what had just happened at the patio door. But my father had reassured
my mother: "I think you've responded correctly. If the visitors had left the house fleetingly, a suspicion could have arisen!" . . . . . . It
was when my mother wanted to open the patio door for aunt Năm and aunt Sáu. Diagonally opposite our house on the other side of the road, we
discovered someone in the shade of a house standing there watching us somehow. When my mother and aunt Năm had talked about the meeting
dates, he had left quickly. My mother had told my father what had happened and was worried about it. My father later said to my mother
in oder to take away her worries: "Maybe the person wanted to meet someone secretly outside their house because it was unfavorable in the
house. It may have been a coincidence and he is also worried because you have discovered him." My mother: "We hope it is that way!"
Aunt Sáu and her dead husband were illiterate. It was estimated that also more than seventy percent of the people who had grown up under
French colonial rule were. There were few or almost no schools in rural areas, especially in smaller villages. Among other things, political
statements were also forbidden. For this reason they, like the others, had little knowledge of international politics and their own
country, also these people lacked general knowledge. They concentrated only on the daily hard work in the hope of being fed up for the
day. People in such a situation could better be controlled by the colonial rulers. At that time there were already Chinese private
organizations that ensured that the descendants kept the Chinese traditions and continued to speak and write the Chinese language. They
also made sure that ancestor temples were built and also schools, first the "小学/Primary School". It was not until the first Republic
of Vietnam (1955-1963) that President Ngô Đình Diệm had promulgated a law that made school attendance compulsory, at least until primary
school graduation. Then later in the big cities there were also Chinese schools up to "高中/High school" and the possibility of distance
study in Taiwan.
The new followers of the "Führer"
Until about 1972, in the Republic of Vietnam, where I lived, knowledge about Hitler and Germany during the National Socialist era was
very superficial, most people didn't even know what Hitler looked like. Jews were also very seldom heard of. The reason for this was that
in 1858 French colonial rule began in Vietnam under the name of French Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos). There were numerous uprisings
by the Vietnamese, but all were defeated by the French colonial rulers. Then came the Occupation period of Japan, in alliance with Hitler's
Germany. After Japan capitulated in the Second World War, the French colonial rulers returned. In the years from 1946 to 1954 Vietnam sank
again in the war, the Indochina war. There was no end yet, then came the Vietnam War, called "American War" from 1955 to 1975. Not only in
Vietnam, but also in many Asian countries, people had to fight against the miserable life they experienced themselves. For most people in
Asia at the time, Europe was a long way away . . . . . very far and one got only few information about it . . . . . . . . . . .
In 1972, during the wartime of the "American War," many books about Hitler were translated, published by major publishers, and appeared
everywhere on the book market. I was still on army duty at the time, serving at naval headquarters in Saigon. Every time I went to the
publishing houses, bookstores or book boulevards in the capital, I saw plenty of books about Hitler, Hitler everywhere, Hitler
and . . . . . . Hitler. Many books on the subject have even been reprinted several times. I had bought two of them to know exactly who Hitler
In the middle of the wartime, while the soldiers on the front sacrificed their lives to defend the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), the
people in the hinterland discussed about Hitler and the Second World War. The people who worshipped Hitler were mostly students or people who
had no worries because they or their relatives were not in the army service. Nevertheless, these people were also controlled by the
enemy (the Vietnamese communists), and demonstrated on the streets of Saigon against the government of the Republic of Vietnam. The opinions
about Hitler were very controversial, from time to time it came to fisticuffs. It was almost always started by the Hitler followers.
It was astonishing that after April 30th, 1975 it was discovered that a high percentage of the population of the former communist North Vietnam
did not respect Stalin but more Hitler, the leader of Germany. It is also incredible, but true, that the people who were born after
April 30th, 1975, today, in the 21st century, are more than sixty percent fascinated by Hitler and also follow his path in Vietnam. Especially
the younger people, mostly students. They believe that if the country had had a leader like Hitler the Vietnamese people would not have been
enslaved by colonial rulers like at last France and now Vietnam would be a powerful country and at least have a leading position in Asian
countries, if not in the world. Some think that bowing to tourists, especially to those from the West, friendly service to satisfy them, is
a form of modern slavery, a submission and nothing else like in Vietnam under colonial rule. Not only the afore mentioned people, but also
the Vietnamese Lamaist Buddhists of the country, even those living abroad, wished that Vietnam had a leader like Hitler. This is the only
way Vietnam can become powerful and bring prosperity to the population. They firmly believe that Hitler will be reborn because he is
immortal, like the Dalai Lama of Tibet living in exile in India . . . . . . . . . . These people also believe: "The connection, a miracle, was
already foreseen by Heinrich Harrer, member of the Sturmabteilung (SA) of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and the National Socialist German Workers
Party (NSDAP), advisor and teacher of the Dalai Lama . . . . . . . . . . . the miracle will happen, Hitler will be reborn, not somewhere, but
in Vietnam." . . . . . . . Not only was I wordless, I also got goose bumps when I heard it through stories. I had experienced miracles
before, but quite different from what they had imagined. I had to be afraid when I remembered the saying "faith can move mountains" . . . . . . . . . .
The first sight of the "Führer"
I still have a memory of an event today, back when I was still at a private high school in Saigon and not yet fifteen years old. My schoolmates and I
knew very little about Hitler.
As almost always, we gathered in the schoolyard until shortly before classes started, only then we went to the
classrooms. Hưng, a schoolmate of ours came and told in an excited tone: "I know how Hitler looks like." "No. . . . ...really?" one of us asked.
Hưng: "No, not yet, but I read an advertisement of a stamp collector's shop. It offers stamps with the portrait of Hitler. I'd like to take a look at
it. Will you come?" "Yeah, when?" Hưng: "Right after school!" The curiosity of the schoolmates could not be stopped, all nine of us wanted to come along.
I usually also went to my stamp collector's shop from time to time to see what was new, but I had not yet seen a stamp with a portrait of Hitler. In
fact, I was not a stamp collector. I was interested in stamps with images of artworks of the Chinese treasure in the National Palace Museum (國立故宮博物院, Gúolì
Gùgōng Bówùyùan) in Taipei. Originally these belonged to the Forbidden City (紫禁城, Zǐjìnchéng /Purple Forbidden City, Imperial Residence City) in Beijing.
When the aggressor and war criminal Japan attacked China (with destruction and looting everywhere) the Chinese had hidden their treasures. Later, after
losing to Mao Zedong in 1949, Chiang Kai-shek, head of Kuomintang, retreated with the elites and armed forces of China to a Chinese island, the island of
Taiwan. The Kuomintang had taken the treasures of the Forbidden City. I was also interested in motifs from nature, such as birds, plants and flowers. These
were beautiful and at the same time cheap for me.
We had found the stamp collector shop near our school, it was smaller than we had imagined. Where I always got my stamps was a bigger shop. We could see
that the owner was Vietnamese because the business sign was only in Vietnamese. In the small shop window there was, apart from what one usually needed as
a stamp collector, a small board with the text "Stamps with portrait of Hitler available".
We went into the store. The owner looked at us with an astonished and not particularly friendly face, "What do they want here?" he perhaps thought about
us. Hưng, our "guide": "We would like to look at stamps." The owner did not reply. It was a room that only had about twenty-five square meters. All wall
surfaces were used to set up showcases, about two meters high and twenty centimeters deep. Inside the showcases were Plug-in Cartons full of stamps. In
front of the wall opposite the entrance door there was a table showcase and inside there were also stamps in Plug-in Cartons. Behind the showcase was
The business was a bit small for us nine pupils. We moved slowly from display case to display case. Each of us looked concentrated from top to bottom, from
left to right, but not one of us could tell if there was a stamp with the image of "the man" on it. . The schoolmates urged our "leader" Hưng: "Ask
him", "Yes, ask him" . . . . . . "How can you buy what you have not seen before?" . . . . . . . Hưng hesitated a little, then he went to the owner: "Can
we get the stamps with the picture. . . . . . ." our "leader" Hưng had not finished talking, but the owner immediately interrupted him with a "friendly"
tone: "You just want to look, you're not here to buy." We were disappointed. Then he rudely added, "You can't pay for it anyway!" . . . . . . At that moment
I remembered that I still needed stamp albums anyway and thought: "It's more expensive here, but maybe . . . . . . . 'Nothing comes from nothing' my father
had said before. Besides, on the way to here, I was very happy to discover something new together with my classmates." . . . . . . "I want that album!" and
pointed with the finger at the display case behind the owner. "This one?" he asked me and the tone was friendlier. "No, the bigger one, in dark blue!" "This?",
"Yes, and two packages of stamp cases in different sizes." After I had paid, I got the things packed and they were given to me. Behind me, I heard the low
sound of a schoolmate: "Ask him again!" I looked at Hưng, he understood immediately: "Can you show us the stamps, just for a moment?" The owner thought for
a moment, then: "But don't touch, okay?" "Of course!" The owner opened the only door in the shop, went into the small back room and came back with a scrapbook
in his hand, then closed the door again. On the showcase table he opened the album and showed us the stamps we wanted to see. The stamps were under protective
foil, yet he said to us: "Do not touch!"
We stood close together head to head, looking intently at the stamps. It was a group of stamps in a small format, with a portrait of a man who was supposed
to be Hitler. On another, larger stamp he could be seen in a standing position with a symbol on his upper arm. At first sight I thought it was a symbol of
Buddhism, now and then you see it on the chest of a Buddha statue, but it was depicted mirror-inverted. It is originally an ancient Chinese character, means
ten thousand and is a symbol of infinity. . . . . . What significance did it have to him? What does he mean by that? On the stamp were among other things
the letters "Deutsches Reich". . . . . . "Is that man Hitler?" one of us asked. The owner reacted insulted: "What do you think . . . . . . . . that's enough!" He
closed the album, we also felt insulted by the owner and went out of the shop.
All in all we only looked at the stamps for about 5 minutes, but it had a strange effect on us, especially because of his for us stressful, strict and dissatisfied
face. We were quiet and almost paralyzed on the way home. Even after we parted ways.
At school we only learned English or French as a foreign
language. Therefore, to know for sure, the next day I went to the Chinese district of Cholon to a Chinese Specialist bookshop. In the "德中辭典 / German - Chinese
Dictionary" it said: "Deutsches Reich 德意志帝国 /German Empire" and when translated from Chinese into English it was called German Empire. So the stamps came
from "Germany" and the picture had to be Hitler. The question "Is that man Hitler?" was already solved.
Two days later, after school, we went to a chè stand (chè = Vietnamese cooked sweets) in the market hall near the school. The store knew us because we were
almost regular customers. Besides, the daughter of the operator was after one of us, Phú. The daughter was almost seventeen, Phú was a few months older than
me and had no interest in her. But we were very amused when we watched how the girl tried to get closer to our friend. . . . . . .
We had received our order according to our wishes, then we talked quietly about what had happened on that day in the stamp shop. It sounds childish, but
somehow we wanted to keep our experience to ourselves first. The operator and her daughter seemed very curious about our conversation, especially the daughter,
she asked: "Who is Hitler?" Also the mother: "Yes, who is Hitler?" The questions were not answered by us, because we were very concentrated on our conversation.
The stand operator next door also spoke up: "Yes, who is Hitler? He must be from the West!" We were annoyed when the operator asked: "Is he a good person,
does he help poor people? I'm poor and I have to work hard!" The daughter added: "Me and my mother have to get up at five o'clock in the morning every day,
cook different kinds of chè and then take them to market. . . . . . . and we won't be home till five in the afternoon!" The daughter hoped that she would awaken
the sympathy of Phú! She looked firmly at Phú and waited for a reply from him. But then the opposite of what she had hoped for happened, Phú did not react and
Hưng felt disturbed by the questions in our conversation, with rough tone he said: "No, he ain't helping nobody!" The mother tried to defend herself and the
daughter: "Why not, if he's a good man?" One of us spoke up: "We said nothing of a good man." Another schoolmate added: "He is more evil than good." The man
at the adjacent stand: "No! Really?" The daughter could not be convinced: "I don't think so." Hưng couldn't take it anymore: "Then you can have him and leave
us alone!" A classmate who sat next to Hưng: „But you have to dig him up first.“ Mother and daughter were pale. We got up and left the stand and still heard
from the adjacent stand: "Well, well, well. That's what today's students are like."
We never showed up at the chè stand after that day. With "Hitler" we went from one unpleasant situation to another. We could have explained to the people, but
we knew too little and nothing in detail about Hitler and "Germany" at that time. I had forgotten the topic "Hitler" ever since. . . . . . . .until 1972, when
many books on the subject appeared about him.
Since 1972 Vietnam had constantly provoked China with primitive words and at the same time there were constant border violations on the border with
China. At the beginning of 1979 there were military conflicts between the two countries. During this period, according to a list of participants, the
company's employees, who were formerly citizens of the Republic of Vietnam, were "requested" to participate in "political education" for two to three
hours after work. In reality it was a mind control and simultaneous re-education, as we had already suspected before.
After work we gathered in a small hall outside the company. There were also people there whom we did not know at all. As we found out, it was an event
organised by the Traffic and Transport Office for all the working units of the Traffic and Transport Department. In the middle of the hall were many
different types of chairs that had been placed there. At the end of the hall there was a podium and on the wall hung a large portrait of uncle
Hồ (Hồ Chí Minh), to the left and right of it a Vietnamese communist national flag and a red flag with yellow hammer and yellow sickle. It is serious,
we felt. Around the chairs there was a distance of about one meter to the wall, where the comrades were already standing. They should "help" us,
"accompany" us, in case we need something, for example if we urgently need to go to the toilet. Luckily I was sitting next to Nhựt, but in the midst
of people unknown to us, that made us feel insecure. Because we did not know whether he or she was one of the comrades, or in the same situation as
us, but working in a different unit.
After about 30 minutes in which nothing happened and we felt insecurity and tension, a comrade shouted loudly: "In standing position!" He announced
the lecturer as leading member of the Hồ Chí Minh city's communist party Youth when he arrived and stepped onto the podium. It started with the
international communist anthem, then followed the national anthem of communist Vietnam. Then a comrade: "Sit!" The participants took their places
It was dead quiet in the small hall, you could even hear every soft noise. The lecturer moved to the right side of the podium, turned his head left
and right, at the same time staring into the faces of the participants on the right side of the hall. Then he moved to the left side of the podium
and stared at the participants on that side as well. Then he moved to the left side of the podium and stared at the participants on that side as
well. When he was back in the middle of the podium, he stood there for a few minutes without words. . . . . . . . . then with an angry and loud tone
that was like a sharp knife hurled in the air and cut through the quiet atmosphere of the room: "China is now our enemy." This sudden loud and
aggressive tone had shocked not only me but all the participants in the room. Nhựt nudged me slightly and I already knew what he meant "It's going
to be exciting and we should be careful and alert". . . . . . . . After about two thoughtful minutes without words, the lecturer had continued with
a quiet tone: "Yes, China is our enemy. . . . . . since 1972" . . . . . . . . "Since 1972, China and America (USA) have held hands with each
other. . . . " Then he became angry and loud again: "The Americans, the head of a poisonous snake, the leader of the barbarians of the West. The
colonial rulers, the human exploiters, the human traffickers, slave drivers and cultural destroyers. Yes!. . .that's what they are. . . . . " Again
a few minutes without words . . . . . Then: "What had the French done to our country? They had attacked our land and plundered our treasures, our
resources. . . . . . Our people were oppressed, enslaved and had to work hard physically for up to twenty hours a day under duress. There was only
rice of animal feed quality that you couldn't even get enough of. There was also not enough water to quench the thirst. . . . . . . .In the rubber
tree plantations the workers were even tied to their feet with heavy iron chains so that they could not escape". . . . . . . "In their palaces and
castles in France, the blood of our people still hangs. You can smell it."
In the hall one could only hear the loud steps of the comrade on the platform, with his angry voice he continued to speak: "Not only the French, but
we also chased the Americans home . . . . . . . The Americans, yes! The Americans and their allies, the aggressors . . . . . . what's it to them that
we liberate our people in the South? What right do they have to simply invade our country and interfere in the affairs of our country? Is that any
different from Hitler when he attacked other countries in World War II?" The tone of the lecturer suddenly became louder: "No, no, it is the same.
Who the hell do they think they are? To fight for independence, democracy, human rights and freedom? No, no, the truth is that they disguise
themselves with these beautiful terms with the evil intent of continuing to build and expand their empire. And then to control the whole world under
their power. Yeah, a world police empire. That is the goal of the Americans and their allies!" After a few moments of reflection, he spoke again
with an angry tone: "Not only are they arrogant and overconfident, but they're also aggressive. . . . . They believed that in a short time they could
destroy us, from the North, and with their puppet government in the South as a springboard, could quickly conquer all of Asia. ". . . . The lecturer,
leading member of the communist party youth of the city Hồ Chí Minh, drank a big sip of water, then he left the podium. . Silence returned to the
All participants of the "political education" in the hall were only administrative workers of the former Republic of South Vietnam, as well as
non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the normal army units of this Republic, but all were accused of being guilty war criminals because they
had served the "puppet government". Even though they only had the duty to defend their country. I was wondering: What would happen to us after
the "Political Education"?
The silent waiting was accompanied by an insecure and terrible feeling and seemed very long to me, although it was only about twenty minutes
before the speaker appeared in the hall again. When he stepped back onto the podium, he continued the lecture with a loud tone: "Yes, they
believed that they would defeat us in a 'short time'. They used their most modern weapons. The B52s were to 'bomb North Vietnam back to the
stone age'. The barbarians shied away from nothing, they even used chemical weapons to destroy our people: Agent Orange. Just like the massacre
in Mỹ Lai. This is how cruel and inhuman they are. . . . . . . . . ' the 'short time' became almost twenty years for the
Americans . . . . . . . . . In 'Hanoi Hilton' even the American Jane Fonda was ashamed of her country when she saw the prisoners of war, the
bomber pilots of the B52. For the actress Jane Fonda, a disgrace to the USA." . . . . . . The speaker had interrupted the speech for a few
minutes, then: "In 1973, because America, the so-called USA, could not defeat us, they talked about peace, . . . . . . . . an agreement for peace,
why suddenly peace? In truth it was a trick to avoid their embarrassing early defeat, so that their soldiers could leave our country alive and
return home. . . . . . . Peace! That was just a mask to cover up their cruel, immoral acts. In April 1975, when the American army still remaining
in Vietnam heard that our liberation army was advancing ever closer to Saigon, they fled our land for their lives, like rats. Thanks to the
leadership of Uncle Hồ and the Communist Party of Vietnam, we chased the colonial ruler and ruler of imperialism from our country." . . . . . . . . The
leading member of the city's communist party youth took a sip of water, then announced that the lecture was over for the first day. At the command
of a comrade all the participants stood up and the lecturer left the hall.
The lecture was a slap in the face of the Americans and their allies and at the same time humiliation of the participants of the "Political
Education". It was like the saying: "The winner is the king, the loser is the robber." The King is always right! The participants of the "Political
Education" were left with only one question: And what about the invasion in 1968 from the North to the South? Thousands of citizens of the Republic
of Vietnam were massacred, especially in Huế, had they already forgotten that? Why do they insult China, although they have also reached out their
hands to America (USA). Millions have not forgotten that Tom Hayden and his wife Jane Fonda, who were both in Hanoi during the Vietnam War, stood at
the side of the communist regime Vietnam, against the Republic of Vietnam and as "traitors to their own country and its soldiers".
After the lecture, participants from different units of the company of the Traffic and Transport Office were by and by called forward. Groups of
twenty participants were formed, each of whom was "accompanied" by two comrades to "help" the participants "discuss" and "learn" the lecture, daily
after the lecture.
What is the point of "discussions", if "the leadership of the party and government is always right and the
people only need to follow"? This was a way to find out which of the participants had a different opinion. Each of the participants had introduced
themselves to the group for the "discussion" and practiced self-criticism up to the "insight of their own mistakes". To correct and improve himself
by learning the political line of the party through the lecture. In this way, every participant in "political education" can steer his wrong thoughts
onto the "right path". These were the rules and order of the so-called "political education". Each participant was strictly controlled whether he
had the "spirit of learning".
During the so-called daily "discussions" the participants were constantly asked questions and repeated the
content of the lecture of the day. The participant who could not answer quickly was "helped" by the comrades until he "understood" and of
course . . . . . . . . .his name was on the "need-to-know" list. There was tension among the participants. Everyone had to concentrate during the
daily lecture so that his name would not be blacklisted, because of the "possibility" . . . . . . . . . . . . that he might have been sent to a labor
camp or a training camp.
Every day, as soon as the lecturer stood on the podium, you could hear the same thing at the beginning of his speech: "China has betrayed the international, socialist, communist brotherhood to the US and the West
and is now an enemy of the working class. . . . . . . ."
Then, as usual, he takes a sip of water, begins with the theme of the day, after a few minutes of thoughtful silence: " . . . . . . . . . . The USA and its Western allies, they are constantly talking about democracy,
freedom, human rights and humanity. In reality what they do is always the opposite. They use these beautiful terms for camouflage and decoration for their system. Yes, that's how it is... . . . . . . .in the USA,
for example, only those with powerful assets can and may run for head of state. Without great wealth he would be a puppet of the donors who made him head of government, even though he is the head of
state. . . . . . . . . . And what about the people in the lower classes? According to the law, they are of course 'allowed' to go to the polls and work to accumulate even more money for the wealth of the upper
class. The underclass works hard and yet lives in poverty and misery. Many of them are homeless. . . . . . . . . Yes, that is the so-called 'democracy', 'freedom' and 'human rights' in the capitalist system that
the capitalists operate ”.
One thought came to Nhựt, Thu and me through the lecture of the day: How can there be poverty, misery and homelessness in a "From dishwasher to millionaire” country? We had the opportunity to talk about it later.
We were sure that in South Vietnam, until 30 April 1975, the time before the aggressor, communist Vietnam, ruled the country, there was poverty but not misery and no homeless people. At most, there were street
singers in the city who sang for passers-by to get money. After 30 April 1975, life was then a misery for the people. There were homeless people everywhere as soon as it was dark. They begged in desperation to
survive. Because almost all the people worked hard every day, but could not even eat enough. What could they donate from, even if they felt very sorry for the homeless? Moreover, it was almost only in the early
morning and late evening that people were out and about, the workers. For the homeless this was the only way to get donations.
The homeless had to hide from the police somewhere in broad daylight, otherwise they would be taken back to the "Vùng Kinh Tế Mới / New Economic Areas" where there was no possibility to live for them. Or they would
go to prison because they had not managed to flee the country and their houses had already been confiscated by the regime.
I felt most sorry when I learned that even women from good families, some of whom were still young and had no life experience, had to sell their bodies in order to survive with their old parents, their still
young siblings or their children. Because food from the black market was expensive, very expensive for them. The nights must have been very long and indescribable misery for them. . . . . ... and ... . . who were
the "buyers"? Almost everyone knew this: those in power who, after April 30, 1975, wanted to enjoy life, to live it up. Although they claimed that "prostitution is one of the evils, a problem of society, which we
inherited from the last regime and is strictly forbidden in our healthy system."
After 30 April 1975, it was heard that people took their own lives, something that had rarely been heard before. Yes . . . . . . even in such a situation life still has a meaning! But for some people not
anymore . . . . . . . . because hope had already left them!
After a long and hard day at work, the workers wanted to go home quickly, as I did, hoping to be satisfied with a meal and then recover because we were already exhausted and hungry. But in that time we had to
attend the "political education" after work.
Almost all of us were tired, but still we tried hard to keep it up. We noted down what the speaker told us in order to be prepared for the "discussions" and to be able to express our "own opinion". An opinion
that should be one with the politics of the Vietnamese Communist Party. Otherwise . . . . . . . .
Anyone who dozed off while the lecturer, the leading member of the city's communist party youth, was led out of the hall by the comrades. He then came back wet with water in his hair, face and almost all over
his upper body. So either water was poured into their faces or their heads were held under water.
A day with an exhausting topic for us participants again. The lecturer:" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . They called the Native Americans 'Indians' because they thought they had reached their destination, India. No,
you barbarians, this is not India." The sound was suddenly loud: "That is America" . . . . . . The lecturer went on to say: "They are bossy, the barbarians, because the Native Americans are still called 'Indians'
to this day". After a few minutes of silence, he continued speaking, but louder: "The barbarians also claim that Native Americans have red skin. No, the Native Americans have a brownish skin colour, like us . . . . . . .
and our skin colour is not yellow, as they also claim. Some Asians even have light skin colour." Then he went up to the edge of the podium and asked the participants: "Comrades, do we have yellow
skin?" "No." . . . "No" "No" Almost all participants in the hall had given him the answer "no".
The lecturer:" With skin colour, the barbarians begin the discrimination against people who have a different culture and religion from their own. They used the skin colour to classify the value of a person. The
barbarians claim that they are people who have the highest value because their skin colour is white. No, no matter what colour a person is, a person is a person and all people have the same value. These
barbarians in the West, they are later also the model for Hitler and his racist empire." . . . . . . After a sip of water the speaker continued his talk: "After the Second World War they pointed their fingers
at Hitler, but that was just a diversion. Distraction from what they had been doing for centuries before Hitler."
The lecturer: "The aggressor, the barbarians from Europe had quickly stormed the continent of America. Because the 'Indians' did not want to give up their land voluntarily, they claimed that the 'Indians' were
evil people and the aggressors took the land away from the natives by using their modern weapons. The Native Americans, the 'Indians', were progressively massacred, annihilated by the aggressors. The remaining
small remainder of them were locked into so-called 'reservations'. For the 'Indians' there was no possibility to live in these so-called 'reservations' and to preserve their old traditions and rites. There was
not enough food like buffalo, edible plants or medicinal herbs, no source of drinking water and of course no fish. The rest of the indigenous people, the 'Indians', were thus systematically
exterminated. . . . . . . After they had achieved their goal, the aggressors, the barbarians from Europe, had confiscated the land of America for themselves and then called themselves 'Americans'. It later became
the USA - United States of America".
Several days also followed with the theme "Australian Native people", the Aborigines. Unlike the Native Americans, who were called "Indians", we knew almost nothing about the Aborigines in Australia. The topic
had then aroused the curiosity of the participants.
The lecturer: "The aim of Columbus was, on the orders of the Spanish monarchy, to subjugate and colonise the peoples of Asia, to rob them of the legendary riches of Asia. When he claimed in 1492 that he had
arrived in "India", he was in reality in America. It then became cruel to the Native Americans, who were exploited, oppressed and destroyed by the European conquerors. These atrocities also happened to the
Aboriginal people of Australia ... . . . . . . On 29 April 1770 the navigator James Cook, an Englishman, and his crew, the well-armed soldiers, first entered Australia (formerly known as New Holland), formally
taking possession of the continent and land for the British Crown. Invasion, occupation, expropriation, genocide, cultural holocaust, racial segregation and forced adaptation, because the continent should become
white. Cook's landing was the hour zero for the oldest culture in the world, the Aboriginal culture" . . . . . . . . . . .
It was so quiet in the hall, you could only hear the step of the lecturer and then the sound of water that he swallowed hurriedly. The lecturer looked at his watch, which we had never seen before, then he continued
his speech: "The Aborigines are a peaceful people, feeding mainly on fish and plants and some insects. The Aborigines have a great knowledge of nature. They find their remedies in the plant world. Their weapon for
hunting is only a sharpened wooden stick and a boomerang. The Aborigines were therefore defenceless against James Cook's soldiers who were well armed and modern at the time ... . . . . . .. After the aggressor
had imprisoned the peaceful indigenous people in so-called 'reservations', he treated them like monkeys. Then the children were taken away by their parents, an inhuman act, arbitrarily, brutally and violently
torn literally from their mothers' arms. A racist violation of human rights."
After a sip of water, he continued the lecture: "The 'reservations' were in fact an area surrounded by high barbed wire fences and watchtowers, guarded by armed
soldiers. An extremely dry area without water and no plants could grow. The Aborigines had lost their land and access to water to the aggressor. In the 'reservations', however, they remained largely dependent
on food supplies from the white government. . . . . . . . . . . The aggressor, the barbarians, had initially promised the original inhabitants to supply water and food as long as they were obedient, otherwise
the lives of their children would also be in danger. This was a lie and a vicious plan, because after not even a dozen deliveries, the original inhabitants received only alcohol and nothing else. The Aborigines
should get themselves addicted to alcohol and be poisoned by it, and the aggressor, the barbaric English, should have nothing to do with their death and have no sense of guilt."
After a minute's pause, the lecturer immediately spoke on: "In the desperation, the hopeless situation that they would never see their children again, out of worry, fear for the lives of the children, the aborigines,
the original inhabitants of Australia, began to drink alcohol. Just as great as their longing was to see their children again, so deep they plunged into alcohol consumption. Until almost all of them were
poisoned by alcohol and died in agony without help in the so-called 'reservations'." . . . . . . . . . The speaker continues: "Only some of the original inhabitants were able to avoid the fate of those in
the 'reservations '. They managed an early escape and hid when James Cook landed on the continent. Because they already feared what the strangers viciously might do to them." After this sentence the speaker
left the small hall. A comrade ordered a break.
We had never seen such unusual behaviour of the lecturer, the leading member of the communist party youth of the city Hồ Chí Minh. He was in such a hurry, was it perhaps about an urgent important party leadership
meeting that was not planned before? But why? Nhựt and I were restless. Thu sat further behind us, and the participants in the small hall certainly felt like both of us, restless and worried. We were restless
and worried because we sensed that something might happen to us. The thoughts went through my head: Do we have to go on to a concentration camp for "political education" instead of here? Because the regime, despite
the "discussion", could not yet trust us? . . . . . The regime did not trust us anyway, I thought. I also know this because many of us, despite the situation, had made very careless statements during the so-
called "discussions". The reason for this was also that everyone was already very tired and could no longer control themselves. . . . . . . We, the participants in a concentration camp? . . . . . . . . And who
should do the daily work? No, no, that's not gonna happen! . . . . . . . . Or maybe it is possible because we are only a part of the workers from the work units and after more than three years they had taken a
lot of expertise from us. Gradually, the employees of the labour units like us - who were former citizens of the Republic of Vietnam, but who had a rather unimportant relationship with the government before 1975 -
would be replaced by comrades. Many of us have already been put in a very unimportant working position during this time. For them we are like lemons already squeezed! A fate ?!?!?! . . . . . . . . . All
participants and I couldn't do anything about it anyway, as always. In this situation we could only try to keep our inner feelings from showing to the outside, that is the only thing we could do.
During the break. It's called a break, but in reality everyone stays in their seat. Anyone who urgently needed to go to the toilet had to report and was accompanied by a comrade, to the toilet door and back to
the small hall. Nothing is worse than just sitting, waiting for something to happen that you don't know about.
Suddenly a comrade entered the hall, probably from the communist party headquarters in the city. The highest ranking comrade in the hall quickly went to him. They talked for a few minutes, during which time all
the other comrades turned their eyes in our direction, then the comrade left again. A few comrades went to the highest ranking man, they had a short talk. . . . . . . . It was already late and we were all
totally tired. Suddenly a comrade called us participants to form groups, as we had been doing since the first evening, to "discuss" the theme of the day. In spite of tiredness and exhaustion, I and the other
participants in our group were particularly vigilant during the discussion of the evening. Probably the same was true for the participants in the other groups.
With no good feeling and exhausted I went home. My family had been very worried about me because it was already very late. Then I learned from my parents that Uncle Deng Kang's (邓康) illness had worsened. - Uncle
Deng Kang was a close friend of our family. He was known to many people as the leader of the Rice Carriers' Trade Union in the forwarding industry until 30 April 1975 .- When my father heard about Uncle Deng
Kang's situation that day, he wanted to visit him the very next day, but without my mother because the situation outside on the street was very restless and dangerous. Everywhere, especially in the city center,
people were insulted as Jews and friends of Jews , spat at and attacked with stones, iron bars or anything the "bandits" found. In the beginning the victims were Vietnamese of Chinese descent (discriminatory
called "Chinese "), later there were also Vietnamese who were in contact with the "Chinese". Among the victims, it was heard, were many Vietnamese, citizens of the former Republic of Vietnam . . . . . . . . .
Normally my mother would have gone too. But my parents agreed that my mother should stay at home and my father should visit Uncle Deng Kang alone. Nevertheless, my mother was very worried about my father, because
in such a dangerous situation something could happen to my father too. Already in the late evening we planned, that my father should go to Uncle Deng Kang's house early in the morning within the stream of workers
and stay with him until evening. Then he should come back home within the stream of the workers again.
Early the next morning, before my father and I left home, my mother had given my father a bag of fruit for Uncle Deng Kang's visit, which she had got the night before on the black market. My mother worried: "Take
care of yourself." My father: "Don't worry, we're careful and alert enough." As always, every morning when I left the house, went to work, it was still dark, but in the houses along the streets the lights were
already on. In the early morning it was still starry, which gave you a sense of security. I walked with my father to the crossroad of the main road, then I went in the direction of my work company. My father went
towards the city centre. My father had to walk for about half an hour, then he met the stream of workers also running towards the other side of the city. Then it took my father more than an hour to get to Uncle Deng
Kang's house in the city centre.
That day, in the company, at work, I had been thinking about my father and worrying about him almost the whole time. After finishing work, I wanted to go home immediately,
but it was not possible. I had to participate in "political education" with the colleagues who were in the same situation as me.
All the participants of the "political education" sat quietly in the small hall and waited, waited with vigilance because they did not know what might be coming. Suddenly
we heard "In standing position!" A comrade announced loudly, as usual, as the lecturer arrived and stepped onto the podium. Nhựt and I both nudged each other quietly, because
the man standing on the podium was not the same lecturer as usual. This time, the comrade announced the lecturer as a member of the Communist Party headquarters of the city of
Hồ Chí Minh. Presumably the old lecturer had become involved in a power struggle and had lost his post as a leading member of the Communist Party Youth of Hồ Chí Minh City, what
one often heard about the party and the regime.
The lecturer, a member of the communist party headquarters of the city of Hồ Chí Minh , looked with a concentrated gaze at all the participants of the "political education" in
the small hall, then he climbed down from the podium and went to them. Two comrades followed him, one comrade had a notepad in his hand. The lecturer suddenly asked a participant
sitting in the second row with a strange grin and an explicit tone : "What is your name?". The participant was surprised at the situation and while saying his name, one of the
two comrades accompanying the lecturer spoke impatiently and loudly: "Stand up!" . . . . . . The lecturer, who was a member of the Communist Party Central Office of
Hồ Chí Minh City, went on to ask the participant which working unit of the Traffic and Transport Department he was in . . . . . . . . How did he feel at work? . . . . . . . Where
and what had he been engaged in before 30 April 1975?
The lecturer then slowly walked down the aisle around the participants' seats in the small hall. While he walked with a slow step, he looked closely at the participants, one
by one he picked out participants to ask questions to each of them. After the usual questions, he wanted to know from some participants whether they were already married, before
or after 30 April 1975, the background of the spouses, children and what they were currently dealing with. Some questions were very awkward and impossible, so you actually didn't
want to answer because for some participants it was not only too private a matter and they didn't want to talk about it with a strange man, for example: "What do you and your
family do in your free time?" "Do you have friends?"
I was sitting almost in the middle of the sixth row of the participants seats. The lecturer was just passing the row where I was sitting, suddenly he took two steps back and
pointed with his hand in my direction. I stood up. He looked at me for about two minutes, then suddenly he shook his head: "No" and his hand pointed in the direction of me
again, this time making three short movements. The participant, who sat three places further than me, was the one whom he had decided on for the "interview". This was an
inexplicable reaction from the member of the communist party headquarters of Hồ Chí Minh City. At that moment, I felt miraculously released from the dark shadow.
After the "interview", the lecturer climbed back onto the podium. Unlike the previous one, the new lecturer spoke softly, slowly and clearly word for word: ". . . . . . . . . . .the
barbarians, aggressors of the West, they always claim that they are insert for democracy, human rights, freedom and independence for the world, that is a pure lie. One should
not believe what they say, but look at their deeds properly. Where they go, there is war, massacre and coercion on the indigenous people to subdue, colonisation, slavery and
exploitation" . . . . . . . . . . . . . The lecturer continued: "Just as it happened to the native people children of Canada, it was the same terrible fate for the Aboriginal
children of Australia. The Aboriginal children were locked up in child concentration camps, re-educated to the Christian faith, only to serve the whites as slaves. In the
concentration camps, not only the older but also the smallest children were brutally beaten and starved to death, rape was also a daily occurrence. Tens of thousands of
children had not survived this. The bodies of the deceased children were thrown into holes in the ground and these were simply filled up. These had later been discovered
in numerous places around the camps up to the present day . . . . . . . . . . One will discover more such inhuman acts. For the barbarians, that
is 'human rights' . . . . . . . that is 'humane' . . . . . . . . that's 'religious freedom'. . . . . . . . . . . "
The lecturer took a sip of water, then: "Not only the culture, the habitat and the sanctuaries of the Aborigines were destroyed. The sacred places that could not be
destroyed, their names were changed, such as the sacred Aboriginal mountain 'Uluru', which was then called 'Ayers Rock', after the name of the South Australian Prime
Minister Henry Ayers. A so-called 'discoverer' of Uluru, although he, Henry Ayers, had not seen the mountain once in his life. Uluru has always been a famous Aboriginal
sacred mountain, long, long before the English 'discovered' it. Only the priest of the Aborigines is allowed to enter the sacred mountain of the Aborigines. To humiliate
the Aborigines, to degrade them, the English today in 1979 still allowed anyone to climb the mountain and trample on it with their feet." . . . . . . . . . . . . . The
lecturer continued: "Even the few Aboriginal survivors could not escape their cruel fate. When they lost access to the water to the white settlers, they were allocated
reserves. For decades until today, there have been state-sponsored and organised kidnappings in Australia. More than tens of thousands of newborn Aboriginal children,
including mixed-race children, were taken away from their parents, forcibly torn from the proverbial arms of their mothers. The children were locked up in state
missions, concentration camps. The children were re-educated through teaching, through prohibition, through coercion into Christianity and then forced into marriage
in order to exploit them as cheap labour and make them socially acceptable for white Australia. To this day (1979), this racist inhuman practice still
continues . . . . . . . . . . also in Canada".
Almost all participants of the "political education" were shocked by the fate of the Aborigines in Australia. What happened to them was cruel, there are no words to
describe it. In Asia, almost nothing is known about the Aborigines in Australia. All that is known is that the Aborigines are peaceful natives. They only use primitive
wooden tools for hunting. Unlike the indigenous people in America, the Aborigines in Australia are not capable of rebellion. They have never seen or held a metal in
I was exhausted and hungry on the way home. It was a very long day for me, especially during the "discussion" time had somehow stopped for me. I forced myself to walk
quickly, hoping that nothing had happened to my father and that he was already home. It was very late. Moonlight shone through the gaps in the cloudy sky. After a
while, despite the dusk, I saw the bright red colour a short distance away, and I immediately recognised that these were the blossoming flowers of the paper flower tree
on the terrace of our house. A happy feeling immediately spread throughout me: "Finally, I am home". Years later, whenever I see the red flowering
paper flowers (纸花 (zhi hua)/ Hoa Giấy / paper flower/ Bougainvillea spectabilis) somewhere or remember my childhood home, I then feel the happy and sad feeling at
the same time.
My sister was standing behind the paper flower tree waiting for me, when I arrived she immediately opened the patio door and said: "Father is already at home, nothing
has happened". I was totally relieved.
It was already very late in the evening, my parents and my sister had already eaten supper. While I was eating, my father told me that when he arrived at
Uncle 邓康's (Deng Kang) house, it had been a great joy for the uncle and his family. Aunt Deng had told that the family had been sensing my father's visit for
days. The daughter had immediately informed two trusted friends of Uncle 邓康 (Deng Kang) and my father who lived nearby. The two old friends and my father had
not seen each other for a long time, so there was also a lot of joy at the meeting despite the worries. My father told me that Uncle 邓康's (Deng Kang) health had
deteriorated dramatically, so that the escape from the country could not be implemented as planned for the remaining family members. Uncle 邓康 (Deng Kang) wants the
eldest son 邓华 (Deng Hua), the daughter-in-law and the two grandchildren to leave Vietnam quickly if there is a chance, even before the regime could arrest the
family for any reason.
Uncle Deng Kang was a leader of the Rice Bearers' Union before 30 April 1975, the new regime had declared in recent years that the union under the Republic of Vietnam
were just puppets of the government and the US to oppress the workers instead of fighting for justice for them. During the period of conflict between China and Vietnam
on the common border, many Chinese were arrested and disappeared for no reason. Moreover, Uncle Deng Kang's family had not been able to get a job after 30.4.1975. Of course, the
regime asked itself: How do they live?
邓华 (Deng Hua) had expressed that there was no way he would leave his parents and youngest sister in such a situation, even if his father was not ill. If his father's health
did not allow him to come, he would stay with him to care for him. There was a discussion between father and son. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . My father: "I can
understand Deng Hua very well. But the situation here is very serious and if only one member of the family can escape, then there is at least some hope for the family to
live on." My father continued to speak, thoughtfully after a few minutes: "The two friends and I feel that Deng Kang's illness will not get better, it will get worse and
worse. The question is how long it will take, it could be a very long time before . . . . . . . . ." My father was suddenly wordless! Then: "We didn't let the family
notice this feeling." My mother asked if Uncle Deng Kang had already received the news from the other children, the two sons and the daughter. My father showed a sad face
and shook his head: "No, unfortunately still nothing . . . . . . . " My mother: "It's been more than a year since they fled!" My father: "We also talked about that during
the visit. . . . . They were definitely not arrested by the government, then the family would have had a 'visit'. It is likely that the children are already on one of the
refugee islands and are still waiting for a third country to take them in. The children have not yet had a chance to send a message home, or the message was lost, or there
are other reasons" . . . . . . Because of Uncle Deng Kang's health situation, my father and the two uncles who were visiting the family had avoided mentioning the other
reasons for what might have happened to the children who had fled, like: The boat capsized in the open sea and the occupants all drowned or they were attacked by
Thai pirates . . . . . . . . . . . From the friends, my father learned that some people we also knew, such as Uncle Phạm Văn Thắng with his wife and son, had already
fled the country through the support of his brother-in-law with his family. Uncle Thắng's two daughters, who were already married out of the house, were not with them. They
had also not yet received any news from their father.
I can still remember very well that in the period after 1975 there was already bad news about the refugees from the former Republic of South Vietnam. The barbaric Thais
organised themselves with boats and ships on the open sea. They waited, looked for refugee boats, which they then attacked and robbed. The survivors, the contemporary
witnesses told that after they had robbed all valuables such as gold bars, jewellery, US dollars from the refugees, boys and men were shot and the bodies thrown into the
sea. Girls, even very young ones, and women were then raped, then dragged along - probably for prostitution - only the old women remained behind in the boat. The boat
then drifted back and forth in the open sea without a rudder and the old women could only wait for death. Unless they happened to be rescued from the "death boat" by
another refugee boat passing by. But often it was too late, only blood and decomposing corpses were discovered in the "death boats" . . . . . . . . . . Buddhism is the
Thai state religion, but what happened to the refugees is totally different from the teachings of Buddha!
Through my father we also learned that even in the dark morning, where the current of the workers passed in the city, many, many beggars ran from the dark places on the
side of the street to the workers and begged. Many workers already had a small package in their hands to give to the beggars, probably something to eat. After a few
minutes, whether the beggars had received anything or not, they quickly disappeared into the darkness again. These were most likely the people who had fled
the "Vùng Kinh Tế Mới/New Economic Areas". They had to hide from the "Công An/Public Peaceful Order/Police" and only appeared in the dark, otherwise they would be taken
back "where they belonged" or locked up.
The company where I worked and the warehouses were on the outskirts of the city, by the river. On the way to work, I only had to walk a short distance together with a
small current of workers. In the direction of my company, I rarely encountered beggars, at most a couple of groups of workers. In the opposite direction to the other
side of the city, the current of workers was much denser. They then met up with other workers from all directions, formed a large and dense flow of people, walked through
the city to the other side where all the factories were. The large, dense workers' currents in the city with many people offered the beggars better opportunities to beg
and they could not be easily and quickly discovered by the police. . . . . . . . My mother: "We should also have packed at least a few small things and given them."
Among the people, many thought that if the country did not take China as a model to reform, it would not be long, then . . . . . . . . .you can already imagine it: Famine,
uprising, then civil war.
Again after a hard day's work, we have to go to "political education". How much longer?
In the small hall we waited "well-behaved" for the lecturer who was supposed to have appeared a long time ago. The supervisory comrades standing around the participants
whispered in each other's ears and at the same time looked in the direction of the participants with a sharp and threatening gaze. I asked myself again what would happen
to us. In that situation, I suddenly thought about the fate of my family: In 1978, my parents had to say a difficult and painful goodbye to my four brothers, whom they
could not see again in their lives. An experience they had to go through as a child: During the period of Japanese aggression, as allies of Hitler's Germany in
Southeast Asia, China in particular was attacked and the so-called "Asian Holocaust" was executed everywhere. Several million people in Asia were massacred, buried alive, their
skin pulled off their bodies while they were still alive and . . . and . . . . . As children, my parents and other children were brought to safety by fishing boats from
China, organized by the residents of the coastal area. Since the escape, my parents had never seen their parents again in their entire lives.
The four brothers who had fled Vietnam, two of them older than me, had to flee the country immediately because of the threatening situation under the regime. Of the two other
brothers, one is a ship mechanic, the other is the youngest of the siblings and was still at school at the time.
In Vietnam, six of my parents' children remained, and I was the eldest. After me were two sisters, then two brothers and the youngest sister, who was still a schoolgirl. The
eldest sister was employed by the regime after 1975 as a worker in a "Cửa Hàng Hợp Tác Xã Lao Động/Labour Cooperative Shop". She was paid the same pittance as I was, on
which one could not feed oneself. She left the house very early and came back very late, often she had to spend the night in the shop, like her only colleague, as a
night supervisor, because the shop was in a large house with several floors that had been confiscated by the regime and also served as a warehouse. In addition, my
sister and her colleague had to go to "vocational training", meetings, etc. all the time. Although we lived together in my parents' house, I rarely saw her. We know from
my sister's stories that there were two superior comrades in the shop who had nothing to do apart from their supervisory duties.
After the Vietnamese communist "Liberation Army" marched into Saigon on 30 April 1975, the new regime called on all students and pupils of the former Republic of Vietnam
to report to their university or college. A few days after my younger sister reported to the university, she came home briefly with her three closest study mates to change
quickly, packed a few necessities, had a quick meal with her friends and then said a hasty goodbye to the family to go back to university. Like his sister, the younger
brother also came home to say goodbye to the family a week after he reported to the college. He packed all the necessary things and went back to the meeting place, the
college. Via the regime's public news, students and pupils were classified as "Tiểu tư sản/small capitalists". Among them, of course, were my younger sister and brother. The
students and pupils were then led to work, somewhere, so that no one knew where it might be. My parents were very worried about my two siblings. We waited daily for
news of the siblings, but in vain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The time of worries often has no end, the waiting time is always endless . . . . . . . . . . . . . After three long years, late in 1978, my younger brother suddenly
came home . . . . . . .with a . . . . . female stranger. He had then introduced her to my parents, said that she was his girlfriend and that they had both met in the
work group. After two of the girlfriend's brothers visited us, we learned that she also came from a multi-sibling family, from a simple background, honest
and "loyal to the regime". After registering with the district police, the stranger was of course first placed under observation.
Despite all the circumstances, after an application, the authorities allowed my brother to marry his girlfriend. Only the neighbours and of course the
Công An/police officer, who was responsible for a hundred families on site, were invited to the wedding ceremony, no one else. The celebration was not like a wedding
banquet as usual, but in a "revolutionary" form, with only biscuits and tea. For these we needed a pre-order from the "shop of the work cooperative" almost two months
before. The "celebration" was mainly an opportunity for the neighbours to talk a little in a private atmosphere, we thought. The wedding "celebration" was applied
for and allowed on Sunday from 7.30 p.m. to 10 p.m. This was the time of day when people had already eaten dinner and did not go to bed too late.
Shortly before half past seven, the local Công An/police officer arrived at the "celebration" and was kindly welcomed by my mother, a must. My parents had introduced
him to my brother and the bride. In actual fact, every local police officer already knew exactly about the situation of every family in his area of responsibility. After a
short usual conversation, he then talked to my mother about the expected meetings of the residents in the next four weeks - My mother had been elected by the residents as
group leader of ten families- At that moment, the neighbour, Aunt Tư, who lived two houses to the right of our house, arrived. When she saw the local policeman, she wanted
to turn around and leave, but it was already too late. She greeted the "gentleman" "properly", congratulated my mother and sat down two tables away. I also brought her
hot tea and biscuits, as I had done earlier to the local policeman, and sat with her so that she was not alone. Aunt Tư, to those who knew her, was kind, tidy and a woman
of good behaviour. She told incessantly that she was well, also the two daughters married outside the home, the sons-in-law, the grandchildren, all were well, all were
contented and happy and . . . and, all only positive. That was a surprise for me. It was different from what she usually told my mother. Aunt Tư only stayed for twenty
minutes, then she left the "celebration" after saying goodbye to me and my mother. She told the "gentleman" that she had cleaned the whole house during the day and was
already tired, she had also not forgotten to wish the "gentleman" a "good night". Behind the patio door, she suddenly walked with unusually quick steps. By chance I saw
that Aunt Năm and the uncle who lived to our right and left were secretly looking over at us. When they saw the local policeman, they quickly retreated into the
darkness. The local policeman did not leave as we had hoped, he stayed until exactly 10pm, then he said goodbye to us and left quickly.
Days later, one by one, the neighbours had belatedly congratulated my parents or my mother. The neighbours said that they had gone to the " celebration " that evening and
when they were about to enter from the street or the terrace, they saw the local police officer, which was very unpleasant for them. They felt uncomfortable and not free
and left again. Some neighbours even felt tremendously disturbed! Especially when they saw that no other guests were present except the local police officer. Nevertheless, the
neighbours came by again, but had to leave because the "gentleman" was still there. Aunt Năm told us that she saw aunt Tư leaving our terrace: "She 'flew' quickly back to
her house and when she saw me, she just waved briefly, then quickly closed the door." My mother explained to the neighbours that for celebrations, funerals or any
gathering, the police must be asked for permission and invited. Everyone thought this would be an opportunity for the neighbours to spend a cosy evening together, despite
the fact that the local policeman had to be invited if he left early or came late. No, he came and stayed the whole time. Because of him, aunt Tư couldn't stand it for long.
In 1975, like my younger brother, my younger sister had said goodbye to the family and gone back to university. Since then, we still hadn't seen her again, nor had we
received any information from her, unlike with my younger brother, who came back home after three years. That was the last time we had seen my younger sister. Even four
years later, in 1979, when I made an escape and left the country, I and the family had not seen her again . . . . . . . . . . . . . My parents were very sad and everyone
was worried about my younger sister.
The other brother, the older one, had also worked as a ship's mechanic before 30 April 1975 and then he and I, like two older brothers of ours, had to report for
military service. He had lost a leg during the war. After 30 April 1975, he, two older brothers of ours and I, like all those who were in the army service of the former
Republic of Vietnam, had to undergo a re-education measure by the regime. He had been living with his girlfriend on the other side of the river in front of
our parents' house ever since he worked as a ship's mechanic. During the day, however, my brother often stayed with my parents.
My thought went back to the situation in the hall I was in . . . . . . . . . . . . . . More than an hour had passed and the lecturer had still not appeared. The
supervisory comrades were restless, but they did not let on to us . . . . . . . . . . and . . . . . . . of course they could not deceive us as usual. A loud shout broke
the silence of the small hall: "In standing position!" The participants looked forward . . . . . . . . . . . . . . but where was the lecturer? He hadn't got on the
platform. . . . . . . . . . . . Ah yes, he is talking to some supervisory comrades at the entrance to the hall. Shortly afterwards, he went to the front, took out
three sheets of paper from his briefcase, handed them to one of the supervisory comrades. Both exchanged a few words, then the supervising comrade went to the
participant at the front of the first row, gave the participant the three sheets of paper and said: "After looking at it, pass it on to the next person!" The supervising
comrade then made a sign that the participants were allowed to sit down again. This was usually done by the presenter when he was on the podium.
...will be continued...