Roger Casement-Irish Hero and the Congo

Ed15-Casement

Roger Casement was born in Sandycove, County Dublin in September 1864 and raised in Ballycastle County Antrim following the death of his parents..

between 1911 and shortly before his execution for treason, when he was stripped of his knighthood and other honours, was an Irish-born civil servant who worked for the British Foreign Office as a diplomat, and later became a humanitarian activist, Irish nationalist, and poet. Described as the “father of twentieth-century human rights investigations”, he was honoured in 1905 for the Casement Report on the Congo and knighted in 1911 for his important investigations of human rights abuses in Peru. He then made efforts during World War I to gain German military aid for the 1916 Easter Rising that sought to gain Irish independence.

On this day in 1916 he was sentenced to death for his part in the Easter Rising.

FEATURE_arrest-of-casement

However I will not go in to his involvement in the Easter Rising in this blog, my focus will be on his Congo report known as the Casement report.

31xV4ZQLZKL._SY346_

The Casement Report was a 1904 document written  detailing abuses in the Congo Free State

Victim_of_Congo_atrocities,_Congo,_ca._1890-1910_(IMP-CSCNWW33-OS10-19)

cong_hands_1904_2

which was under the private ownership of King Leopold II of Belgium.

leopold2

This report was instrumental in Leopold finally relinquishing his private holdings in Africa. Leopold had had ownership of the Congolese state since 1885, granted to him by the Berlin Conference, in which he exploited its natural resources (mostly rubber) for his own private wealth.

For many years prior to the Casement Report there were reports from the Congo alleging widespread abuses and exploitation of the native population. In 1895, the situation was reported to Dr Henry Grattan Guinness (1861–1915), a missionary doctor. He had established the Congo-Balolo Mission in 1889, and was promised action by King Leopold later in 1895, but nothing changed. H. R. Fox-Bourne of the Aborigines’ Protection Society had published Civilisation in Congoland in 1903, and the journalist E. D. Morel also wrote several articles about the Leopoldian government’s behaviour in the Congo Free State.

E.D._Morel

On 20 May 1903 a motion by the Liberal Herbert Samuel was debated in the British House of Commons, resulting in this resolution: “.. That the Government of the Congo Free State having, at its inception, guaranteed to the Powers that its Native subjects should be governed with humanity, and that no trading monopoly or privilege should be permitted within its dominions, this House requests His Majesty’s Government to confer with the other Powers, signatories of the Berlin General Act by virtue of which the Congo Free State exists, in order that measures may be adopted to abate the evils prevalent in that State.

Subsequently, the British consul at Boma in the Congo, the Irishman Roger Casement was instructed by Balfour’s government to investigate. His report was published in 1904, confirmed Morel’s accusations, and had a considerable impact on public opinion.

Casement met and became friends with Morel just before the publication of his report in 1904 and realized that he had found the ally he had sought. Casement convinced Morel to establish an organization for dealing specifically with the Congo question. With Casement’s and Dr. Guinness’s assistance, he set up and ran the Congo Reform Association, which worked to end Leopold’s control of the Congo Free State. Branches of the association were established as far away as the United States.

The Casement Report comprises forty pages of the Parliamentary Papers, to which is appended another twenty pages of individual statements gathered by Casement as Consul, including several detailing grim tales of killings, mutilations, kidnappings and cruel beatings of the native population by soldiers of the Congo Administration of King Leopold. Copies of the Report were sent by the British government to the Belgian government as well as to nations who were signatories to the Berlin Agreement in 1885, under which much of Africa had been partitioned. The British Parliament demanded a meeting of the fourteen signatory powers to review the 1885 Berlin Agreement. The Belgian Parliament, pushed by socialist leader Emile Vandervelde 

800px-Émile_Vandervelde_1919

and other critics of the King’s Congolese policy, forced a reluctant Leopold to set up an independent commission of enquiry.

 

Its findings confirmed Casement’s report in every detail. This led to the arrest and punishment of officials who had been responsible for murders during a rubber-collection expedition in 1903 (including one Belgian national who was given a five-year sentence for causing the shooting of at least 122 Congolese natives).

Advertisements

The forgotten Genocide-Belgian Congo.

23b43079bc99703dcf5c7adcb2de6a12

The Congo Free State was a corporate state in Central Africa privately owned by King Leopold II of Belgium founded and recognized by the Berlin Conference of 1885. In the 23 years (1885-1908) Leopold II ruled the Congo he massacred 10 million Africans by cutting off their hands and genitals, flogging them to death, starving them into forced labour, holding children ransom and burning villages. The ironic part of this story is that Leopold II committed these atrocities by not even setting foot in the Congo.

Leopold_ii_garter_knight

Under Leopold II’s administration, the Congo Free State became one of the greatest international scandals of the early 20th century.

The ABIR Congo Company (founded as the Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company and later known as the Compagnie du Congo Belge) was the company appointed to exploit natural rubber in the Congo Free State. ABIR enjoyed a boom through the late 1890s, by selling a kilogram of rubber in Europe for up to 10 fr which had cost them just 1.35 fr. However, this came at a cost to the human rights of those who couldn’t pay the tax with imprisonment, flogging and other corporal punishment recorded.

Punch_congo_rubber_cartoon

Failure to meet the rubber collection quotas was punishable by death. Meanwhile, the Force Publique (the gendarmerie / military force) were required to provide the hand of their victims as proof when they had shot and killed someone, as it was believed that they would otherwise use the munitions (imported from Europe at considerable cost) for hunting. As a consequence, the rubber quotas were in part paid off in chopped-off hands. Sometimes the hands were collected by the soldiers of the Force Publique, sometimes by the villages themselves. There were even small wars where villages attacked neighboring villages to gather hands, since their rubber quotas were too unrealistic to fill.

cong_hands_1904_1

A Catholic priest quotes a man, Tswambe, speaking of the hated state official Léon Fiévez, who ran a district along the river 500 kilometres (300 mi) north of Stanley Pool: All blacks saw this man as the devil of the Equator…From all the bodies killed in the field, you had to cut off the hands. He wanted to see the number of hands cut off by each soldier, who had to bring them in baskets…A village which refused to provide rubber would be completely swept clean. As a young man, I saw [Fiévez’s] soldier Molili, then guarding the village of Boyeka, take a net, put ten arrested natives in it, attach big stones to the net, and make it tumble into the river…Rubber causes these torments; that’s why we no longer want to hear its name spoken. Soldiers made young men kill or rape their own mothers and sisters.

cong_hands_1904_2

One junior European officer described a raid to punish a village that had protested. The European officer in command “ordered us to cut off the heads of the men and hang them on the village palisades… and to hang the women and the children on the palisade in the form of a cross”. After seeing a Congolese person killed for the first time, a Danish missionary wrote: “The soldier said ‘Don’t take this to heart so much. They kill us if we don’t bring the rubber. The Commissioner has promised us if we have plenty of hands he will shorten our service”

img

In Forbath’s words: The baskets of severed hands, set down at the feet of the European post commanders, became the symbol of the Congo Free State…. The collection of hands became an end in itself. Force Publique soldiers brought them to the stations in place of rubber; they even went out to harvest them instead of rubber… They became a sort of currency. They came to be used to make up for shortfalls in rubber quotas, to replace… the people who were demanded for the forced labor gangs; and the Force Publique soldiers were paid their bonuses on the basis of how many hands they collected

In theory, each right hand proved a killing. In practice, soldiers sometimes “cheated” by simply cutting off the hand and leaving the victim to live or die. More than a few survivors later said that they had lived through a massacre by acting dead, not moving even when their hands were severed, and waiting till the soldiers left before seeking help. In some instances a soldier could shorten his service term by bringing more hands than the other soldiers, which led to widespread mutilations and dismemberment.

cong_hands_1904(A Congolese man looking at the severed hand and foot of his five-year-old daughter who was killed, and allegedly cannibalized, by the members of Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company militia)

A reduction of the population of the Congo is noted by all who have compared the country at the beginning of Leopold’s control with the beginning of Belgian state rule in 1908, but estimates of the death toll vary considerably. Estimates of contemporary observers suggest that the population decreased by half during this period and these are supported by some modern scholars such as Jan Vansina. Others dispute this. Scholars at the Royal Museum for Central Africa argue that a decrease of 15 percent over the first forty years of colonial rule (up to the census of 1924).

 

The Sins of the Father: Martin Adolf Bormann.

1-martin-adolf-bormann

How do you cope when you find out that your father was one of the most evil men in history, and worse your Godfather was the most evil man known to man kind?

Martin Adolf Bormann (14 April 1930 in Grünwald – 11 March 2013 (aged 82) in Herdecke) was a German theologian laicized Roman Catholic priest, the eldest of the ten children of Martin Bormann and a godson of Adolf Hitler.

00007635 copy

His father Martin Bormann was the personal Secretary to Hitler.

Preoccupied with military matters and spending most of his time at his military headquarters on the eastern front, Hitler came to rely more and more on Bormann to handle the domestic policies of the country. On 12 April 1943, Hitler officially appointed Bormann as Personal Secretary to the Führer. By this time Bormann had de facto control over all domestic matters, and this new appointment gave him the power to act in an official capacity in any matter.

HitlerKeitelGoeringBormann

Bormann Jr was born as Adolf Martin Bormann in Grünwald, Bavaria, the oldest of the ten children of the head of the Nazi Party Chancellery and private secretary to Führer Adolf Hitler, Martin Bormann (1900–1945) and his wife, Gerda Buch (1909–1946). Nicknamed Krönzi, short for Kronprinz (German for crown prince), he was an ardent young Nazi, attending the Nazi Party Academy of Matrei am Brenner in the Tyrol from 1940 to 1945.

Until he was 15, he loved his father as any child should. Martin Bormann Sr was, by all accounts, a good family man, dutifully visiting his wife and nine children from wherever he was based, taking pains to ensure their schooling and home life was correct. When he was 10, young Martin was sent to the elite Nazi Party Academy in Bavaria (“to make me a good German,” he smiles), where he stayed for five years until the Third Reich started collapsing.

m

On 15 April 1945, the school closed and young Martin was advised by a party functionary in Munich, named Hummel, to try to reach his mother in the still German-occupied hamlet of Val Gardena/Gröden, near Selva/Wolkenstein in Italian South Tyrol. Unable to get there, he found himself stranded in Salzburg where the Gauleiter provided him with false identity papers and he found hospitality with a Catholic farmer, Nikolaus Hohenwarter, at the Querleitnerhof, halfway up a mountain in the Salzburg Alps.

After Germany surrendered, his mother, Gerda, was subjected to relentless interrogation by officers of the CIC (Combined Intelligence Committee, the joint American-British intelligence body). She died of abdominal cancer  in the prison hospital at Merano on 23 April 1946.

c43b9ddad75ceb99864dec59e526f0ac

The following year, her teenage son Martin learned of his mother’s death from an article in the Salzburger Nachrichten and only then confessed his true identity to Nikolas Hohenwarter, who reported the information to his local priest at Weißbach bei Lofer. Subsequently the priest advised the rector of the Church of Maria Kirchtal, who then took the boy into his care.

Bormann converted to Catholicism. While serving as an altar boy at Maria Kirchtal, he was arrested by American intelligence officers and imprisoned at Zell am See for several days of interrogation before being returned to his parish. He stayed there until he joined the religious congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in Ingolstadt. He had been able to resume contact with his brothers and sisters, all of whom, except for one sister, had also been received into the Catholic Church.

After Hitler committed suicide on 30 April 1945, his fugitive father Martin Bormann suddenly vanished.

wantedposter

Martin A. Bormann said he did not know what happened to his father when interrogated: he was repeatedly tested for lies but was deemed truthful. Over the coming years, several organisations, including the CIA and the West German Government, attempted to locate Bormann without success.Sightings were reported at points all over the world, including Australia, Denmark, Italy, and South America.In 1971 Bormann supported the government officials’ conclusion that the disappearance of Martin Bormann Sr. was inconclusive and the search for Bormann Sr. was officially ended in November 1971. Thereafter, on 7 December 1972, construction workers uncovered human remains near Lehrter station in West Berlin. Upon autopsy, fragments of glass were found in the jaw of the skeleton, which was identified as Martin Bormann Sr. through reconstructed dental records; the glass fragments suggested he had committed suicide by biting a cyanide capsule to avoid capture. Forensic examiners determined that the size of the skeleton and shape of the skull were identical to Bormann’s. The remains were conclusively identified as Bormann’s in 1998 when German authorities ordered genetic testing on fragments of the skull.On 16 August 1999 the remains were cremated and Martin Bormann Jr. was permitted to scatter his father’s ashes in the Baltic Sea.

On 28 July 1958, he was ordained a priest. In 1961, he was sent to the newly independent Congo (formerly the Belgian Congo), where he worked as a missionary until 1964, when he had to flee the country due to the Simba rebellion. In 1966, he returned to the Congo for a year.

Following a near-fatal injury in 1969 he was nursed back to health by a nun, Sister Cordula, who then also renounced her vows. They were married in 1971.

He became a teacher of theology and retired in 1992. As recently as 2001, he toured schools in Germany and Austria, speaking about the horrors of the Third Reich, and has even visited Israel, meeting with Holocaust survivors.

In 2011, Bormann was accused by a former pupil at an Austrian Catholic boarding school of raping him as a 12-year-old when Bormann was working there as a priest and schoolmaster in the early 1960s.

article-1343633-00B8AE5D1000044C-837_468x307

Other former pupils alleged severe physical violence had been used against them and others. Bormann denied knowledge of the events.Father Walter Licklederer of the order in Salzburg where the abuse is alleged to have taken place said he was ‘shattered’ by the claims
Bormann died in 2013 in Herdecke, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.