HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY 2020

Go here to read about the Holocaust Memorial Day in January of 2020: https://www.hmd.org.uk/take-part-in-holocaust-memorial-day/holocaust-memorial-day-2020/

1/22/2020

Slavery Vietnam 2020

Precarious journeys of Vietnamese children trafficked to Europe

Slavery in Vietnam 2020

Thank Heavens for little girls. In Hell?

Report: EU Governments ‘pass the buck’ for protecting thousands of Vietnamese children trafficked through Europe.

Thousands of children trafficked from Vietnam to the UK are suffering horrendous exploitation and abuse in transit through Europe as different governments pass the buck on protecting them, according to new research by Anti-Slavery International, ECPAT UK and Pacific Links Foundation.
The report, Precarious Journeys: Mapping Vulnerabilities of Victims of Trafficking from Vietnam to Europe, traces the journeys made by Vietnamese children and adults to the UK, finding that the governments of countries on key trafficking routes routinely fail to protect vulnerable Vietnamese children from exploitation.
Instead, governments’ rhetoric and policies around migration has led to ‘transit countries’ – countries comprising a temporary part of the route from Vietnam to the UK – to view trafficked Vietnamese children as the responsibility of other States.
This leaves exploited children unidentified as victims, unable to access protection from their traffickers and easy targets for further exploitation and harm.

Lack of safe, legal routes

Official figures show hundreds of Vietnamese children are trafficked from Vietnam to the UK each year[1], however it is widely accepted that the actual number of victims is likely to be significantly higher. In the UK, Vietnamese nationals are consistently within the top three nationalities of those identified as potential victims of trafficking, via the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – the figures from 2009-2018 show 3,187 Vietnamese adults and children victims were referred into the NRM.[2]
Factors such as poverty, lack of political freedoms, and environmental disasters and climate change – combined with a lack of safe, legal migration routes – make children vulnerable to deceit by traffickers and risky job offers abroad.
A typical journey takes children from Vietnam to Russia by plane, and then overland through Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands and France. However, the report also highlights an emerging trend of transit from Vietnam to Europe via South America.
At each stage of the journey, children are vulnerable to exploitation in many forms and industries, including drug production, nail bars and manufacturing of counterfeit goods; as well as other forms of labour and sexual exploitation.
Children are typically controlled by debt owed to their traffickers for the cost of their travel out of Vietnam and the arrangement of a good job. However, these jobs frequently do not materialise, and instead children are forced to work in exploitative conditions to ‘pay back’ the debt, which grows each day. Additionally, children are controlled with use of violence as well as threats to themselves and their families back home.

Invisible and unprotected

Widespread low awareness and training in child trafficking across multiple European authorities in Poland, Czech Republic, Germany and the Netherlands and the UK means children are not being identified and protected, instead slipping through the net.
The research highlights a concerning number of children are repeatedly going missing from state care and being re-trafficked – often by the same networks of traffickers controlling them. Growing up with a fear of authorities prevents children from engaging with support services in Europe and further increases their risk of re-trafficking.
Once identified, children are fearful of returning to Vietnam. Travelling through irregular means, being forced to commit crime and owing a huge debt can mean that children will face reprisals from both their traffickers and Vietnamese authorities if they are returned to Vietnam.
“In France, the police didn’t help me and my traffickers found me again. When in the UK, I was treated like a criminal. One thing I would say to the people in Europe is, if it happened to your children, you wouldn’t ignore it.”
Debbie Beadle, Director of Programmes at ECPAT UK, said
”Under international law, States have a duty to protect children from trafficking and exploitation. It’s simply not acceptable for States to regard trafficked Vietnamese children as another country’s problem.
“Every professional who comes into contact with children across Europe should be able to identify victims and protect children from harm. Each country has a responsibility to ensure their frontline staff are trained, equipped and adequately resourced to protect children from trafficking.”
Jasmine O’Connor, CEO of Anti-Slavery International, said
“The extent of abuse children trafficked from Vietnam to Europe suffer is shocking. By the time they arrive in the UK, the vast majority have been mercilessly exploited along the way.
“We have to stop putting our heads in the sand and address this problem head on, together with other European and non-European countries.”
Dung, a Vietnamese member of ECPAT UK’s youth group for victims of trafficking, said
“I was a child who was taken across Europe by people I was scared of. In France, the police didn’t help me and my traffickers found me again. When in the UK, I was treated like a criminal. One thing I would say to the people in Europe is, if it happened to your children, you wouldn’t ignore it. One thing I would say to the UK Government is, why are the victims the ones you treat like criminals?”

Story of Dung*

Dung is from the North of Vietnam. She grew up with her grandparents, never knowing her real parents. Her family were poor and Dung didn’t attend school, instead helping her grandparents collect and sort recycling to earn an income. Her grandparents died when she was 14, leaving her alone with no caregiver. Dung survived by finding work in restaurants, where she would be given food in return for work. Initially, she was too upset to go back to the house she had shared with her grandparents, so she stayed in the restaurant. When she returned to the house after a couple of months, there was a man living there. He said he now owned the house. Dung asked the neighbours for help but no one would help her.
Dung went back to the restaurant she had worked and stayed in. The owners didn’t pay her or give her much food. They also beat her. It was in this restaurant that two women who were regular customers befriended Dung. They said they felt sorry for her and understood her pain as they had also had a hard life. They offered to cook her dinner one night, but after eating, Dung started to feel dizzy. She woke up in a house and was told she was in China. There were other women there and they were crying. Chinese men were watching over them and they had knives. Dung was not allowed to talk to any of the other women.
After a few days, Dung was forced to go on a journey. She didn’t know where she was going or why, and was terrified. Over a few weeks, she was driven across Europe in the back of different lorries. They stopped the journey from time to time, but Dung was never aware of which country she was in. After about a month of travelling, the lorry was stopped by police in France. The police took Dung’s finger prints and photo. Dung wanted to tell them what had happened to her, but there was no translator and she was scared. The men had said that they would kill her if she spoke. She was transferred to another police station, where she thought they were helping her, but instead they walked her through a door and she realised that she was being released. When she went outside there was a car waiting for her. Men pulled her into the car. She then was put on another lorry travelling to the UK. In the UK, Dung was kept in a house with other women and forced into sexual exploitation. She was told that she had to earn back the money that was paid to bring her to the UK.
*Not her real name

Precarious Journeys: Mapping vulnerabilities of victims of trafficking from Vietnam to Europe – read the summary report in PDF format:

Precarious Journeys report cover



Read the full report:  (2.7MB) Precarious Journeys – full report.


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1/12/2020

Raymond Geist - the German Resistance

A Gay American German in Hitler’s Berlin

A new book, ‘The Berlin Mission,’ recounts the story of American diplomat Raymond Geist’s efforts to resist the Nazis from inside Germany



By James Kirchick
of Tablet Magazine, Europe



If the destruction of European Jewry was the collective work, not just of Nazis, but of countless “ordinary men,” so too was the effort to prevent this great crime. An accumulation of many individual acts by people whose stories have been lost to history. Raymond Geist was one such man.

An American consul who arrived in Berlin four years before the Nazi seizure of power and remained in the German capital for an entire decade, Geist processed visa applications for thousands of imperiled Jews including Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud. But Geist was more than just a paper pusher. A collegiate actor and champion public speaker of German descent, he began his diplomatic career working for the American delegation to the post-World War I Versailles peace conference. He was then seconded to Vienna on behalf of Herbert Hoover’s private American Relief Administration. There, he was able to do an enormous amount of good for many desperate people, an experience that prepared him well for the challenges he would face in Berlin.

Geist’s story is recounted in The Berlin Mission: The American Who Resisted Nazi Germany from Within by Richard Breitman, professor emeritus at American University and co-author of FDR and the Jews. Long before the United States became a global superpower, Geist was, according to Breitman, the only fluent German-speaker in the State Department’s Division of Western European Affairs when he was dispatched to Berlin in 1929, an indication of just how green was the practice of American diplomacy in the interwar period. While a fledgling bureaucracy left the United States ill-equipped to deal with the seismic changes affecting Europe at the time, it also created opportunities for imaginative and enterprising diplomats, and Geist quickly became “the Foreign Service expert on Nazi Germany.”

Breitman charts Geist’s career, which intersected with seemingly all of the major events and personalities of Nazi-ruled Berlin, from the Reichstag fire (which Geist called “the funeral pyre on which the short-lived liberties of the German people were extinguished”) to Kristallnacht to an hour-long conversation between Herman Goering and a visiting Charles Lindbergh which Geist had the honor (or burden) of interpreting. Years later, after he returned to Washington yet before Germany declared war on the United States, Geist went on a State Department-sponsored speaking tour of major American cities essentially to rebut the pro-Nazi Lindbergh (whom he found “a little too stupid and dull for the conceited and verbose” Luftwaffe commander).

All the while, Geist was doing what he could (which, as a consular officer, was not much) to liberalize America’s scandalously tight visa regime for Jewish refugees, help as many German Jews as possible, and otherwise assist his fellow countrymen who happened to find themselves in Nazi crosshairs. Geist interceded on behalf of American visitors to Germany arrested for refusing to throw up a stiff-armed, Sieg Heil while observing Nazi rallies, a common occurence. In one instance, he even arranged safe departure for the family of a pro-German CBS correspondent whose son was attacked by a storm trooper after failing to display this sign of deference to the Fuehrer. On another occasion, Geist bluffed to Heinrich Himmler’s press officer, threatening that if the regime sent another American Jew to a concentration camp, he would personally instruct the State Department to invalidate all American passports to Germany. (“They think I have the power to do these things and therefore it is safe to use them as threats,” he wrote to his superior, Consul-General George S. Messersmith, in 1939. “One has to be constantly at it day and night and never leave go. I feel that I have got some of these Nazis by the neck and that I cannot leave go of my hold.”)

It helped that Geist was free of the anti-Semitism that infected so many of his countrymen, particularly those working alongside him in the State Department, up to and including his boss for a period, William Dodd. “I am no race antagonist,” the American ambassador to Germany wrote to Secretary of State Cordell Hull, “but we have a large number [of Jews] here, and it affects the service and adds to my load.”

When the hacking collective WikiLeaks released some quarter of a million diplomatic cables nearly a decade ago, something that stood out was the professionalism and perspicacity of the American diplomats whose communications were exposed. It is those qualities that were put on remarkable display during the recent impeachment hearings, as one career diplomat after another testified to the corrupt machinations of President Trump, his hotelier European Union ambassador, and personal attorney. Breitman places Geist in this tradition of the consummately professional foreign service officer, and the trait of his which most shines through is prescience. In a dispatch to Washington filed less than 18 months after Hitler became chancellor, Geist observes:

I cannot sufficiently emphasize what would happen if the present regime were able to create a strong Germany. This country under such conditions would certainly rearm and definitely prepare to wage a war against Europe in general which would change the course of history, if not of civilization, beyond what we even dream, if their supreme effort would be successful. The Germans are absolutely confident of their destiny; and they will make the attempt to establish a hegemony (or rather an empire similar to that maintained by the Caesars) in Europe unless forces beyond their control hinder the attempt.

Very few people were writing or saying such things in 1934. Breitman has also located a 1938 document, published in full as an appendix, which today reads with a terrifying clairvoyance. “The Germans are determined to solve the Jewish problem without the assistance of other countries, and that means eventual annihilation,” Geist wrote. This, Breitman says, amounts to the first, explicit warning of the coming Holocaust by an American official, and certainly qualifies as the book’s most significant contribution to the historical record.

Geist was also gay, a trait Breitman suggests may have endowed him with an empathy for those living on the margins of society. “By virtue of who he was and how much he observed, Geist was more sensitive than most to the wide range of victims of Nazi persecution,” Breitman writes. “He was an exception to the pattern in the Foreign Service and in the State Department.”

The Berlin Mission is all the more remarkable when one considers that its subject, who regularly interacted with the likes of Himmler, Goering, Reinhard Heydrich and other factotums of a regime that rounded up and exterminated homosexuals, shared a bed with a German man.

Geist’s career ended in 1948 at the age of 63. While he received nothing but the highest accolades from colleagues and superiors throughout his decades of service, Geist never attained the post of ambassador he coveted. Whether his discreet homosexuality was responsible for this plateau, Breitman does not say; Geist left the foreign service just on the cusp of the State Department’s purge of its gay and lesbian employees. (Breitman makes no note of the fact that the last ambassador to Germany for whom Geist worked, the slightly less discreet Alexander Comstock Kirk, was also gay.)

“His ability, honed on the stage and on the lecture circuit, to play different roles and make a strong impression turned out to be unusually useful where so many foreigners seemed bewildered by the totalitarian system or intimidated by Hitler’s successes,” Breitman writes. “Geist’s acting skills allowed him to charm and to please while concealing his thoughts and motives.” One suspects that Geist’s powers of dissimulation were not limited to the ones he learned treading the boards, but—like many a gay diplomat and spy of his era—encompassed those acquired in pursuit of a secret life.

*****

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James Kirchick, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, is a columnist at Tablet magazine and the author of The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age. He is writing a history of gay Washington, D.C. His Twitter feed is @jkirchick.

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12/16/2019

Tulsa Race Massacre

Tulsa moves closer to learning whether there are mass graves from 1921 race massacre

After nearly 100 years, Tulsa may be closer to finally answering whether bodies of black people killed in the 1921 race massacre were dumped into mass graves after one of the worst episodes of racial violence in U.S. history.

Tulsa race massacre
An overview of the aftermath of the Tulsa race massacre in 1921.
(Greenwood Cultural Center)


A team of forensic archaeologists who spent weeks using ground-penetrating radar to search for mass graves in Tulsa is set to announce the results of the geophysical investigation Monday.
“The only way to move forward in our work to bring about reconciliation in Tulsa is by seeking the truth honestly,” Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said in a statement to The Washington Post. “We knew opening this investigation 98 years later, there would be both unknowns and truths to uncover. But we are committed to exploring what happened in 1921 through this collective and transparent process filling gaps in our city’s history, and providing healing and justice to our community.” 
Bynum, who called the process a murder investigation, said the city is obligated to find out what happened in 1921 as the city prepares to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the massacre. He reopened the investigation after a Washington Post story focused on unresolved questions about the rampage.
During the public meeting Monday at a Tulsa middle school, scientists will reveal whether they discovered “anomalies” consistent with mass graves. The team is also slated to explain the field work and release recommendations to the city for the next phase of the investigation.
Tulsa officials said that could include excavation and an investigation by the State of Oklahoma’s Medical Examiner’s Office into causes of death.
“The cause of death determination would be an important step to the investigation,” city officials said in a statement, “as remains will be close to 100 years old and a Spanish Influenza outbreak occurred in Tulsa in 1919 prior to the Race Massacre in 1921.”
The city and oversight committee — which is made up of descendants of massacre victims, community leaders, historians and scholars — must also decide on next steps, city officials said, “as it relates to storing remains, DNA testing and genealogical research, and commemorating the grave sites and honoring the remains.”
The team of scientists, led by the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey based at the University of Oklahoma, searched Oaklawn Cemetery and Newblock Park — two of three sites that were identified in a 2001 Tulsa Race Riot report as possible mass grave locations. The city is still in negotiations with the owner of the third site, Rolling Oaks Memorial Gardens, to allow radar scanning.
Monday’s announcement comes more than 20 years after renowned forensic anthropologist Clyde Snow found anomalies with “all the characteristics of a dug pit or trench with vertical walls and an undefined object within the approximate center of the feature,” the Tulsa Race Riot Commission wrote in its 2001 report.
The commission, created by the Oklahoma legislature in 1997 to establish a historical record of the massacre, recommended “a limited physical investigation of the feature be undertaken to clarify whether it indeed represents a mass grave.”
But the investigation was closed without a physical study of the sites.

READ THE REST HERE

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