Discussion Board 1: “King Leopold II and the Belgian Congo Genocide.”
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Google search an article on the topic of “King Leopold II and the Belgian Congo Genocide.”
Answer the following questions writing at least one full paragraph per question:
1. Which do you think motivated Leopold II more, racial prejudice or financial greed?
2. How does this genocide compare to Hitler and the Jewish Holocaust in your eyes?
3. If this type of genocide was taking place again in the Congo today, what role should the United States play in intervening in order to address such a human tragedy?
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King Leopold II was born April 9, 1835 in Brussels, Belgium. He was Queen Victoria of Britain’s first cousin and became the Duke of Bradant in 1846. Leopold also served in the Belgium army. In 1853 Leopold married Marie-Henriette. He became King of Belgium in December 1865 after his father’s death.
Leopold is ” responsible for widespread atrocities committed under his rule against his colonial subjects” ( Leopold II, King of Belgium, by Adam Hochschild) No colony more clearly demonstrates this than the Congo Free State during the rubber industry. In 1876 Leopold held a ” international conference of explores and geographers at the royal palace in Brussels”(Leopold II, King of Belgium, by Adam Hochschild). A few years later Leopold hired Henry Morton Stanley to be his man in Africa. For the next five years, Stanley travels the immense waterways of the Congo. He built trading posts, roads, and persuaded local leaders to sign treaties. Interestingly, many of the chiefs were illiterate. With this strong hold on the Congo area, Leopold created the Congo Free State, which was the world’s only private colony. From the Congo Free State Leopold began to accumulate a vast fortune through ivory and then in the early 1890’s through rubber. Leopold’s interest or motivation for ruling the Congo Free State seemed to be purely rooted in financial greed. His greed lead him to every so often send out men from his private army of 19,000 men, which was known as the Force Publique, to the villages in Congo. Once there, the solders would hold the woman for ransom and send the men out to find rubber. Many of the woman starved while being held hostage and many of the men died in the rainforest while searching for rubber. Along with this soldiers were allowed to shot men or woman if they tried to escape but they had to bring back a hand to prove that their bullet hadn’t been wasted or could be used against Leopold in a rebellion. Many soldiers would cut off the hand of a live victim if they missed or went hunting to make sure they would not get into trouble. Leopold’s wealth was accumulated by a forced labor system. this system was devastating to the people of Congo.
Leopold dies on December 17, 1909 in Laeken, Belgium. He had done many things in his life but his ” most important legalcy remains the human catastrophe that the rubber forced-labour system brought to the Congo”(Leopold II, King of Belgium, by Adam Hochschild).
What occurred in Congo under Leopold II’s rule is similar to the Jewish Holocaust in some ways but I think it is also vastly different. Hitler’s goal was to wipe an entire group of people off the face of the earth along with all those he considered ” undesirable”, where as Leopold just wanted the wealth that lay in Africa and used the people of Congo to get it for him. Now both Hitler and Leopold II abused and tortured people and in that way they are similar but their goals and motivation were different.