Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Commentary: Hanoi’s refugee policy just like Nazis’

First Published: Unity, Vol. 2, No. 15, July 27-August 9, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The forced expulsion of one million Indochinese refugees by the Vietnamese authorities is a shocking tragedy, one of the worst acts of genocide in the 20th century. Yet it is not the first time that hundreds of thousands of people, robbed of their possessions and persecuted by a militaristic, expansionist regime, have been forced to flee their homelands. People around the world are drawing obvious parallels with the mass exodus of Jews from Nazi Germany in the 1930’s.

There were 515,000 Jews in Germany when Hitler took power in 1933. As part of the Nazis’ war preparations and aggression against neighboring states, Hitler fanned up national hatreds and singled out Jews as scapegoats for Germany’s economic depression.

By 1938, nearly 400,000 Jews were driven from Germany. From Britain to Norway, the ports were congested with Jewish “boat people.” At the German/Polish border, thousands of Jews in sealed trains, barred from Poland and unable to turn back, died of disease and starvation.

Is this not the same fate of the Indochinese refugees today? One million people have already fled the persecution and aggression of the Hanoi leaders. More than 400,000 are crammed in refugee camps in Southeast Asia, and perhaps more than 250,000 have died at sea. “Execution by drowning” is the common phrase in Southeast Asia today.

Nightmare of terror

The parallels go beyond the number: Hitler’s persecution of Jews is well-known. In 1933, Jews were barred from commercial pursuits, and then were fired from their jobs. They were placed in labor camps and their property was plundered. Jews were made to carry identify papers and were ostracized from society and beaten in the streets by fascists.

Likewise, today the Vietnamese authorities are engaged in a campaign of persecution against hundreds of thousands of their own people, particularly the ethnic nationalities and especially Chinese residents and Vietnamese of Chinese ancestry.

Like the Nazis who called Jews a race of “moneybags and loan sharks” and accused “international Jewry of plunging nations into another world war,” Hanoi accuses Chinese of being “capitalist elements” and of “fanning up war.”

Since 1978, Chinese and other ethnic minorities have had their property expropriated. Chinese-owned businesses were closed down, and Chinese workers fired from their jobs en masse. Their food rations were cut down to three kilos (about six and a half pounds) of rice a month. They, too, must carry identity papers like those issued under Hitler’s rule.

Whole villages have been uprooted and forced to “new economic zones,” really concentration camps. One family that fled Viet Nam reported they were dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and taken to one such “new economic zone.” It was nothing but a barren tract of land. “No wonder we had no choice but to flee; there we would have starved,” they said.

Cholon, the Chinese quarter of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), is now reportedly a ghost town. Vietnamese officials also brag that the northern border areas have been “purified” of Chinese.

And just like the Nazi Adolph Eichmann, who set up the “Refugee Distribution Center,” the Vietnamese authorities created the “Administration for Refugees.” Notices are posted announcing the times of departure for refugee boats, along with the price of registration. To purchase exit papers, one must pay as much as $3,000 in gold.

These despicable practices are all part of the increased repression and militarization of Vietnamese society, which serves the Hanoi authorities’ and their Soviet backers’ expansionist aims in Southeast Asia.

Same twisted diplomacy

Even Hanoi’s international diplomacy on the refugee matter echoes that of the Nazis. Hitler attempted to turn the “Jewish problem” into a mere question of “efficient resettlement” and blamed other countries for not resettling the Jewish refugees. Hitler declared in 1939, “It is a shameful example to observe how the entire democratic world, in spite of its obvious duty to help, closes its heart on the poor, tortured Jewish people.”

Similarly Viet Nam has tried to place the burden of responsibility for the refugees on other countries, particularly China and the Southeast Asian nations. At the July UN conference on the refugees, Viet Nam refused to discuss anything but the administrative questions on the outflow of refugees.

Viet Nam’s Deputy Foreign Minister Phan Hien even had the nerve to say with a straight face, “We feel sentiments of commiseration much more than of indignation toward those Vietnamese who decide to leave their fatherland, for whatever motivation,” and, “We more than anyone want to see a satisfactory solution achieved.”

The only “satisfactory solution,” however, lies in stopping the problem at its source: Viet Nam’s social-fascist oppression and persecution at home and its aggression and hegemonism in Asia.