867. The Becker children
Back in the 1975 South Vietnam was about to fall due to attacks from communists in North Vietnam. The peaceful democracy would not exist longer and in this chaos a Danish journalist Henning Becker sought to save about 200 children from his private founded orphanage, he created back in 1967 when he saw many children suffering as part of the awful aggression from North.
So he arranged for temporary visas and a plane. In Denmark the Danish authorities never had experienced such an arrangement before, so very fast they arranged for the children to be placed in empty buildings which two decades before had housed the infamous Kellerske Anstalter (detention centers for men and girls with too much appetite for sex and relationship, who were sterilized before released to the society. The girls facility is listed as number 153 on this blog, the boys facility number 247).
While the children were happy to be in safety from the war, the Danish authorities struggled with their future. Could they send the children back so they would be tortured and raised as communists? (Before the second world war, the Danish authorities saw no problems sending jews back to Germany). Could they provide the children with Danish passports and raise them as Danes?
Problem is that no families in Denmark live together with 200 members and almost everyone of the children saw Henning Becker as their father. The uncertainty of their destiny began to take the toll on the children. Some tried to escape the island and one boy downed. It could not go on.
So the Danish government issued Danish citizenships to all the children. Now they just had to see how the children could be integrated into the Danish society. The minister Eva Gredal took action. With help of the police the children were forcefully removed from the control of Henning Becker and placed in foster families and group homes all over Denmark.
Despite this hardship the religious values the children possessed enabled them to build their future in Denmark. Most of them live in Denmark today. Not fully integrated because while they were separated, they were still allowed to write each other and once they became adults they moved together in small communities in Denmark. So they learned to co-exist. However some of them left Denmark for other European countries because they believed, that they were robbed from their parents twice. First as result of the war in Vietnam and then by the Danish authorities, when they were removed from Henning Becker who had become their new parent.
The lesson learned by the Danish government was not ever to take children to Denmark alone. Today in the year 2021, small children born by parents with Danish passports remain in refugee camps in Syria because their parents fought for ISIS. “We do not want future terrorists to come to Denmark” the Danish politicians say. Some of the children are only 3 years old. How can the Danish politicians predict their future now?
So overall it is bittersweet story to read about the Becker children. On the surface a success-story, but both its legacy and the hardship they faced in the hands of the Danish authorities, is hard to read about.
It could not have been fun to be among the 200 children, who came to Denmark in 1975.
- Frændeløs (Spydpigen)
- Henning Becker v. Denmark (Council of Europe: European Commission on Human Rights)
- Refugees in the EEC: the case of Denmark (Community Development Library)