|The book entitled “Vietnam 1972. Ein Land unter Bomben. Mit Notizbuch und Kamera im Norden unterwegs” . Photo: Verlag Wiljo Heinen|
German journalist Hellmut Kapfenberger has recently unveiled his latest book, a compilation of writings and photographs documenting the war in Vietnam during 1972. The source material for the book was collected by the author when he was serving as a resident correspondent for the ADN News Agency of the German Democratic Republic and Neues Deutschland Newspaper in Hanoi, as reported by the Vietnam News Agency.
Entitled “Vietnam 1972. A Country Under Bombs. Out and About in the North With a Notebook and Camera,” the 256-page book presents a wide array of writings and 36 photos that the author took in the North of Vietnam. It gives readers a panoramic and true account of the Vietnamese people’s resistance war, particularly in the grueling fight of 1972. With its notebook and camera, the author captures a vivid picture of the war-torn country.
In its initial stages, the book chronicles the major events and milestones of the Vietnamese Revolution from 1945-1965, when the US first deployed its troops to the south of Vietnam and commenced bombing in the North, leading to negotiations between Vietnam and the US. This ultimately resulted in the signing of the Paris Peace Accords. By examining the rise of the revolution, the book provides insight into the various underlying factors that drove the conflict and its eventual resolution.
The author highlighted that the United States began spraying Agent Orange/dioxin (AO) in Vietnam not in 1965, but as early as 1961, and continued until 1971. This toxic chemical has had devastating consequences for Vietnamese people and their descendants.
|German journalist Hellmut Kapfenberger (left) at the launching ceremony of the book. Photo: VNA|
Decades after the Vietnam War ended, approximately one million Vietnamese – including around 100,000 children – continue to suffer the devastating consequences of this conflict, including an alarming rate of birth defects and serious diseases. Even today, in the fourth generation since the war, an estimated 6,000 children are born every year with such conditions.
According to the author, there is no telling when the immense suffering of the Vietnamese people will come to an end. The people responsible for the atrocities were never held accountable and the Vietnamese victims were not provided with any form of restitution by the United States, despite the fact that in 1984, thousands of US soldiers exposed to Agent Orange were compensated with a total of USD 180 million by the chemical manufacturers.
Kapfenberger remarked that Vietnam is making every attempt to help victims of Agent Orange (AO). Even after the end of the war, the United States kept penalising Vietnam with a hard embargo and blockade for almost two decades. It was only in the early 1990s that US President George H. W. Bush initiated the first discussions on the normalisation of bilateral ties.
In its introduction, Wiljo Heinen publishing house wrote that 1972 was an atrocious year when the US, under the command of President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, attempted to crush the resistance of the Vietnamese people with a brutal bombing campaign.
|The book presents a large number of photos that German journalist Hellmut Kapfenberger took in the North of Vietnam, during the resistance war of the Vietnamese people. Photo: Verlag Wiljo Heinen|
|Photo: Verlag Wiljo Heinen|
The horrific information and images collected by journalist Kapfenberger, documented in the book, illustrate the devastating consequences of attacks on civilians that have resulted in thousands of deaths, and have transformed towns and villages into rubble and ruin.
According to the publisher, the testimonies of Kapfenberger are not only contemporary documents but also a testament to the solidarity of a nation that fought for its own independence and freedom.
Speaking at the launch of the book, Vietnamese Minister Counsellor Chu Tuan Duc highly praised the heartfelt emotions journalist Kapfenberger had given to Vietnam. He stated that the journalist’s writings about Vietnam would help German friends and readers gain a better understanding and insight of the country, thus contributing to the strengthening of the bond between the two nations’ people.
Kapfenberger, born in 1933, served as a correspondent for the German Democratic Republic’s official news agency, AND, and Neues Deutschland (New Germany) newspaper in Vietnam between 1970-1973 and 1980-1984. During this time, his hundreds of reports on Vietnam greatly contributed to the growth of the solidarity movement for the country during wartime and in the years following its reunification.
Returning to his native land, he joined the Committee on Vietnam of the German Democratic Republic and took part in activities that sought to foster solidarity with Vietnam.
|Vietnamese Ambassador to Germany Doan Xuan Hung (R) presents the Friendship Order to Hellmut Kapfenberger in 2017. Photo: VNA|
After retiring, he devoted his time to collecting documents and writing books about Vietnam, including the Vietnamese version of “Ho Chi Minh – Mot bien nien su” (Ho Chi Minh – A Chronicle), “Berlin – Bonn – Saigon – Hanoi”, “Vietnam – ein dreizigjähriger Krieg 1945-1975” (Vietnam – A 30-Year War 1945-1975), and “Duong mon Ho Chi Minh” (Ho Chi Minh Trail).
In 2012, Kapfenberger presented Vietnam with the prestigious Ho Chi Minh Order of the German Democratic Republic – the only country to have an order named after the influential Vietnamese leader. This symbolic gesture was further complemented by other items that showcased solidarity with the nation.
Kapfenberger was bestowed with the Friendship Order from the President of Vietnam in 2017, honoring his significant contributions to the flourishing relationship between the two countries and the multifaceted cooperation between them.