Hitler has long been considered one of history’s most notorious figures, if not the single most deplorable dictator that the world has ever known. Nothing can diminish from his pure depravity, and while nobody wants to get into an argument about who might have been worse than Hitler, there certainly were other leaders who were comparably evil.
King Leopold II was a violent, genocidal maniac in his own right. Yet, for a number of incredibly frustrating reasons, his horrifying actions continue to be largely unknown in the United States.
The following story is truly harrowing. If we educate ourselves about these matters, we can better ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.
King Leopold II of Belgium was responsible for the deaths of more than 10 million individuals, turning a large portion of Africa into a makeshift slave plantation—where he mutilated his subjects—in the 19th century.
We’re still feeling the effects of his reign, yet his actions remain largely unknown outside of Africa. Worse, though, was the fact that the world was so reluctant to stop him.
Leopold II became the king of Belgium in 1865, just as other European nations were expanding their empires in Africa.
People had already questioned his fitness as a leader. His own cousin, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, called him “unfit, idle, and unpromising an heir apparent as ever was known.” He also didn’t deny his use of underage prostitutes.
Belgium was in the midst of a tumultuous revolution. The government decided that Leopold would have to fund his own dream of a Belgium empire in Africa.
With his connections and diplomatic skills, Leopold managed to convince European rulers to let him secure a chunk of the Congo—an area of land that was 76 times larger than Belgium itself!
Leopold’s primary goal was to exploit the land as much as possible to make as much money as he could.
Yet things were about to become much worse for the people of the Congo as the demand for rubber exploded in the global market.
The Congolese men, forced to obtain rubber by cutting down the vines of the trees, would become covered with the sticky latex. When they peeled it off, they’d strip layers of their own skin and hair in the process.
Each village had to meet a quota, which was enforced by the region’s police. If a village failed to meet the quota, hostages were taken and killed.
To ensure that the police weren’t wasting bullets on hunting wild game in the jungle, they were required to show proof that each bullet resulted in the death of one of the Congolese natives. When the police couldn’t account for all the spent bullets, a terrible trade system began, in which they’d be provided with severed hands of villagers.
The enforcers would also abuse the village’s women and children while the men were out collecting rubber. If the men returned but still fell short of their quota, every single person in the village would be murdered.
William Henry Sheppard, a Presbyterian missionary, witnessed the horror firsthand and documented his findings in his diary. He passed through several burned-down villages and spoke with a local police recruit about the horrors that occurred there.
The recruit, named Mlumba Nkusa, said that he was forced to collect a huge amount of rubber as well as 60 slaves. When he failed to do either one to their specifications, police slaughtered somewhere between 80 and 90 workers.
Sheppard was shown a hut dedicated to raping locals. And in another hut, more than 80 severed hands were hung over an open fire to preserve them.
Finally, after international condemnations forced Belgium to reevaluate its reign over the Congo, Leopold’s torture ended in 1908.
Though he was officially responsible for at least 10 million deaths, some have estimated that up to 15 million Congolese actually died because of his policies, despite the fact that he never once stepped foot in the land that suffered for his greed.
Leopold died in 1909. Not surprisingly, people jeered during his funeral procession.
Hopefully, history books will better reflect the horrors of King Leopold II’s reign.
The colonization of Africa was fraught with corruption, greed, and death. Hopefully Western civilizations will become educated about King Leopold II’s horrific actions. With this information at hand, the major world powers should do their best to ensure it never happens again.
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Source : boredomtherapy.com