Donnerstag, 9. Januar 2020

Update after 1 week


Deutsche Version etwas weiter unten.

Dear followers,
we are now just more than a week in Vietnam, so it is time to give you an update on what has happened so far.
Departure in Frankfurt
We arrived save in wonderful HCM-City and I must admit that it has changed a lot since my last stay here in 2012. Vietnam is going through a phase a rapid development – many things have changed for the better, but not everything. There is more commerce and business visible everywhere and new buildings are created, and even totally new districts are being designed from scratch. Most of them for richer people. Our guides they that some people has become really rich while others still have to fight for their daily life.
In HCM we acted most of the time like real tourists, doing a walk around the city center, a tour on a Vespa or visiting Cu Chi tunnels.






But after we flew to Can Tho, that changed a lot. Here in the Mekong Delta my father and his first family hided after he run away from French Legion Etrangere on 6th January 1956. The reason for hiding here is most likely that the family of his wife comes from this area. After around seven months full of desperation he even got very ill and had no medicine or doctor that could help him. So, his wife walked 17 km to the next pharmacy, most likely in Can Tho and found a pharmacist that helped him. Just by chance the owner of a rice mill was witness of the wife talking to the pharmacist. He was able to give my father a job in his rice-mill in Rach Goi.
First as a simple machinist, but soon my father proved his competence and after some months he was promoted to be the general manager of the rice mill. The owner then came only on Sundays to check the books and left everything in the hands of my father.
He wrote all of this to his mother in Germany in many letters, giving her the address and his Vietnamese name (Nguyen Van Duc). 

So, from that we know now the name of the rice mill. And guess what, we found it!


It is no longer a rice mill but still a factory. A friendly police officer did some research and found out where the mill was located.
We visited the site and talked to many people – especially older people – about our request. 




Unfortunately, nobody could here remember my father or his family. But we handed over many self-made posters that explain our desire and so the people will continue to ask relatives and friends about it.
We went to the current rice mill, talked to the old owner and put some posters on the wall of the mill - many families from the farms around Rach Goi come here to mill their rice.




Before we went to the little hamlet of Rach Goi – where the rice mill is located – we had an early appointment with the bishop’s secretary in the office. This time the church was very cooperative, I think there were impressed by our perseverance for more then 10 years to find my half-sister. The secretary of the bishop promised to send out the poster with our request to all parishes in the Diocese and ask the priests to announce them during the next church services there. That was much better than expected and now we hope for the best.


Later we went to the little parish in Rach Goi and spoke to a priest but also to some very old people living there (sometimes of 90 years of age).




Unfortunately, again nobody could remember my father or his family. But everyone was very friendly, I am sure, they will continue to ask other elder people about my father.
We left contact details for us or our interpreter everywhere and starting the next morning some calls came in, explaining that some older people might have some information about my father or worked in the rice mill at that time.
We are carful because some of them already asked for money if they share information. To us a clear sign not to give any money just for useless hints or long discussions which lead to nowhere.
Tomorrow we will fly to Danang and stay some time in Hoi An and Hue (touristic program again) Before we take the night train to Nha Trang and visit the farm where my father worked from 1960-1962.
If we will get hard and serious information about my half-sister we might come back before we return to Germany on 22nd of January. We hope for the best.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Liebe Mitleser,
Wir sind jetzt nun mehr als eine Woche in Vietnam, also ist es Zeit, Euch ein Update darüber zu geben, was bisher passiert ist.



Wir sind sicher in der wunderschönen Stadt Ho-Chi-Minh angekommen und ich muss zugeben, dass sich seit meinem letzten Aufenthalt hier im Jahr 2012 viel geändert hat
Vietnam befindet sich in einer Phase einer rasanten Entwicklung - vieles hat sich zum Besseren verändert, aber nicht alles. Überall sind mehr Handel und Gewerbe zu sehen, und neue Gebäude entstehen, und sogar völlig neue Stadtteile werden von Grund auf neu entworfen. Die meisten davon für reiche Leute. Unsere Führer erzählten, dass einige Leute wirklich reich geworden sind, während andere noch immer um ihr tägliches Überleben kämpfen müssen.
In HCM haben wir uns die meiste Zeit wie echte Touristen verhalten, einen Spaziergang durch die Innenstadt gemacht, eine Tour auf einer Vespa gemacht oder Cu-Chi-Tunnel besucht.








Aber nachdem wir nach Can Tho geflogen sind, hat sich das verändert. Hier im Mekong-Delta versteckten sich mein Vater und seine erste Familie, nachdem er am 6. Januar 1956 von der französischen Legion Etrangere geflohen war. Der Grund, sich hier zu verstecken, ist höchstwahrscheinlich, dass die Familie seiner Frau aus dieser Gegend stammt. Nach ungefähr sieben Monaten voller Verzweiflung wurde er schwer krank und hatte weder Medikamente noch einen Arzt, die ihm helfen könnten. Also ging seine Frau 17 km zur nächsten Apotheke, höchstwahrscheinlich in Can Tho, und fand einen Apotheker, der ihm half. Der Besitzer einer Reismühle war zufällig Zeuge des Gesprächs der Frau mit dem Apotheker. Er konnte meinem Vater einen Job in seiner Reismühle in Rach Goi geben.
Zuerst als einfacher Maschinist, aber bald stellte mein Vater seine Kompetenz unter Beweis und nach einigen Monaten wurde er zum Vorarbeiter der Reismühle befördert. Der Besitzer kam dann nur noch sonntags, um die Bücher zu überprüfen und ließ alles in den Händen meines Vaters.
Mein Vater schrieb dies alles in vielen Briefen an seine Mutter in Deutschland und gab ihr die Adresse und seinen vietnamesischen Namen (Nguyen Van Duc). Deshalb kennen wir jetzt den Namen der Reismühle. 


Und raten Sie mal: wir haben sie gefunden!
Es ist keine Reismühle mehr, aber immer noch eine Fabrik. Ein freundlicher Polizist in Rach Goi recherchierte und fand heraus, wo sich die Mühle befand. 


Wir besuchten die Baustelle und sprachen mit vielen Menschen - insbesondere älteren Menschen - über unsere Anfrage.




 Leider konnte sich hier niemand an meinen Vater oder seine Familie erinnern. Aber wir haben viele selbst gemachte Plakate überreicht, die unseren Wunsch erklären, und deshalb werden die Leute weiterhin Verwandte und Freunde danach fragen.Wir fuhren dann zur aktuellen Rismühle in Rach Goi, sprachen mit dem sehr alten Besitzer und hingen Poster an den Eingängen auf. Viele Familien aud der ganzem Umgegend kommen hier hin um ihren eigenen Reis dort verarbeiten zu lassen. 




Bevor wir in Kleinstadt Rach Goi gingen, wo sich die Reismühle befindet, hatten wir einen frühen Termin mit dem Bischofssekretär im Büro in Can Tho. Diesmal war die Kirche sehr kooperativ, ich glaube, es hat sie beeindruckt, dass wir seit mehr als 10 Jahren durchhalten, um meine Halbschwester zu finden. Der Sekretär des Bischofs versprach, das Plakat mit unserer Bitte an alle Pfarreien der Diözese zu versenden und die Priester aufzufordern, es bei den nächsten Gottesdiensten dort vorzutragen. Das war viel besser als erwartet und jetzt hoffen wir auf einen Glückstreffer.



Später gingen wir in die kleine katholische Kirche in Rach Goi und sprachen mit einem Priester und auch mit einigen sehr alten Leuten, die dort lebten (manchmal im Alter von 90 Jahren). 





Leider konnte sich wieder niemand an meinen Vater oder seine Familie erinnern. Aber alle waren sehr freundlich, ich bin sicher, sie werden auch weiterhin andere ältere Menschen nach meinem Vater fragen.
Überall hinterließen wir Kontaktdaten für uns oder unseren Dolmetscher und ab dem nächsten Morgen gingen einige Anrufe ein, die erklärten, dass einige ältere Menschen möglicherweise Informationen über meinen Vater haben oder zu dieser Zeit in der Reismühle arbeiteten.
Wir sind vorsichtig, weil einige von ihnen bereits um Geld gebeten haben, wenn sie Informationen austauschen. Für uns ein klares Zeichen. Wir geben kein Geld  für nutzlose Hinweise oder lange Diskussionen, die zu nichts führen.
Morgen fliegen wir nach Danang und bleiben einige Zeit in Hoi An und Hue (wieder ein touristisches Programm). Bevor wir schließlich mit dem Nachtzug nach Nha Trang fahren und die Farm besuchen, auf der mein Vater von 1960-1962 gearbeitet hat.
Wenn wir ernsthafte Informationen über meine Halbschwester bekommen, kommen wir vielleicht nochmal zurück, bevor wir am 22. Januar nach Deutschland zurückkehren. Wir hoffen auf das Beste.

Dienstag, 24. Dezember 2019

Why I have to go back to Vietnam - Warum ich wieder nach Vietnam reisen muß


Deutsche Version weiter unten / German Version scroll down please.

For many years I didn't post here about my family research. I stopped it after my visit to VN in 2012. The main reason was that I had tried to accept that I most likely won't find my half-sister Karin after all these years. The information I had about her and her mother were too little. Of course, this also was self-protection to avoid getting lost in the fate of my father's life and his time in Vietnam.
Wolfgang Redlich ca. 1949
The years went by and I continued to search for other family members. Until today I already found more than 2.000 people which are now part of my family tree. To me this was impressive - I never had thought that this was possible.
But you never know, and life has always surprises for you.
In August 2019 an uncle died aged 96. He was the widower of my father's sister Helga. I have spoken to him about my research, but he explained that he had no further documents or good give me additional information that could explain the decisions that my father made in his youth.
My cousins had to clean up the house for preparing to be sold. They found in the cellar, hidden under the wood for the fireplace, a folder full of letters that my father wrote between 1950 and 1962 to his mother, mostly from Vietnam. They are full of new information and of course explain many things about the life of my father and why he made some decisions.




Of course, there are some information in it about my half-sister.
In a letter from January 1957 he explained to his mother why he deserted from the Legion Etrangere in January 1956: He wanted to stay with his wife and his daughter Karin, born on 7th January 1955. They took this decision because he was about to be moved to Algeria into the next war and because his wife was pregnant with a baby in the sixth month. After he deserted, they hide in the area of Rach Goi (near Can Tho) because the family from his wife was from that little town in the Mekong Delta. He was very sick for several month and only survived because his wife found an apothecary who treated him free of charge. They had nothing and the wife even lost the second baby during that time. My father was in a depressive mode because of that, but then he was able to find a job in a rice mill in Rach Goi. He enjoyed the work although he had to work many hours every day, especially during the rice harvest season. He made a career there and after one year he oversaw the whole rice mill. he bought some land for rice with the help of his wife’s family and had animals like ducks, chicken, piglets.
With this information I better understand now why my father always gave Rach Goi as his home address at the German Embassy in Saigon and why they moved there. I now have the date of birth of my half-sister.
Unfortunately, he never mentioned the name of his wife, but he always wrote full of love about her.
So, with this new information it is worth to try to pick up the loose threads again and give it a new chance.
On 2nd January 2020 I will fly to Ho Chi Minh again and this time my daughter Lotta and my sister Karin will be together with me in Vietnam for three weeks. We will travel to these places where my father lived (Saigon, Rach Goi, Nha Trang) and visit some other places. We will search and remember but also have a good time together. Stay tuned – there is more to come in this blog in the next weeks.

______________

German Version:


Viele Jahre habe ich hier nichts mehr über meine Familienforschung geschrieben. Ich habe es nach meinem Besuch bei VN im Jahr 2012 eingestellt. Der Hauptgrund war, dass ich versucht hatte zu akzeptieren, dass ich meine Halbschwester Karin nach all den Jahren höchstwahrscheinlich nicht mehr finden werde. Die Informationen, die ich über sie und ihre Mutter hatte, waren zu dürftig. Dies war natürlich auch ein Selbstschutz, um mich nicht in dem Schicksal meines Vaters und seiner Zeit in Vietnam zu verlieren.



Die Jahre vergingen und ich suchte weiter nach anderen Familienmitgliedern. Bis heute habe ich bereits mehr als 2.000 Personen gefunden, die jetzt Teil meines Stammbaums sind. Für mich war das beeindruckend - ich hätte nie gedacht, dass das möglich ist.

Aber du weißt es nie und das Leben hat immer Überraschungen für dich.
Im August 2019 starb ein Onkel, er wurde 96 Jahre alt. Er war der Witwer der Schwester meines Vaters Helga. Ich hatte mit ihm über meine Nachforschungen gesprochen, aber er erklärte, dass er keine weiteren Unterlagen besitze oder mir zusätzliche Informationen geben könne, welche die Entscheidungen meines Vaters in seiner Jugend besser erklären könnten.
Meine Cousins mussten das Haus aufräumen, um es auf den Verkauf vorzubereiten. Sie fanden im Keller, versteckt unter dem Holz für den Kamin, eine Mappe voller Briefe, die mein Vater zwischen 1950 und 1962 an seine Mutter schrieb, größtenteils aus Vietnam. Sie sind voller neuer Informationen und erklären viele Dinge über das Leben meines Vaters und warum er einige Entscheidungen getroffen hat.




Natürlich gibt es einige Informationen über meine Halbschwester.
In einem Brief vom Januar 1957 erklärte er in einem Brief seiner Mutter, warum er im Januar 1956 aus der Legion Etrangere geflohen ist: Er wollte bei seiner Frau und seiner Tochter Karin bleiben, welche am 7. Januar 1955 geboren wurden. Sie trafen diese Entscheidung, weil er im Begriff war nach Algerien in den nächsten Krieg abgerufen zu werden und weil seine Frau im sechsten Monat schwanger war. Nachdem er desertiert war, versteckten sie sich in der Gegend von Rach Goi (in der Nähe von Can Tho), weil die Familie seiner Frau aus dieser kleinen Stadt im Mekong-Delta stammte. er war mehrere Monate lang sehr krank und überlebte nur, weil seine Frau einen Apotheker fand, der ihn kostenlos behandelte. Sie hatten nichts und die Frau verlor in dieser Zeit sogar das zweite Baby. Mein Vater war in einem depressiven Zustand, bis er eine Arbeit in einer Reismühle in Rach Goi finden konnte. Er genoss die Arbeit, obwohl er jeden Tag viele Stunden arbeiten musste, besonders während der Reisernte. Er machte dort Karriere und betreute nach einem Jahr die gesamte Reismühle. Er kaufte mit Hilfe der Familie seiner Frau etwas Land für Reis und hatte Tiere wie Enten, Hühner und Ferkel.
Mit diesen Informationen verstehe ich jetzt besser, warum mein Vater Rach Goi immer als seine Heimatadresse bei der Deutschen Botschaft in Saigon angegeben hat und warum sie dorthin gezogen sind. Ich habe jetzt das Geburtsdatum meiner Halbschwester.
Leider erwähnte er nie den Namen seiner Frau, aber er schrieb immer voller Liebe über sie.
Mit diesen neuen Informationen lohnt es sich also, die losen Fäden wieder aufzunehmen und ihr eine neue Chance zu geben.
Am 2. Januar 2020 fliege ich wieder nach Ho Chi Minh und diesmal sind meine Tochter Lotta und meine Schwester Karin für drei Wochen mit mir in Vietnam. Wir werden an die Orte reisen, an denen mein Vater gelebt hat (Saigon, Rach Goi, Nha Trang) und einige andere Orte besuchen. Wir werden suchen und erinnern, aber auch eine gute Zeit zusammen haben. Bleibt also dran - es wird in den nächsten Wochen noch mehr in diesem Blog geben.


Mittwoch, 15. August 2012

On my way home

Dear followers, thanks to a young but good doctor I could avoid a surgery and at this moment I am sitting in the Business Lounge at Nha Trang Airport. Waiting for the flight to Saigon. From there I will take a flight to Frankfurt and a train to my hometown. I should arrive there Thursday mid day local time.

Donnerstag, 9. August 2012

An unexpected change

Dear follower, caused by a medical problem that I actually have, I can not go to my next planned town in Da Nang. I have to stay in Nha Trang for medical treatment. I am happy that it looks like that there is no surgery necassery. But I can not fly to Da Nang and that is really sad. I have to stay in Nha Trang for five days, then I have to fly back to Germany.
I keep you informed as soon as I feel a bit better.

Mittwoch, 8. August 2012

On the farm

Today we went to the area of Cam Tan.
From Nha Trang it is less then an half an hour to drive
First we visited the home for disabled children in Cam Lam. It is one of Ursula's newer projects in this region.
About 30 - 40 children go here every day, some are even living here. There are four nuns looking after them. The chrildren were so happy to see us and embraced us all the time.
They really liked to be photogrraphed
Me too!

A German student helping Ursula in the project with many children and a mother
Most of the disabilities are long time effects of the chemical weapons used by the US army during the Vietnam war. Most of us might know "Agent Orange", a chemical used widely by the US army to defoliate the trees in the jungle (10th of August is "Orange Day" in Vietnam - that day the remember the victioms of Agent Orange).
Ursula today brought mainly things to play with for the children. A punch or clown theatre for the children.

A warm welcome to Ursula. The nun is a studied teacher for disabled children

Little puppets for the small children
Ursula is always trying to help were the need is the biggest. Since this is a new project there are many thing that need to be solved: Water supply and a new pump systen, a surgery for one of the boys who only has one ear, support for a single mother with a heavily disabled 17 year old boy, a wheelchair for another boy and many other things.
The children showed us at the end of our visit a little show they have prepared for us. It was really amazing to see this children beeing so happy with us. 
A dance for us

Breakdancer!

Ursula with a mentally retarded boy
The nuns were friendly to me an promised to help me to find my sister. They will ask elder nuns in the congregation.
Finally we made a group picture and again many hands waved us goodbye.


From the orphanage we drove to the church auf Hoa Tan. There was a young priest. I found him not very helpful but he agreed to show the poster after the sunday service and ask elder member of the parish about the wife and child. I really hope he will do that.
The Church in Cam Tan (named Hoa Tan)

The house were the priest lives
Then we drove to the farm my father worked on. It was not easy to find, again it is in the middle of nowhere. We passed the station of Cam Tan (still named Hoa Tan - like in the old days) but got lost on a sand road. We phoned the grandson of Marcel van den Berg and they found us on the motorbikes, guiding us to the farm savely.
Lost

Dogs barking at us

Behind this trees is the farm
Impressions from the farm

Madame Doan Thi Duc in her late days

The rebuild old farm house - Did my father live her also?

A very old truck, but still in use

The grandsons who will try their best to find my sister
The two brothers told us that there is another church nearby which belongs to another parish but is closer to the farm. So we went there. The priest didn't open the doors although we asumed that he was at home. But right next to the Church we found a congregation of cistercian monks. We rang the bell and a young man came out and we told him also my story. He promised to speak with the priest from the church and he will also discuss it with some elder monks from the congregation. I saw some old pictures on a wall and he told me that they were made in this area around 1960 (when my father lived here).

Some monks in 1959

On a farm in 1968

The friendly monk
When I came back this afternoon to my hotel room I was really tired. It is again a hot day here in Nha Trang and I hadn't have a breakfast this morning, so I was hungry too. I wenn to a small restaurant right around the corner for some fried noodles with chicken and water spinach with garlic.
I have tried now nearly everything possible to find a hint or a trace of my father's first family.
Many people told me here that they might have emigrated to the US or France after the victory of the revolution in 1975 to avoid persecution as a child with a german father, a former soldier for the French.
I think this is highly possible but if I would try to find there in old files from the French or US Emigration offices or Embassies I need their ful names.
I hope the some of the elder people might remember them and also their names.
To me it was also very emotional to walk a bit in the footsteps of my father, to stand on the farm where he worked 50 years ago as a machinist. To see how the people live there, the near mountains, the rice fields and all the other things.
On the way back we planned to got back soon, talk to the priest and try to find out more. Maybe I will rent a mototbike and go on my own to feel really the situation. I also like to videotape some things for my family at home.
I am not sure today that I can come any further with the search for my sister, but I am proud to have found the place where my father lived in Vietnam.
Thanks again to all the people who helped me.