I had the opportunity to travel to Europe recently. Most of my time was spent in Brussels. I wandered around to get to know the city, walking through Leopold Park (a few views here), and observing impressive statues, such as the one near the Trone metro station (see here).
Frequently the statues are of King Leopold II. Apparently this guy built a few structures out of his own personal fortune, such as the Cinquantenaire. Must have been a pretty impressive guy, right?
And he is. In the same way that Hitler is impressive. A staggeringly successful genocidal maniac. I'm just shocked to have walked around the city with all of the streets and parks named after this guy not knowing who he is only to find out that he killed about 10 million innocent Congolese. Here's a two hour long documentary from the BBC on him.
In sum Leopold wanted a colony of his own and settled on the Congo. After his annexation rubber was suddenly in high demand with the invention of the inflatable tire. And the Congo had plentiful amounts. So he basically had quotas for the natives to meet in their harvesting of rubber. To encourage them to meet their quotas his henchmen would kill anyone that failed, or perhaps burn a village if the village as a collective didn't harvest enough. This went on for a few decades. Lots of hand chopping as well. Today the Belgian kings retain the wealth acquired by Leopold. And other important resources have been found in the Congo and so fighting continues in an effort to acquire gold, diamonds, and other natural resources. A story related to the more recent suffering was recently published in the New York Times here.
The Congo has undergone a couple of holocausts. One under Leopold. Another more recently. It's strange how some atrocities receive so much attention while others are unknown.