Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death
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Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death

Ratings: 7.76/10 from 104 users.

Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black DeathCongo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death describes how King Leopold II of Belgium turned Congo into its private colony between 1885 and 1908.

Under his control, Congo became a gulag labor camp of shocking brutality. Leopold posed as the protector of Africans fleeing Arab slave-traders but, in reality, he carved out an empire based on terror to harvest rubber.

Families were held as hostages, starving to death if the men failed to produce enough wild rubber. Children's hands were chopped off as punishment for late deliveries.

The Belgian government has denounced this documentary as a "tendentious diatribe" for depicting King Leopold II as the moral forebear of Adolf Hitler, responsible for the death of 10 million people in his rapacious exploitation of the Congo.

Yet, it is agreed today that the first Human Rights movement was spurred by what happened in the Congo.

What the Belgians did in the Congo was forgotten for over 50 years. It's a shocking, astonishing story. In a way, it's a horrifying prelude in European history to the Holocaust.

Between 1870 and 1900 the Congo was pillaged - it was valuable as a source of rubber. King Leopold created his own colony in the Congo over which he ruled unchecked.

Peter Bate's film is a marvelously made reconstruction of those days - it features footage of Congolese villages and explains with actors exactly what happened.

It's really a memorable film - the painfulness of what is described is counterbalanced by the great skill in the storytelling.

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6 years ago

Oh please as scripture says the heart of Man is wicked and deceitful above all thingsneither white man or black man or green man.We had our own Iddi Amin in Uganda pouring beggars,the poor and disabled from tipper lorries into the Nile.Should his descendants pay??

Iraq is Britain's Congo
8 years ago

2004, a year after UK's illegal invasion of Iraq, the BBC decides to show this. Classic tactic to point out what happened elsewhere to make your country look better.

Everyone knows about Leopold's terror in the Congo, and it should be talked about, but if only in 2003 and 2004 the BBC had not been part of the propaganda to destroy Iraq.

Iraq is Britain's Congo, and happened 10 years ago instead of 100.
Fu***the BBC, I just hate the hypocrisy of the British.

Selena Castro
8 years ago

Everyone is always talking about the Jewish Holocaust & how reparations need to be given to Jews. However, what about the people of Congo who suffered under that devil called Leopold? There is always a double standard when it come to white people and their problems.

8 years ago

plenty of lies in that film people need to read the documents of truer things

8 years ago

one important question is why aren't black people particular Africans attack

8 years ago

It seems that where ever these Europeans go they destroy everybodys culture

8 years ago

one thing I hate is African speaking that disgusting French language what a evil group of people

9 years ago

Yes, an instance where, for once, the white savages behaved badly as africans. It brings to mind the kinoms of West Africa, which enabled and propsered from a trade which was the deporttionn of their own population to death and certain degradatiion, just like they had bck home. Those who deal with Africans become much like the Africans themselves. Do not stare too long in the abyss that is Africa, or it will stare out at you. Mubutu, Mugabe, Tu-tu-Tutsi good bye,....the list is long. But memory is short. Leoplold's name will be held in well deserved detestation, but the African thugs,, well, not so much.

9 years ago

Wow, AW, hold your horses a bit and be mindful of the fact that reality is ALWAYS complex.

First of all, when you say "Europeans", who do you really mean?

If you are implying that all nations in Europe had colonies and performed mass exploitation/murder, think again. Consider all those European nations that were invaded by others time and again.

You also say that those "Europeans" were responsible for killing the Native Americans... Sure, there were invasions, war, genocide, etc. carried out by colonists from SOME European countries, but never forget that not all Native Americans were peaceful like the peoples who formed the Iroquois Confederacy. There were Native Americans who did some ethnic cleansing of their own and showed a great deal of cruelty towards rival tribes.

Anyway, the bulk of the Native American tribes wasn't killed by European colonists from the 17th/18th century, they were exterminated by American citizens during the 19th century, when the central territories were bought/taken and the railroad was built ("Dancing with Wolves", Crazy Horse, and all that stuff).

Regarding India and Pakistan, just say British, and French to a lesser extent, but keep the rest of European nations aside.

What about Africa? Yep, here you were pretty much correct, that was pretty widespread, nations like Spain, Italy, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, The Netherlands, Germany, etc.
were making all sorts of shameful stuff to the natives, and some of them even wanted to keep doing it after WW2.
But let me just point out that the Arabs, among others, also conquered a good portion of Africa without being European.
Conquest, enslavement, pillaging, murder, etc. these are human activities, not just European. Learn about the history of Japan, China, India, Mongolia, etc. and you'll notice a remarkable amount of all sorts of nasty stuff.

What about the Holocaust? That was Nazi Germany, not Europe as a whole, and the nazis were exterminating all sorts of people, not just jews. it is true that, historically, there has been quite a lot of intolerance against jews in Europe, but then again, you can find extreme intolerance towards all sorts of groups anywhere on the planet.

Two world wars... Well, you speak as if the European nations were the only ones that waged wars through history, What about the Mongols? They sure weren't European, and that didn't stop them from conquering a gigantic piece of the planet and unleashing hell in all the lands they conquered. What about the wars in China? What about Japan? Does the Sengoku period ring a bell? Japan was hell on Earth during that period and hadn't had any real contact with Europe yet.

What happened after that was even worse. After the Japanese learned enough science and made their lightspeed industrial revolution in just 40 years, they started invading and mass murdering their neighbors, thinking themselves superior to the rest of Asian nations. They invaded Korea and Manchuria, they started a war with Imperial Russia which they won. They were starting to get a fame of ruthless cold-hearted sons of b*tches across the Asian nations they conquered, and Japan hadn't yet unleashed their mass enslavement programs which were applied during WW2...
Was that Europe's fault? Maybe, in a way, SOME European nations had encouraged dangerous notions in certain sectors of the Japanese ruling class, and SO did the Americans (starting with commodore Perry), but that was it. The hell unleashed by Japan during the 20th century was Japan's doing, and Japan's alone.

What did the Europeans do for this world? Seriously? Where do I start? Democracy, almost all the sciences there are including some of the most brilliant minds ever (I mean, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Newton, Darwin, Planck, Einstein,Tesla, Linnaeus, Lyell, Mendel, Lavoisier, Mendeleev, -if you count Western Russia in-, etc. -I could spend ages writing this list-).
And what about philosophy and the history of knowledge and social movements? European tradition, mostly (not only, of course).

Great philosophers, historians, merchants, industrialists, architects, inventors, explorers, engineers, politicians, artists, etc. you will probably find Europe at the top positions in each discipline (and almost inventing it). Granted that a lot of sh*t has come out of that part of the planet, but plenty of amazing things too, don't choose to ignore it.

About the spreading of Christianity, that was often an excuse rather than the real motivation behind any act of war, invasion, enslavement, ethnic cleansing, etc. I'll say it again, those things are not unique to Europe, you can find them anywhere in the history of life on Earth. For humans, resources and geopolitical control were often the real motivators, any nation that had both was bound to be strong, capable of defending itself and also of conquering others if needed be.

9 years ago

It is the Europeans who were responsible for killing Native Americans in US, Colonising the Africa, Dividing and ruling India and Pakistan, mass extermination of Jews in Europe, two world wars--What did the Europeans do for this world-I am disgust that I am born a human being after watching these documentaries--particularly this spreading of Christianity--was this blind god, imaginary friend not watching these attrocities, was he not watching what was happening in Aushwitz. Shame on christians for taking a blind eye. Ultimately mankind is going to pay for screwing this one home--our earth

9 years ago

Its ironic that the documentary was done by the BBC and English news source.

Coerced Forod
9 years ago

Some of us in Africa know very well about this stories, although we are still constrained by resources including lack of documents (still classified as you can see here), or a media outlet. All this "obscure" knowledge and history does reside in our universities. In the next 20-30 years, when among other things africa develops its own bbc, history channel, national geography you will get to here the stories of the likes of leopold, you will here of concepts of extra-territoriality like that given to diplomats to rapists and murderers......

mark swagz
9 years ago

Blacks cannot be racist Why? They dont control not one industry in the world except maybe labor, a victim can do nothing other than respond to the effects/affects of slavery

9 years ago

This is where the capital is situated. In a country whose king murdered 10 to 13 million Congolese. Ths is what Belgium owes to the Africans.

10 years ago

humans are nothing.

10 years ago

So this is how Belgium got rich?

10 years ago

This is why Congo is messed up.

10 years ago

How could someone be called an human ,commit such evil acts?Just horrible.

Rocky Racoon
10 years ago

Nothing has changed in that area and it is all over the resources those people have and we in the North are trying to get on the cheap. Simple as that. Our Press doesn't focus on that only tell us what the Pentagon told them. No Questions asked.

10 years ago

Why was this demonic monster never punished? He ruled Belgium till his death. His descendants still rule.... WHY??? When his atrocities were exposed- why was he not put on trial? Present day Belgium should not have to feel guilty or accountable- BUT AT LEAST ACKNOWLEDGE THAT HE WAS A CRIMINAL!!! DETHRONE HIS DESCENDANTS. MAKE THEM COMPENSATE THE CONGO. Yes, White kids MUST be told generation after generation. Not to push guilt on them. But they should know what their ancestors did. In the
name of Christianity. Under the guise of bringing civilisation to "savages". They abused their power and exploited other humans for material gains.But please do not sweep this under the carpet. Not only white kids but all kids need to know about these atrocities. Christ taught to love each other as we love ourselves. No need for white guilt. Just feel compassion for each other as humans.

10 years ago

Belgian as country is going to disappear the faster the better. You can send the Belgian royals to Congo then we will take care of them for good!

11 years ago

Born as a Belgian in 1945, I never, ever heard a whisper about this drama in Congo. Everybody who knew apparently kept their mouth shut. It wasn't until I read "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad that things started dawning upon me. I read it in Englisch, because I could never find a Flemish (my native language) edition. And even now, it is more like we never had a Leopold II. But still, his offspring is still in charge, and although they don't cut off hands anymore, the way they suck out money from the people is just as bad. Belgium is now their colony, and they are still exploiting it, and they are still getting away with it. Can you believe it. Luckily, the crownprince behaves like a complete id**t, and the majority of Flemish people do hope that those usurpers will disappear completely out of the picture after the actual king abdicates.

A Kenan
11 years ago

I am really curious as to why we do not have any Holidays in the USA to Remember this Tragedy? It should definitely be told of in the school system.

11 years ago


11 years ago

An excellent documentary indeed. All this horror is beyond description.

However, why should Belgians today feel any remorse for what happened more than one century ago?. I am Spanish but I don´t really feel any guilt about the horrible crimes commited by SOME Spaniards during the Spanish Empire long time ago. I haven´t killed or tortured anybody, nor did my parents or my grandparents and so on. My ancestors most probably were poor peasants -like most Spanish people at that time. I don´t think they had anything to do with imperialism, colonialism and all those terrible crimes commited by soldiers, landowners, etc in America or Asia. I don´t even think that they knew anything about what was happening many thousands miles away from them.

One thing is all the deeds commited by kings and goberments and another is common people. It´s a common and silly thing to mistake them.

11 years ago

if you watched this and want more information you should read King Leopold's Ghost. it is a great book. Right now Congo is experiencing the deadliest war since wwII over 5 million have died and children are being used as soldiers and rape is used as a tool of war. please if this disturbs you become involved in the movement to advocate for peace in the Congo. you can visit the enough project, raise hope for Congo and falling whistles. we can use our voice to raise awareness and advocate for peace. thank you

11 years ago

sorry Belgium those HAPPY DAYS are over !!!
the story of antwerpen and the statue is all fake the man cuts off the Giant hand this is BULL.... it is a symbol of the poor african hands that cutted of during the Cruel Balgium Regime

11 years ago

No body can watch this documantairy and dont feel sick
It proofs again that the Belgian are NOTvery smart
cutting people hands off so this people cannot work anymore .
Lots of countries did slavery but i never read that they cutting hands of by the thousands . and Really even the Belgium Teacher admit it
so this documantairy is did NOT blow things up.
i believe that some belgium royalist dont gonna like this great document .
the Belgium even Killed lumumba ask them for what reason .
thanks God the Brittish made a great documantairy over the freedom fighter Lumumba
oyes if you visiting Antwerp dont forget to buy the Belgium proud

11 years ago

Where this people HUMANS ???
Can Humans behave like this ? killing people for fun
and cutting hands off .

John Cury
11 years ago

It is not just Belgium or UK as many comment here, allot of countries have done it. the Ottoman Empire, Germans, Americans, French, and so on. Even as far back as the Assyrian empire. But unfortunately this is human nature. I would say, this is the worse side of man, because the killing is done to women and children, as well as the unarmed population. It is for sure the most barbaric and heinous act of man.

11 years ago

What bothers me the most is the fact that UK made documentaries always put the shadow on others while pollishing themselfs..I' am so so sick of this hypocrit attitude where neutrality is hard to find. Please put this on the scale after seeing this documentary because these where "uberhaubt" the role models and pioneers ,though from a belgian point of view:

- Britain played a prominent role in the Atlantic slave trade as a whole, and juiced 5% of their economy.

- Slavery in Britain and Ireland dated from long before Roman occupation
, the practice of it was considered normal. However, the Council had no legislative powers, and no act of law was valid unless signed by the monarch.

- English settlers established Jamestown as the first permanent English colony in the colonial United States.

- After 1100 slavery faded away as uneconomical, it was revived at Whales- Ireland.

- in 1086, over 10% of England's population were slaves.

- Look closer at the relationship between Britain-Ireland and you'll find enough stuff to feed 10 documentaries from their own backyard.

For the past 100 years until this day, Belgium consequently keeps sending humanitarian help to africa wich comes in boatloads of food,clothing,working tools,education etc. funded by the people and distributed by the navy. I've walked personally trough the cargo of these boats and was absolutely amazed by the size of it. My brother is a soldier and over 25 years continuesly active in that region.The improvements made by their actions every day, should be highlighted as well.

Sorry England, we didn't knew you treated your slaves with bed & breakfeast.

12 years ago

I am not African but I would love to personally decapitate the statues of that cocksucker Leopold II.

12 years ago

The real culprets here are Progessivism , "the Enlightment" , Materialism and Darwinist Atheism: study the 19th century.
Unfortunately there is a Marxist overtone here. The people of the Congo are portrayed as absolutely pure and living in paradise. The enemy is portrayed as the white race and European civilization. Hey Leopold was nuts by our standards too. Humanism won't solve anything either. It will just lead to more hypocrisy to cover over the hate. We must learn (Ha) that soap is not civilization and "progress' doesn't confer good morals. God help us all.

12 years ago

They need to make a movie of this.

History is important because it explains how and why the world is the way it is today. The way History is taught in American public schools is horrible and cannot possibly have this goal in mind. They spend every year on American History, having students memorize trivial facts like dates and names of battles without learning any causality of events and the most recent info they get up to in American History is WWII. I only studied world history twice, in 6th and 9th grade. Both years they started with Mesopotamia and only got up to Alexander the Great.

The colonization of Africa is an important topic, because it is the atrocities committed by the European powers at that time that is largely responsible for the problems that continue there today. People in America hear about the poverty and unrest in Africa, but no one teaches anyone here why that is. I think without a why, a lot of people just see the poverty and fighting in Africa as a permanant feature of Africa, rather than a problem that was created and can be solved. For example this video talked about cutting off hands, and explained that the Belgiums introduced this practice. Without knowing this history, people look at Africans cutting off each others hands and might think that this is something that Africans have been doing for forever. Without knowing the history, people don't realize how much of a victim so much of Africa has been. It's important to know the history because in order to solve problems you need to work together and in order to do that you need to know where people are coming from.

Historical movies I think are important because history is important and the American public education system utterly fails to provide the public with an adequate understanding of history needed to understand how the world is today. A movie on colonization in africa will help more of the American public understand why Africa is how it is today. I think this documentary is perfect for a movie. It has a protagonist: E. D. Morel, an antogonist: King Leopold and it makes for a captivating story. If I was going to make a movie, this would be it. But I don't plan on being a film director, so if you are please steal this idea.

Thank god for the internet and BBC and thank you Vlatko!

12 years ago


I think you bring up a very good point. Once we label people with a name that is descriptive of their actions, we sort of start excusing their actions presuming that they're merely living up to their label. i.e if we call them devils, we expect them to be devilish, hence no anomaly in their actions.

Good and dandy, but there is also a pesky problem science calls epigenetics. Epigenetics is a phenomenon that some traits can be acquired and propagated for several generations within certain groups despite lack of inherent DNA sequence for such behavior in the group. Simply put, if some groups adopt violence as a survival mechanism, such trait can be passed on to successive generations genetically which allows these group of individuals predisposed to a larger degree of violence.

In a resource strapped region like pre-medieval northern Europe, extreme violence was considered a virtue. After a few generations this tendency becomes epigenetic to those born and raised in the region, hence the trait has become their nature.

I think some who come from cultures that don't have such propensity for violence and don't understand it quickly equate it to evil, which is the be all end all category for all things bad

12 years ago

menelik1&2 says:
"These people are devils.What more is it to say.Peace."

I share the strong revulsion that leads to this statement, but...
These people are people. They are people who do very bad things. Primo Levi, in "The Drowned and the Saved," warned that there is a danger in thinking that they are devils. By calling them devils, they become something beyond our control, and we allow their acts to be inherent in their nature, and not decisions that they make that affect other people. How do we hold devils accountable for their actions? It seems like Levi is arguing semantics, but a little reflection on how society has dealt with these people bears this idea out.

As a student at PSU, I am taking a class on genocide. I would say in response to those that feel that too much emphasis is placed on the WW2 Nazi holocaust: No single one of these stories (and there are many that escape the net of popular culture) is more or less important than the other. The Congo, Rwanda, Australia, the New World, WW2 Europe... all of these cases show a long history of massive human violence.

Every war that we see in today's media has elements of this same wanton destructiveness and disregard for the value of a human life. Learning about these cases should make us more aware of the violence that our modern societies perpetrate on behalf of world security, economic interests, etc. Generations of the future will look back on today's wars with the same scrutiny, the same bewilderment, and the same sadness.

12 years ago

Steve, I am not sure that this was the main reason for shooting Casement. Yes he participated in irish revolutionary movement, but the problem was that in efford to help irish revolutionary forces he tried to make an agreement with the Germans (in the WW1, of course) to get involved in irish nationalistic movement. His attempt failed, but of course he was imprisoned for high degree treason and shot for the same reason.

12 years ago

You might be interested to know that the British had Roger Casement shot because he tried to help the Irish....

12 years ago

These people are devils.What more is it to say.Peace.

12 years ago

People: it's affect, not effect. I see the constant misuse of the word effect, when the right word to use is affect.

Sheesh! English is not even my first language! xD

12 years ago

great and horrific, the fingerprints of tyranny remain as constant as ever, taking good for evil and evil for good.

phil atio
12 years ago

Yes I ALSO agree the media places far too much emphasis on the jews and ww2 and there are much mor epoeple killled in other genocides. This is a good example

Taharqa(Conqueror of Egypt)
12 years ago

Frankly I think the media should stop putting such an emphasis on the Jewish Holocaust and start letting the world know of other atrocities committed around the world...
Enough said

Keep up the good work Vlatko!!

12 years ago

Surely a large memorial dedicated to Chief Lontulu of the Congo should be placed outside EU Buildings in Brussels and the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Or perhaps those uncivilized beasts in Brussels and the Hague would prefer the names of M. HAGSTROM's soldiers carved in stone instead, recognizing them for their successful brutal treatment of the Congolese.

The Congo Commission......
"Lontulu, the senior chief of Bolima, came with twenty witnesses,
which was all the canoe would hold. He brought with him one hun-
dred and ten twigs, each of which represented a life sacrificed for rubber. The twigs were of different lengths, and represented chiefs, men, women and children, according to their length. It was a horrible
story of massacre, mutilation and cannibalism that he had to tell,
and it was perfectly clear that he was telling the truth."

Shortly afterwards Chief Lontulu was tortured to death and the Belgian Governor General slit his own throat.

12 years ago

"The world is like a huge chess board, every move made effects every other piece on the board."

Well put good sir, well put!

12 years ago

@ Marshal1917

Yes, the black hand was responsible for killing the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. As a result they threw the whole region into conflict and brought about the events leading up to WW1. Of course if you study the history indepth you can plainly see the real reason this resulted in a world wide conflict was the vast and intricate web of alliances made inorder to maintain the peace. I think the world learned a valuable lesson form all of it though, alliances are complicated and can defeat their own purpose. Something like this that amounts to a small conflict amongst several ethnic communities can turn into a world war because of promises made without thinking globally. The world is like a huge chess board, every move made effects every other piece on the board.

12 years ago

Wow...just when I think I have seen the worst of what mankind has to offer I learn more. Thanks this was an eye-opening film. What about some reparations for the Congolese people ??

12 years ago

This BBC 4 documentary is definitely worth a watch.

It was interesting to learn ED Morel used an image of the scales of justice for his book Red Rubber – The story of the rubber slave trade 1906 - an image depicting Leopold II as a Faroe on one side and a tiny black hand from the Congo, on the other.

The Black Hand later became a recognized assassination group responsible for the murder of a number of members of European royalty.

12 years ago

Thanks Vladko for posting this one! It is important for more of us to see what happened in the Congo a century ago in the name of progress, prosperity and even humanitarism! It is almost unbelievable that this tragic story is virtually unknown in the western world, where we learn so much about holocaust, communist atrocities and so on.
I was so interested in this theme that it became the major part of my diploma work. I was struggling heavily with finding quality modern history books about Congo Free State, but was suprissed how famous this topic was in the beginning of the 20th century. Then the whole worlds press was writing about the unbelievable atrocities that occurred in Congo and the pressure on Leopold was so high that he was forced to hand the colony over to his country. And that was in time when most of African continent was the subject of brutal colonialism.
Today the most famous book on the Congo Free State is King Leopold’s ghost by Adam Hochschild (I am not sure if he is mentioned in the film) and it was even banned in Belgium for a while. After all, Leopold II is there still presented as a hero who raised Belgium to become one of the richest countries in Europe.
But it is so important to as to see what the worst kind of colonialism looked like. Than we maigh understood better the todays reality in Africa.