Historical facts

Henning Becker (1943-) Danish/German journalist and humanitarian organizer. Born in Holstein (?), Germany. Lived in Denmark most of his life.

Graduated as journalist from the Danish Academy of Journalism in XXXX.

Founder of the Danish leg of Terres des Hommes in 1967 – chairman until 1969.

Lived in Vietnam from 1970-1975, where he founded several children’s homes under the organisation Children’s Protection and Security International (CPSI).

Orchestrated a dramatic escape from Saigon on the 25th of April 1975 with the aid of American millionaire and CEO of World Airways, Edward J. Daly – who was present himself in the airplane that lifted the children out of Saigon.

The plane carried Becker and his small staff and 204 children. On April 30th 1975 the children and Becker landed in Aalborg Airport, Denmark and were placed in an abandoned lunatic asylum on a small island in the North of Denmark.

In the next three years Becker battled with the Danish government to keep the children together. He did not succed and the children were split up.

He saved us from hell and led us to heaven…Chuck Lam, one of Beckers children
In 1971 and 1972 the Vietnamese mountain tribes Mieng and Stieng, which belong to more than 100 ethnic minority tribes called the Montagnards, were almost completely wiped out by genocidal actions carried out by the Vietnamese Liberation Front.

Henning Becker picked up 177 surviving Mieng and Stieng orphans in the vicinity of An Loc in 1972. They had fled on foot through Vietnam from their hometowns. Many had been killed during this ordeal.

Becker brought the children to a farm at Thu Doc near Saigon where he ran a children’s home for them.

Owing to financial difficulties this project was taken over in the beginning of 1974 by the Government of South Vietnam through the Ministry for the Development of Ethnic Minorities. However, this arrangement did not work out and the children were transferred in March 1975 to Saigon where the applicant operated two homes and where he already had 70 children.

Henning Becker established a childrens home for the street children of the war in Saigon early 1975. He did not have any funding, but managed to persuade friends to contribute minor donations that made it possible for him to pay the rent and purchase food for the children. In order to secure an official status for the paperless children he adopted most of them himself. The sum of adopted children is estimated to 45.

The children called him Ninh and that gradually became the official name of the children – The Ninh Family.

The situation in Saigon became more and more unsafe. On April 15th 1975, Henning Becker arranged a meeting with the Minister for Ethnic Minorities. The Minister belonged himself to the Montagnards and had during the meeting kept referring to his experiences in the previous days, when his father and other relatives had been killed by the North Vietnamese and the Liberation Front. A Danish foreign correspondent who had been present confirms in a report dated 6 May 1975 that the reason for killing these persons had been their relationship to the Minister, being a member of the Saigon Government.

At the meeting the Minister concluded that the lives of the Montagnard children were in danger and they entered an agreement authorising the applicant to take the children to Europe. In the list of persons relating to this agreement there were 211 children including a number of children who did not belong to a Montagnard minority.

Henning Becker undertook inter alia to organise their accommodation and education and it was also laid down that when peace was restored in the Republic of Vietnam, certain Montagnard students, in the care of the Becker’s organisation, would return to Vietnam, to take part in the development of their country.

On 17 April 1975 Henning Becker applied with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for visas and residence permits for the children. The basic view of the Danish Government was that the Vietnamese children should be helped in Vietnam. The Government had stressed this in their press release issued on 21 April 1975. The Government had, however, found special circumstances to prevail in the present case and they announced that they were prepared, in conformity with the provisions of Art. 24 of the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949, relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, to receive the children belonging to the special ethnic minority, provided that exit visas had been granted by the South Vietnamese Government and that the children would return to Vietnam following the cessation of hostilities.

Henning Becker, his staff and slightly more than 200 children left Saigon on 25 April 1975 by air with the assistance of the Edward J. Daly, who owned World Airways. The flight went via Hawaii to Alborg in Denmark where they arrived on 30 April 1975.

A large number of the Ninh family were orphans who had been brought up in a Western culture-pattern in which fear and animosity towards communists were basic elements. The Montagnards, in addition, belonged to a minority and they were generally regarded as “third class citizens” and they also had a particular sense of freedom and loyalty which made their future position under the new regime in South Vietnam even more difficult.

Henning Becker struggled with the Danish authorities to secure permanent residenceship for the children in Denmark.

This was a tiresome battle, that was tainted by a massive media campaign against Henning Beckers person. He was accused of being a pederast, an alcoholic and mentally ill.

The Ninh family was moved from the secluded Island Livø to the North of Sealand. The authorities then decided to remove the 45 adopted children from Beckers care with the aid of a major police force.

This created an outrage in international media and political circles.

The Montagnard children were spread all over Denmark in clusters of 30-40.