Rupert Neudeck and Huyen Tran Chau at a ceremony for the „Cap Anamur", 2014 © Huyen Tran Chau; photograph: private
The journalist Rupert Neudeck and his wife Christel Neudeck founded the „Ship for Vietnam” committee in 1979. The first rescue freighter set out to sea in the same year. The crews of the „Cap Anamur” picked up thousands of ‘boat people’ from the South China Sea. In interviews about his work, Rupert Neudeck repeatedly referred to his own life. In early 1945, when he was five years old, he had fled Danzig with his mother and four siblings.
Boat refugees on the „Cap Anamur”, 1986 © Cap Anamur Deutsche Not-Ärzte e.V.; photograph: Jürgen Escher
The Vietnam War ended in 1975 with the victory of Communist North Vietnam and the occupation of the country’s south. The subsequent tyranny, re-education camps, and the war between Vietnam and Cambodia sent hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese into flight beginning in late 1978. At least 250,000 people died as they attempted to flee, with most of them drowning in the ocean. The „Cap Anamur” rescued 10,395 boat refugees.
Huyen Tran Bui (17 years old) in Vinh Long, South Vietnam, 1980 © Huyen Tran Chau, photograph: private
Huyen Tran Chau (née Bui) grew up in the city of Vinh Long. She was the daughter of a civil servant in the previous South Vietnamese government, which is why she was not allowed to attend university despite the completion of her entrance qualifications. Her younger brother Anh Tuan was in danger of being conscripted as a soldier in the war between Vietnam and Cambodia. Their parents, fearing for their children’s lives, decided to send their children on the perilous journey.
Flight across the South China Sea and rescue by the „Cap Anamur”, December 1981 © Cap Anamur Deutsche Not-Ärzte e.V.; photograph (1981): Gert Kindermann, physician aboard the Cap Anamur
On 16 December 1981, Huyen Tran Bui and her brother set out with 46 other refugees in a fishing boat. The „Cap Anamur” found them and took them aboard shortly before Christmas. The siblings spent several weeks aboard the freighter and experienced the rescue of dozens of refugees. The „Cap Anamur” finally brought about 300 people to a camp on the Philippine island of Palawan.
In the camps on the Philippine islands of Palawan and Bataan, 1982 © Huyen Tran Chau; photograph: private
After six months on Palawan, Huyen Tran Bui (in a blue shirt), her brother, and her later husband, whom she met there, were approved for entry into Germany. They were moved to another camp on the island of Bataan. They spent six more months there, preparing for life in the Federal Republic of Germany. They received lessons in German culture and the German language. Most of the refugees in this photograph now live in the USA and Australia.
Arrival and new beginning in the Federal Republic of Germany, 1983 © Huyen Tran Chau; photograph: private
Huyen Tran Bui landed in the Stuttgart airport in January 1983. Her later husband Thanh Liem Chau rejoined her a few months later at a German course given by the „Otto Benecke Foundation" in Heilbronn. They married in Ulm in 1992.
University entrance qualifications and university studies © Huyen Tran Chau; photograph: private
Huyen Tran Bui completed her German Abitur in 1987 and studied chemistry at the University of Ulm, after she had previously been refused admission to study in South Vietnam. In the meantime, her parents and other siblings were also able to move to the Federal Republic of Germany to be reunited as a family.
Artist and art teacher for the elderly © Foundation Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation; photograph: Thomas Bruns
For many years, Huyen Tran Chau has worked as an artist and art teacher for the elderly. Her carvings have been presented in exhibitions including in the Municipal Museum of Hameln, „The World of the Brothers Grimm” (2017), and in Munich’s Potato Museum, „Frau Holle, Wagner and the Potato” (2013). Since 2016 she has been the director of the „Kulturwerkstatt Jürgenohl” in Goslar and working on artistic projects with refugees.
Remembering the „Cap Anamur”, Berlin 2019 © Foundation Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation; photograph: Barbara Kurowska
In November 2019, Huyen Tran Chau gave an interview to the Foundation Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation, which will be presented in the future permanent exhibition. She spoke about her flight, her rescue by the „Cap Anamur”, and her experiences living in Germany.
© Foundation Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation; photograph: Thomas Bruns
Contact information for the artist, Huyen Tran Chau: email@example.com