The Rights & Wrongs of Genocide Tourism
It is the opinion of many, that making a tourist attraction out of an act of mass murder is just plain wrong and utterly disrespectful to the victims. It seems that after a certain amount of time has passed it suddenly becomes acceptable to open up the site of shocking crimes for wide-eyed tourists to come and gawp at.
The counter to the argument is that such genocides should never be forgotten and it is important to teach future generations about the horrors that human beings are capable of. Most of the museums are run on a non-profit basis with ticket proceeds going to funding the upkeep of the site or to some other charity organisation.
Some of the sights certainly attract tourists with shall we say questionable motives who go to be shocked and take photos of gruesome things as opposed to truly learn about and respect the victims of genocide. At the end of the day most of the world’s major horror stories are remembered by some sort of museum or memorial. Some are more tasteful than others and ultimately it comes to personal judgement as to whether you should visit.
The World’s Genocide Museums & Sites
Oswiecim near Krakow in Poland is a small town where you will find the Auschwitz and Birkenau Nazi Concentration Camps. More than a million mostly Jewish men, women and children were killed here in the haunting gas chambers and through forced labour. The world’s most visited genocide museum demonstrates at great lengths everything that took place here. The site is still very similar to what it was in the 1940’s and there are millions of items of clothing, belongings and even hair of the victims that is on display.
Killing Fields, Cambodia
The Killing Fields near Phnom Penh where the scene of unspeakable horrors in the 1970’s when Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia. For decades the Western world turned a blind eye to the sheer brutality that took place in this normally peaceful South East Asian country. The Killing Fields site is only a small one but graphically shows what took place here. There is a scattering of human bones and graves around the field while there is also a white stupa which contains the skulls of thousands of victims. There was recently public outrage in Cambodia when the government leased the site out to a Japanese firm.
There are several sites in Rwanda relating to the 1994 genocide which killed roughly 800,000 people, around 20% of the Rwandan population in the space of a mere 100 days. Perhaps the biggest is in Kigali where around a third of the victims were buried. Now a memorial centre it offers a shocking account of what took place. Other sites you can visit that shed further light on events, include memorials at Ntarama, Nyamata and Murambi.
Armenia doesn’t get much publicity or many visitors so this one’s not quite so well known. The events took place almost 100 years ago now, but the row between Armenia and Turkey, the state formed out of the Ottoman Empire that committed the crimes rumbles on. Turkey claims that the term ‘genocide’ is not accurate although most independent historians take the Armenian view that around 1.5 million innocent lives were lost. The museum in Yerevan has thousands of documents and photos relating to the period.
Wendkuni on flickr supplied the image for Rwandan Genocide Museum
This article was published in July 2011.