Travels to the
Goodrich (History) has
immersed himself in the study of genocide, but a recent trip to
Cambodia proved that his scholarly research has hardly desensitized
him to the atrocities associated with the systematic extermination
of a targeted population.
many visitors, he was stunned by the sight of 8,000 human skulls
in a glass shrine, or memorial stupa (pictured). It was built in
the middle of the "killing fields" of Choeung Ek – one
of many sites where Pol Pot and
his Khmer Rouge soldiers murdered an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians
in the mid- to late '70s.
you tour the killing fields, you literally walk right over these
sunken areas that served as mass graves," he said. "You
can see exposed human remains all around you. It was a gory sight
– to the point that I actually felt nauseous while I was there."
also visited the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide in the capital city
It was once a school, but the Khmer Rouge regime used it as a prison
and torture camp.
of prisoners went in to Tuol Sleng and only seven survived,"
Goodrich said. "It's not a menacing place from the outside;
it looks like any other school. But on the inside, there are photos
of Cambodians who were murdered, instruments used for torture, visible
blood stains and more skulls."
in Phnom Penh,
Goodrich gave a presentation at the Documentation Center of Cambodia.
Funded through a grant to Yale University's Cambodia Genocide Program
and directed by a survivor of the "killing fields," the
center's mission is two-fold: to record
and preserve the history of the Khmer Rouge regime for future generations;
and to compile information that can serve as potential evidence
in a legal accounting for the crimes of the Khmer Rouge.
presented "The Ethical,
Pedagogical and Scholarly Considerations of Placing the Holocaust
in a Comparative, Global Perspective." It was relevant to a
Cambodian audience because Goodrich contends the Nazis' persecution
of the Jews under Hitler can be used as a comparative framework
to help understand other genocides, from the "killing fields"
to Kosovo, and from Rwanda to – most recently – the Darfur region
said his stance is controversial, even among some of his Jewish
friends who know that he is actively involved in Holocaust awareness
activities and concerned with human rights issues.
of the key debates in Holocaust studies is its uniqueness; whether
you can compare it to anything else," he added. "Every
historical event has unique parameters, but I argue that it is possible
to look at the Holocaust comparatively with other genocides. That's
not a popular position because of the political implications for
Israel. My mentor at the University
of Wisconsin-Madison, George Mosse, was a Holocaust survivor. He
said to me, 'Of course we think comparatively – we're historians.'
I think you can only make sense of history if you compare it, and
I believe there are lessons to be learned back and forth between
instances of genocide."
about Cambodia's past has led to an increase in tourism, but another
lure is the country's thriving sex trade. Goodrich also used his
two-week visit as an opportunity to gain a better understanding
of the complexities surrounding the issue through a contact at the