Visual History Makes a Difference
During a three-month period in 1994, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 Tutsi were murdered in Rwanda (between 75 and 80 percent of the total Rwandan Tutsi population) -- that's more than 6,500 people murdered every day for 90 days.
To most of us, the amount of hatred required to instigate and maintain such violence is unthinkable. That's what genocide is about -- hatred for those who are different. It may begin with prejudiced thoughts or stereotypes about a certain group of people. For some, these prejudiced thoughts can lead to acts of bigotry and discrimination. This can then escalate into acts of violence like vandalism, assault, or murder. The Anti-Defamation League describes this as the "pyramid of hate."
Right now, world leaders are debating the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region, trying to decide if the systematic displacement, murders and rapes occurring there can be seen legally as genocide. Again, we're in danger of not learning from our past. But the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation is working to remind us of the suffering that prejudice, bigotry and hate can bring.
Today, most of us are bombarded with a barrage of information in many formats, so much so that we can easily become desensitized to what's going on around us. Between MP3 players and computers and video game consoles and home theaters, reading text in a book or listening to an audio-taped interview can't compete -- it isn't engaging enough. What makes the testimonies of the Shoah Foundation so compelling is that they are visual histories. If we are to learn from our past, we need to be able to connect to it. When people watch a Shoah testimony, they're given the opportunity to connect to the survivor or witness because it feels like he or she is actually talking to them. As Shoah Foundation CEO Doug Greenberg puts it, "there's something palpably different about watching video."