Wednesday, November 04, 2009

HOLOCAUST and CULTURE OF MEMORY: Photo Diary of Cambodian Diaspora and the German Experience

Photo Diary of Cambodian Diaspora and the German Experience
May, July–September 2009.
By Theary C. SENG
We, Cambodians, are given a “spectacular event” in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia to transition from a 30-year “period of communicative silence” to building a “culture of memory”.

The ECCC is both a “court of law” and a “court of public opinion” (see 19 Sept. 2009 KI-Media, Theary Seng’s Press Statement with Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Development, Berlin) which will produce countless materials and resources toward the establishing of a more POSITIVE LEGACY and a more HONORABLE CULTURE OF MEMORY.

The desired legacy includes more than just a better legal/judicial system, but encompasses a culture of dialogue and creative expression, of personal/collective responsibility, of de-stigmatizing/sensitivity to mental health etc. A more honorable culture of memory declines the powers-that-be (in politics, civil society, donor community, in the ECCC or otherwise) from pursuing a revisionist history to whitewash one’s own complicity or to be a megalomaniac in claiming a “Super-Victim” status or to grandstand and build up the professional resumes.

I. ECCC Civil Party Theary C. SENG conducting Civil Party Seminars for Cambodian survivors in Brussels, Belgium (on way to The Hague, sponsored by IDRC) and Paris / Toulouse, France (on way to Lisbon, sponsored by Taiwan Foundation for Democracy)

In the ECCC, it is the first time in international law and mixed/international tribunals whereby victims of mass atrocities are given the status of a direct party in the criminal proceeding. As survivors of the Khmer Rouge, we should make every opportunity of getting involved and shaping this process, wherever we may be – in country or in the diaspora spread across the world.

Theary Seng with author of J’ai Cru aux Khmers Rouges, ONG Thong Hoeung, and Cambodian survivors in Brussels, Civil Party Seminar, Belgium, 21 May 2009.

Theary Seng at MacArthur Foundation’s International Justice Award to Richard Goldstone. ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo addressing panel of international justice / human rights luminaries, The Hague, 25 May 2009.

Theary Seng with author PIN Yathay holding his memoir Stay Alive, My Son. Civil Party Seminar, Paris. 6 July 2009.

Theary Seng with Mr. PHIN Malay and Dr. SENG Chen An after 2-hour live radio broadcast on Canal Sud, FM 92.2 in Toulouse addressing issues of KR legacy and culture of memory and later at a Civil Party Seminar, Toulouse, 7 July 2009.

II. “Collective Sharing and Healing”: Khmer Rouge Tribunal Forum II, Portland, OR organized by CACO, 15 August 2009.

The Cambodian-American Community of Oregon (CACO) organized with heart and soul this second forum in their city as evidenced by the audience and their engagement.

Cambodian survivors in Portland each holding a candle of commemoration; Theary Seng with Fmr. US Ambassador to UN, Hon. Sichan SIV; the indefatigable Ronnie YIMSUT treating Dr. Wendy Freed and Dr. Craig Etcheson (the unrelenting hunter of KR leaders and co- founder of Documentation Center of Cambodia, DC-Cam with Ben Kiernan and Helen Jarvis in 1995) and Theary Seng to a visit of Mt. Hood.

III. Theary Seng’s 3-weeks in Berlin learning about Germany’s Culture of Memory (sponsored by the German Development Service and the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung)

One cannot help but be extremely impressed with the courage and creativity of Germany in confronting its Nazi and Stasi past. Anyone who wants to learn how to genuinely transition out of the Period of Communicative Silence (as memorably put by Dr. Wolfgang Thierse, vice-president of the Bundestag who inaugurated the Holocaust Museum in Berlin) must visit Germany, in particular Berlin.

Theary Seng speaking with Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Development Heide-Marie who initiated the Civil Peace Service 10 years ago, part of the ongoing legacy of Germany’s culture of memory, Berlin, 19 Aug. 2009.

Theary Seng being treated to lunch by Anja Justen of FriEnt (Working Group on Development and Peace), with DED Michael Eberlein and Jost Pachaly of Heinrich Boll Stiftung after a roundtable discussion on “Psycho-Social Accompaniment in Transitional Justice Processes – The Cambodian Experience”, preceded by another roundtable discussion at the Treatment Center of Victims of Torture, Berlin organized by Britta Jenkins and her colleagues (Dr. Christine Knaevelsrud, psychologist Katrin Schock, Nadine Stammel and Estelle both of whom had conducted 6-months research in Cambodia, and followed by an amazing conversation with Natascha Zupan who coordinates all of FriEnt, Berlin, 20 Aug. 2009.

Theary Seng accompanied by DED Monika Falkenberg took the train outside Berlin to visit Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, a well federally-funded “authentic site”, with amazing audio guide. In front of the large compound.

Theary Seng in front of large space provided for different associations, institutions (i.e., churches) to commemorate in their own creative way the lives of those who perished at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, again with informative audio guide available in several languages. Sachsenhausen has both preserved the “authentic site” and space for creative memorial. Everything is thoughtfully planned to facilitate the education and reflection of the visitor, outside Berlin, 21 Aug. 2009.

Every year, each of the German Ministries set aside one day for citizens and visitors to come to that particular Ministry and meet with directly with Ministry officials and view exhibitions of its work. Theary Seng standing in front of exhibition featuring CSD’s staff Om Chariya comforting a woman at Tuol Sleng, “direct democracy” or “Open Door Day” at the Federal Ministry of Economic Development, 23 Aug. 2009.

The German Parliament (Bundestag) generously sets aside hundreds of millions of Euros to fund these “authentic sites” and creative memorials to give real meaning to the “Culture of Memory”. We, Cambodians, can learn from this German experience – the building of this culture of memory must involve broad and diverse stakeholders of civil society (artists, authors in addition to traditional civil society of human rights/democracy builders) and government. 23 Aug. 2009.

The Holocaust Memorial, initiated by a civil society leader and inaugurated by then President of the German Bundestag, Dr. Wolfgang Thierse, sits in the heart of the financial, diplomatic and very touristic neighborhoods of Berlin – very central and prominent. 25 Aug. 2009.

The excellent, thoughtful Information Center sits underground. A map of all Holocaust Memorials spread across Europe. 25 Aug. 2009.

2 1/2 hrs meeting with Dr. Hubertus Knabe, director of Hohenschoenhausen Memorial, a former Stasi Prison, a preserved “ authentic site” of Stasi secrecy and paranoia. Berlin, 27 Aug. 2009.

1 ½ hours of conversation on the culture of memory and human rights in Cambodia with Dr. Wolfgang Thierse, Vice-President of German Parliament/Bundestag (transparent dome in background), who initiated the Holocaust Memorial. Theary Seng, Moritz Kleine-Brockoff, filmmaker Marc Eberle and artist Feit after the meeting in the corner conference room of Bundestag’s office building, with stunning overlooking view of Bundestag which was burned down in 1933 giving rise to Hitler and with the Berlin Wall running along its edges until 1989. (See also 19 Sept. 20 KI Media posting.) 28 Aug. 2009.

Spending 5 hours of conversations with Dr. Thomas Lutz who is the director of all the 100+ museums and memorials in Germany (!), after a very detailed tour of the Topography of Terror, at the nearby garden café. 28 Aug. 2009.

Theary Seng with filmmaker Marc Eberle in front of the Berlin Wall remnant forming an “authentic site”, the entrance of the Topography of Terror. 28 Aug. 2009.

On the way to dinner (with Marc’s friends—Judith, speech writer for Federal Minister of Health, and Udo, a famous film set designer, most recently of Same Same But Different, a love story set in Cambodia), we ran into a Stumbling Stone, a creative way of honoring the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust, one of hundreds in Berlin, 30 Aug. 2009.

Theary Seng on her way to meeting with Bert Rosenthal, Secretariat of International Relations at the Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security service of the former German Democratic Republic. Berlin, 31 Aug. 2009.

Theary Seng in front of the Jewish Museum, comprised of two beautiful structures – one old and the other modern, recognized worldwide as an architectural feat. Berlin, 31 Aug. 2009.

3 hours with Dr. Aubrey Pomerance, head of Archive of Jewish Museum in Berlin. Hall of faces, silently screaming to be heard, “Never Again!”. 31 Aug. 2009.

Later a conversation with Sarah Hiron, head of Education Department (on the very left in photo) and her colleague Marie Naumann, head of Publications, at the Garden Café of Jewish Museum in Berlin. She generously gave me a set of the curriculum. Group photo with Dr. Aubrey Pomerance (2nd from left), Marc Eberle (back), Theary Seng, Charles du Vinage (far right) at entrance hall of Jewish Museum, Berlin. 31 Aug. 2009.

Conversations with Bernd Schaefer (KR and Stasi scholar and senior research scholar of Cold War International History Project of Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars), Marc Eberle, Markus at the French Quarter of Berlin, 1 Sept. 2009.

Generous meeting with FDP (now junior coalition partner) Member of Parliament Hon. Hellmut Konigshaus at his Bundestag office, with Dr. Christian Taaks and Mr. Moritz Kleine-Brockoff of Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, one day before the International Conference on KR Tribunal: Scandal or Success, which he also attended amidst the election campaign season. (See 29 Sept. 2009 KI Media posting re this KRT conference in Berlin.) 2 Sept. 2009.

Theary Seng with panelists Hon. Jurgen Koppelin (German parliamentarian who opposed the KRT) and German prosecutor Jurgen Assmann, organized by and moderated by Friedrich Naumann Stiftung’s Moritz Kleine-Brockoff, Berlin, 3 Sept. 2009.

Meeting with the lovely Dr. Anna Kaminsky, executive director of Stiftung Aufarbeitung, another well federally-funded foundation (hundreds of millions of Euros!) in Berlin to archive crimes and history of Communism all over the world. Berlin, 3 Sept. 2009.

Meeting with Dr. Karen Jungblut, director of Research and Documentation of the Shoah Foundation, founded by Steven Spielberg as a result of filming Schindler’s List. USC Los Angeles, 11 Sept. 2009.

Theary Seng with cousin Visal Hok (born 2 months before end of KR regime in late 1978) on way to meeting with Karen Jungblut, with Cambodian flag in the background, at central campus of University of Southern California, permanent house of Shoah Foundation, 11 Sept. 2009.

We, Cambodians, are given the opportunity in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal to proclaim resoundingly NEVER, NEVER AGAIN!


Anonymous said...

When all moniments khmer were built in -1200,there were -450 000 000 peoples on earth.Today 03/11/2009,there are 6 800 000 000 peoples on earth.And 3/4 of land were stolen by Vietcong and Siams also Laos.what do you think of your children,when you will be 50 year old.At plus 4 565 251 vietcong are already in Cambodia.In 1970 we had 6 829 542 peoples khmers in khmer kandal,during communist vietcong,sihanouk,mao between 70-80 2 145 621 were Aar Kor Neung Theang thnot,Dork kror Chork...It's just my opinion,how can you finish yours!

L` Ignorance est la source de la souffrance.

Anonymous said...

yes, khmer holocaust survivors and german or jewish holocaust survivors have a lot in common and should join forces together with the two people to help prevent any kind of future atrocity like this from happening again in both germany and cambodia, really!

Anonymous said...

More self-promotion by Seng Theary.

Anonymous said...

A very elegant Cambodian face for the world to see. Cambodia needs more Theary Sengs.