From Sideshow To Genocide:
An Introduction to this Website

From April 17, 1975 to January, 1979, the Khmer Rouge government of Cambodia committed one of the most egregious slaughters of humanity in modern history. Through a systematic campaign of murder, starvation and neglect, this enigmatic communist regime managed to kill as many as two million fellow Cambodians - nearly two out of every seven people in a country no larger than the state of Missouri.

In the 20 years since the Khmer Rouge genocide, Cambodians have struggled to put their once prosperous and peaceful kingdom back together again. Historians, too, have struggled with the equally difficult task of understanding how Cambodian society managed to turn on itself and implode with such disastrous consequences. While it may take generations to respond successfully to these questions, it is of paramount importance for us - all of us - to consider the causes and effects of the Cambodian genocide and the important lessons they may teach us.

This website is a modest attempt to remind us as vividly and graphically as possible what happens when a society ends up preying on itself or other people. Here you will find an overview of the events that led to the Cambodian holocaust, as well as the stories of survivors who have struggled successfully to put their lives back together. For teachers and students of holocaust studies there are also recommended reading materials, lesson plans and questions for discussion.

Note to Parents and Teachers: The stories you will encounter here will be disturbing, especially for some younger readers. I highly recommend that students view this website with their families or teachers and discuss the issues raised here in order to better understand the gravity of the events surrounding the Khmer Rouge genocide. It is all too easy for genocide in all of its forms to seem distant and unreal to those who have not experienced it. It is my hope that this website will help eliminate the disconnect to these events and allow all of us to bear witness.

Copyright 1999 Susanne Cornwall

About the Background Image

The image used in the background of this page and the website's homepage is a photograph of victims' portraits from the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh. Tuol Sleng, formerly a suburban high school, was converted into the S-21 interrogation center where the Khmer Rouge's opponents were routinely tortured and killed. Of the over 17,000 people who entered S-21 for questioning, only six of them are known to have survived. Today Tuol Sleng stands as an intimate reminder of the Khmer Rouge atrocities as it is plastered with hundreds of photographs of the many prisoners who were condemned there. The author of this website visited Tuol Sleng in November 1997 - please feel free to read about Andy Carvin's experience in his essay, A Day in the Killing Fields.

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From Sideshow to Genocide: Copyright 1999 by Andy Carvin. All Rights Reserved.