Building a memorial always brings fraught politics, especially on a hilltop in Rwanda
It took nearly three years for Israel’s parliament to agree on an official Holocaust Remembrance Day. Some wanted it linked to the siege of ancient Jerusalem, which led to the destruction of the Second Temple. But that seemed too removed. Others wanted it tied to the first day of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising according to the Hebrew calendar. But that overlaps with Passover; Orthodox Jews objected. Finally, in 1951, members of Parliament reached a compromise: Holocaust Remembrance Day is on the 27th of Nisan or, this year, April 21st. April is also the month when Rwandans remember their genocide. In 1994, nearly a million Rwandan Tutsis and sympathetic Hutus were killed by their fellow Hutus in about three months. The killings were stopped only when Tutsi refugees living in neighboring countries invaded. Today, Rwanda is a peaceful state, with a Tutsi president. But how are Rwandans to honor and preserve the memory of those who died, when victims and perpetrators must encounter one another every day? Gregory Warner takes us to the site of one of the worst episodes in the genocide to try to find answers to that question.
Photos: Gregory Warner. Map showing Rwanda and Israel drawn by a student at Agahozo Shalom Youth Village
Grigoris Balakian was the Primo Levi of the Armenian Genocide. Ninety years later, his memoir is published in English.