Genocide Survivors Recount Experiences

By Marie Schow

Tufts Daily (Tufts University)

Feb 28 2011

Four survivors of genocide recounted on Thursday night their
experiences before an audience in Cabot auditorium in an event
sponsored by Tufts Hillel.

The program focused on the universal and contemporary nature of
genocide. The speakers were survivors of four different genocides,
all from the last century.

Maurice Vanderpol, who faced persecution in the Netherlands when the
Nazis invaded the country in 1940, said that lessons learned during
his time in hiding have stayed with him.

“You will never really be able to detoxify,” Vanderpol said in his
remarks. “It has been so important to me and my wife to … live a
life that has meaning.”

Sayon Soeun, a survivor of the Cambodian genocide of 1975-79, recounted
his experiences as a child solider. He was abducted by fighters from
the Khmer Rouge.

“The government told me … my soul belonged to them,” he said.

Soeun decried discrimination based on nationality.

“It’s just pitiful when we judge each other by the cover,” Soeun said
in his speech.

Jasmina Cesic, who lived through the Bosnian civil war in the early
1990s, during which most of her family was killed, spoke of her hopes
for Serbia’s future following last year’s apology from that country’s
government for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

“My only hope is such an apology will open the doors to a brighter
future for the next generation” Cesic said.

Eugenie Mukeshimana, a survivor of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994,
said that the word “genocide” has a broader definition than is
typically understood.

“Genocides are not just about killing people. If you look at every one
of them, there is a high level of torture involved,” Mukeshimana said.

It is important that we recognize genocides as such when they occur,
Mukeshimana said, especially by meeting with survivors. “It’s important
for people to put a human face on the tragedy,” she told the Daily
following the event.

The survivors were joined by Khatchig Mouradian, editor of the
Armenian Weekly and a Ph.D candidate in Holocaust and Genocide
Studies at Clark University. Mouradian spoke about his grandfather,
who survived the Armenian Genocide of 1915-23, and urged the audience
to take an active role.

“There’s never a better time to stand up against human rights
violations than here and now,” Mouradian said.

Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Jeffrey Summit expressed in his
introduction to the event that in order to prevent genocide in the
future, awareness must be raised about it now.

“We hope this program will sensitize us to early warning signs,”
he said in his speech.

Senior Annie Lobel, one of the coordinators of the event, was pleased
with how it went.

“Seeing like-minded students has been remarkable and rewarding,”
she said.

Lobel urged students to participate in a matching gift challenge,
initiated by the Cummings Foundation, to create a Cummings/Hillel
Program for Holocaust and Genocide Education to foster the study of
genocide prevention at Tufts.

“I would love to see a more formal educational program related to
the topic at Tufts,” Lauren Levine, a senior who helped organize the
event, said.

From: A. Papazian

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