Thierry Cruvellier

View on Amazon

What is justice for a man who supervised the interrogation and killing of thousands?  Especially a man who now claims to be a Christian and to be, at least in some ways and cases, repentant for his crimes?

Thierry Cruvellier has written a fascinating book about the trial of ‘Duch’ the director of the S-21 prison and  interrogation center in Cambodia during the rule of the Khmer Rouge.  Cruvellier watched virtually the entire trial and interviewed many of the participants and observers.  The Master of Confessions: The Making of a Khmer of Rouge Torturer (Ecco, 2014) is both history and philosophy, a deeply moving attempt to understand Duch and his actions.  Cruvellier offers the reader an finely crafted narrative of S-21, of the life of Duch and of the place Duch occupied in a genocidal structure.  But he also wrestles with deeply philosophical questions about our ability to really understand other people’s actions, about the nature of justice in the aftermath of mass violence, and about the role of courts and trials. It’s a book that gets under your skin in the best kind of way.

A journalist, Cruvellier earlier wrote a similar account of witnessing the trial of perpetrators from the Rwandan genocide.  As we discuss in the interview, the experience of listening to accounts of atrocities day after day has taken a toll on him, as it would on anyone.   But the book that resulted is profoundly moving and unsettling.  I hope our discussion offers a taste of the ideas and understanding his book offers.

{ 0 comments }

Deborah MayersenOn the Path to Genocide: Armenia and Rwanda Reexamined

September 23, 2014

I live and work in the state of Kansas in the US.  We think of ourselves as living in tornado alley and orient our schedules in the spring around the weather report.  Earthquakes are something that happen somewhere else. Recently, however, our southern neighbor, Oklahoma, has been rocked repeatedly by minor earthquakes.  Why this is [...]

Read the full article →

Lars Waldorf, Lee Ann Fujii, and Scott StrausRoundtable: What Do We Now Know About the Rwandan Genocide Twenty Years On?

September 13, 2014

In 1994 I was in graduate school, trying hard to juggle teaching, getting started on my dissertation and having something of a real life. The real life part suffered most of all.  But every once in a while, the world around me would startle me out of my cave and remind me that life was [...]

Read the full article →

Martin ShawGenocide and International Relations: Changing Patterns in the Transitions of the Late Modern World

August 8, 2014

Works in the field of genocide studies tend to fall into one of a few camps.  Some are emotional and personal.  Others are historical and narrative.  Still others are intentionally activist and aimed at changing policy or decisions. Martin Shaw‘s works fit into a fourth category.  A historical sociologist, Shaw brings the very best of [...]

Read the full article →

Samuel TottenGenocide by Attrition: The Nuba Mountains of Sudan

July 18, 2014

Most of the authors I’ve interviewed for this show have addressed episodes in the past, campaigns of mass violence that occurred long ago, often well-before the author was born. Today’s show is different. In his book Genocide by Attrition: The Nuba Mountains of Sudan (Transaction Publishers, 2012), Samuel Totten addresses the violence against the people of the Nuba Mountains [...]

Read the full article →

Michael BryantEyewitness to Genocide: The Operation Reinhard Death Camp Trials, 1955-1966

July 15, 2014

My marginal comment, recorded at the end of the chapter on the Belzec trial in Michael Bryant‘s fine new book Eyewitness to Genocide: The Operation Reinhard Death Camp Trials, 1955-1966 (University of Tennessee Press, 2014), is simple:  ”!!!!”  Text speak, to be sure, but it conveys the surprise I felt. One can ask many questions about [...]

Read the full article →

Wendy LowerHitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields

July 7, 2014

It seems quite reasonable to wonder if there’s anything more to learn about the Holocaust.  Scholars from a variety of disciplines have been researching and writing about the subject for decades.  A simple search for “Holocaust” on Amazon turns up a stunning 27,642 results.  How can there still be uncovered terrain? Wendy Lower shows it [...]

Read the full article →

Benjamin LiebermanRemaking Identities: God, Nation and Race in World History

June 27, 2014

What do you say to someone who suggests that genocide is not just destructive, but constructive? This is the basic theme of Benjamin Lieberman‘s excellent new book Remaking Identities:  God, Nation and Race in World History (Rowman and Littlefield, 2013). The book surveys two thousand years of history to explain how people have used violence to reconstruct identities. [...]

Read the full article →

Mark LeveneThe Crisis of Genocide: 2 Vols. Devastation: The European Rimlands, 1912-1938; Annihilation: The European Rimlands, 1938-1953

June 3, 2014

I imagine one of the greatest compliments an author of an historical monograph can receive is to hear that his or her book changed the way a subject is taught. I will do just that after reading Mark Levene‘s new two volume work The Crisis of Genocide (2 Vols. Devastation:  The European Rimlands, 1912-1938; Annihilation and [...]

Read the full article →

Susan ThomsonWhispering Truth to Power: Everyday Resistance to Reconciliation in Postgenocide Rwanda

May 24, 2014

This spring, I taught a class loosely called “The Holocaust through Primary Sources” to a small group of selected students. I started one class by asking them the deceptively simple question “When did the Holocaust end?”  The first consensus answer was “1945.”  After some discussion, the students changed their answer.  The new consensus was simple. [...]

Read the full article →