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The Truth about Genocide Tourism

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

“Why go to Club Med, when you can go to Dachau?”

This Sunday’s Chicago Tribune had what appeared to be classic example of Contrarian travel. A small subset of travellers, Steve Silva writes, are now, apparently, heading for such places as Dachau (the death camp), the killing fields of Cambodia, the blood-soaked fields of Rwanda, the ethnic cleansing hot spots of Bosnia.

One traveller that Silva interviewed, Julie Dermansky, a 40-year-old Californian visited the former Nazi death camp at Dachau in 1997, caught the bug, and has since become what Silva calls

a “genocide tourist.” Silva goes on to show that Dermansky represents a trend — more folks are now hungry to see sites of historic atrocities that there are (For a closer look at Genocide Tourism, see the piece for yourself.)
Damn, that sounds contrarian.

Touring death camps? Seeing ovens? The remnants of murderous machetes?

The CT is immensely impressed by the originality, the esprit-de-corps of, say, the Khmer Rouge tour of Cambodia.And we admire the Trib for snorting out this small trendlet of macabre tourism. But we must warn our readers, the truly contrarian travellers, that this Trib article is alarming — means we must take action.

Now, we must think creatively about our death camp tours.Max Grinnell, the Urbanologist, complained of over-crowding during his visit to Treblinka (the death camp) last year. Of Dachau, he says, “Fuggedabout it. The place is a zoo.”

If you want to have a decent Holocaust experience, Grinnell advises, definitely go in the winter. “For Dachau? Late January is best.”

Jordan, who has done extensive research into the regime of Pol Pot, and who is currently traveling in Thailand, said that the most of the Killing Field destinations were discovered by pioneering German and Dutch tourists five or six years ago. His advice: “When you’re reflecting on human tragedy, and the legacy of Pol Pot, you don’t really want to be interrupted with the sight of some Berlin or Rotterdam club kid.”
Nein!
Per the advice of Jordan, the CT staff is compiling a list of some of the secret, relatively visited spots, where you can get a taste of genocide, and yet still have an authentic untouristed experience.. Next week, don’t miss “The CT’s Secret Guide to Genocide.”

One Response to “The Truth about Genocide Tourism”

  1. jsdart Says:

    Steve Silvia, was incorrect when he called me a dark tourist- like him I am researching the topic of dark tourism- not acting as a toursit when visiting place like Duachu or the killing fields.. i generaously shared my research with him and then he wrote about me as a tourist-this is quite derogatory and dismissive of my work. I have been working on a photo documentary series on places of dark tourism for over a decade. If you want to read about me or my project read julie Salamon’s article about me http://travel.nytimes.com/2005/07/09/arts/design/09geno.html
    Or go to my site at www.jsdart.
    I never caught a bug of dark tourism-i became engrossed in the topic I am doing an in-depth series on. Hardly the definition of a tourist. sloppy reporting on steve silva’s part.

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