Being Jewish I have visited several memorials remembering the victims of the Holocaust of World War II, toured concentration camps and met and heard the stories of people who survived this nightmare. Needless to say I wasn’t all that enthusiastic when Patrick my guide took me to the Genocide Memorial in Kigali and left me there for a few hours to visit. This memorial seeks to remind us of the brutal genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994. I figured I had already seen enough reminders of genocide to last a lifetime.
I could not have been more wrong.
Opened in 2004 on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide it is one of the most powerful and beautiful memorials to man’s inhumanity to man I have yet visited. It also represents sacred ground where over 250,000 victims are buried in mass graves. The first part of the memorial is outdoors with different small gardens devoted to various themes about the genocide and to survival. With quirky sculptures (including one of a gorilla with a cell phone reminding us to tell everyone about the what happened here), attractive water treatments and lush vegetation each garden tells a different story and provides a wonderful opportunity for reflection.
But it is the exhibit itself that truly moves you. The display provides an honest account of what led up to the genocide, its cause, the lack of world aid and support to prevent it, and the atrocities committed. I walked away from it with a much better understanding of this horrific slice of history.
An upper floor houses another exhibit devoted to other genocides that have and are taking place throughout the world. The whole experience made me stop and wonder about the phrase “Never Again” which I was taught since a young child. When will “never” really happen?