Who Let it Happen? Perpetrators, Bystanders, Upstanders

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Camp Darfur was first created in April 2006 as part of a global day of action to stop the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. It was a week-long, live-in camp at Lennox Middle School. Since then, Camp Darfur has done an important job of providing the facts, encouraging learning, and stimulating young activism at more than 400 schools and community events across the country.

Last week, two more tents were freshly finished to join the interactive Camp Darfur exhibit at Glendale High School (GHS) and at Jewish World Watch Walk (JWW) to End Genocide in Conejo Valley. The original Camp Darfur tents provide in-depth background knowledge of the facts, numbers, names, and faces of past and one ongoing genocide; tents represent Armenia, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur. The extension aims at adding a new layer of understanding about the drivers and legacies of genocides, discussing issues like the social-psychology of perpetrators, the significance and consequences of genocide remembrance and denial, the long-term effects on victims and survivors, and the motivations of upstanders – those who choose to act on behalf of those being targeted while violence is unfolding.

By expanding the information that Camp Darfur covers, we hope students will begin to understand, process, and make sense of how and why mass atrocities are repeatedly committed by perpetrators, whether in the Holocaust, Cambodia, or Rwanda. Adapted according to the format of the first six tents, the two additional tents include facts and theories on the roles played by perpetrators, bystanders, survivors, and upstanders. Students are divided between the tents to learn about ‘Perpetrators and Bystanders’ and ‘Upstanders and Victims.’ Guided by a peer facilitator, they read the respective information sheets and images and reflect on their gained knowledge, with the help of post-tent questions meant to stimulate. From Oskar Schindler, the ruthless SS man who grew the heart of a rescuer, to the Reserve Battalion 101 unwillingly carrying out an order of mass murder, to Turkey’s denial of the Armenian genocide, the information is meant to be comparative and diverse.

Our goal in adding these new tents was to enable a better understanding of the importance of genocide awareness and preventive activism, as well as stimulate empathy for the individuals involved in and affected by genocides. The response by visitors at GHS and the JWW’s Walk were very positive. The peer facilitators at GHS asked their peers, “What would it take for your to stand up on behalf of others? Would you pass an Armenian a blanket or help a prisoner escape?”

Here are a few reflections and photos from last week:

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