The Bridge Betrayed by Michael Sells

The Bridge Betrayed is a book that discusses religion and its role in the Bosnian genocide of the 1990s. The religious differences between Serbian Christians and Bosnian Muslims dates back to 1389. The Battle of Kosovo took place in 1389 between the Ottomans and the Christians in the area. Prince Lazar and Marat were killed. Lazar took on the symbolism similar to a Christ figure to the Christians of Serbia. A man named Vok Bronkovar is the Judas of this story because he gave up the battle plans to the Ottomans. He symbolizes the Serbians that converted to Islam after the Ottoman Empire invaded the land. The hostilities between the two groups lasted until the 1990s were it finally exploded into a large genocide against the Bosnian Muslims. The term of Christoslavism is a term coined by Michael Sells to describe the attitude towards the people that converted to Islam in the area. The hostilities between the two religious flared up again in the Second World War. Within the Serbian population, there were the partisans and the ustasha. The partisans were communists, and the ustasha were fascists. The two groups were constantly in competition with the other. The ustasha are responsible for many of the Yasonovic concentration camp during the Second World War because they were working with the Nazis. The Yasanovic camp was occupied by Jews and partisans who were largely Serbs, Croats, and Bosnian Muslims. All in all, the factors that led up to the Bosnian genocide were not a young conflict. Tensions had been rising between the two religious groups for hundreds of years until it culminated into the worst genocide the world had seen since the Holocaust.

Brother Number One- Political Biography of Pol Pot- David Chandler

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Pol Pot is the former prime minister of Cambodia and leader of the Khmer Rouge. He was also General Secretary of the communist party of Kampuchea (1963-1981). Pol Pot became leader of Cambodia in April 17th, 1975 and ran a totalitarian dictatorship. Throughout his rise in power Pol Pot caused executions, bad working conditions, malnutrition, and poor medical care which resulted in 25% of the population (7-8 million) to die under his rule. In 1979, the Vietnamese Army invaded and deposited the Khmer Rouge, which was the Communist Party of Kampuchea. Pol Pot’s form of government controlled every aspect of a civilians life from money, property, jewelry, and even having a religion was outlawed. His brother in law was Ieng Sary also known as “Brother Number Three” who was also a co-founder of the Khmer Rouge. The Viet Minh was a Communist Organization led by Ho Chi Minh, it elevated a lot of nationalism and was made to fight back the French and Japanese forces. Later in 1956 there was the Dien Bien Phu Battle which ended the French involvement. One thing that I found interesting from learning about this was the phrase “year 0” and that a country can declare that and essentially re-do they’re entire way of life. Year 0 was announced in this case in 1792 and even resulted in the re-doing of the calendar.

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Khmer Rouge (April 1975)

Philip Gourevitch – Stories from Rwanda pt.2

The second part of the Rwandan genocide, Gourevitch labels as “Part Two” in his book. It is mainly focused on reprisal killings, the flight of the Tutsis, and the endless Zaire civil war. Throughout Philip Gourevitch’s writing however, he seems to give a pro-Kagame, pro-tutsi view. Paul Kagame was at the time the Vice President of Rwanda but is now the 6th and current president. Kagame has also maintained relatively close relations with the US. He was also the commander of rebel force that ended the 1994 genocide. The main event that occurred after the genocide was the The first Congo War which was from October 1996 – May 1997. The war took place mainly in Zaire and was a foreign invasion of Zaire led by Rwanda. One important result of this war was the renaming of Zaire to the Democratic Republic of Congo which is what it is known as today. Another important event was Operation Turquoise which was a French military led peace making-op. The violence in this region in these years were massive and catastrophic, roughly 4-6 million died in total. Many tried to flee the region and became refugees that were sent to camps. These camps carried deathly diseases that spread quickly and caused even more deaths. The camps of Zaire were known as “Goma” because that is where they were located. Today Joseph Kabila is the current president of Congo and his term ends in 2016. There is still presently killings and violence happening in the area which leaves the country open-ended for the possibility of another civil war occurring.

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Zaire / DR of Congo 1980-2001

Bloodlands 5-11

This section of Bloodlands was much more interesting to me.  This is more about the actual fighting are wars and holocaust and what Stalin did rather than the build up of it all.

This was especially interesting to me because I have never learned about Stalin’s part in World War II.  Yeah, you hear that he was a bad guy who did bad things, but all of the focus was on Hitler and the Jewish holocaust.  But in reality, Stalin did just as much, if not more than Hitler did.  Hitler was hateful to Jews, and anyone of Jewish descent.  Stalin was so paranoid that he didn’t care who you were, if he felt you were in his way of power, or out to get him, he had you killed, no mercy.  This was very interesting to me.

This book was a big, but not too difficult to understand read because the content was actually quite interesting.

Levi-Survival in Auschwitz

This book is my favorite that we have read up to this point.  I love to read actual personal stories from the times rather than just a person in today’s time going back and writing about what happened.  I like it when it’s an individual, personal story, because it adds character and makes me feel like what I’m reading is more accurate and down to earth than it would if it were just a historian telling a story that he has conducted through research.

The way Levi writes his novel reminds me of a book I read in high school called Night.  They both tell similar accounts except I feel like in Night it was more realistic and negative the way it is perceived and in Levi’s book, it is more optimistic in hindsight bias.

Who Was Pol Pot?

The bibliography of Pol Pot written by David Chandler was a very well written and detailed account of the history of events and how Pol Pot came to power in totalitarian dictatorship. He was educated in France, he was an ordinary kid accepted into a french school that selected only 100 students. He later became French Radicalized. found this history to be interesting because even though there were mass numbers of deaths, it did not come across to me that they were intentional mass murder (although many deaths were from murder) the harsh working requirements and lack of proper nutrition and health care caused for a big portion of the Cambodian people to be dead. Pot became the official leader of Cambodia in 1975. This is when Cambodia had risen from years of harsh war and invasion when the government fell to the Red Khmer or Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rougue wanted to create a new form of Agrarian Socialism. The forced labor and relocation of people were tragic. The cities were emptied and people were forced into labor camps to be starved and abused. The rise of the Khmer Rouge with Pol Pot as their leader created mass violence, terror and struggles within the people of Cambodia. I still have a few confused thoughts about certain groups and organizations, but from the reading and learning about what happened in Cambodia, I came across a new knowledge and another mass conflict of violence that was never stopped.

Brother Number One by Chandler pages 1-112

Chandler’s book Brother Number One is a biography about the Cambodian communist leader Pol Pot. Pol Pot’s real name is Saloth Sar. He grew up with connections to royalty in Cambodia. He did not show any extraordinary abilities when he was a child in school, but when he was a young adult, he got the opportunity to study in France. While in France, he became a member of the French Communist Party. He brought this back to Cambodia, and he became a teacher. All of his students and people in his life find it hard to believe that the man that was their teacher could turn out to be such a harsh and genocidal leader. The Vietnam War was occurring at the same time that he was rising to power. April 17th 1975 is an important day because this was the day that the Khmer Rouge came to power. They forced everyone out of the city. The people of the city were forced to journey into the countryside, and along the way, many perished. Overall, I found this book more difficult to read compared to other books we have read in class because I do not have a lot of background knowledge on Southeast Asia and the leaders of the time. If I had known more about the overall conflict, then I believe that I would have been able to better understand Saloth Sar’s rise to power.