“I started the research and interview process for Tell Me About the Other Side in early 2020. As part of my process, I interviewed genocide survivors and peace advocates to gain their perspective on the role of women in genocide and life in a post-genocide democracy. During the writing process, the piece has taken on new meaning as the world of 2020 rapidly evolved. I am so grateful to have had the chance to work on this project–I have learned so much about womanhood, survival, and empathy, and it is my hope to share those lessons with future audiences!”Eleanor Alger
Eleanor Alger, playwright and original researcher for this project, has been working on it for several years. In early 2020, Alger teamed up with Laura Smith, dramaturg and writer/director of Amazon Crime, to further her research resulting in the guide below. When asked about how she added to the research to create a packet for actors Smith stated,
“I tried to make sure that I found information that put these women’s stories in context so that everyone would be able to place each story where it is in history.”
Research for Viewer
Throughout this work, the terms ethnic cleansing and genocide are used seemingly interchangably, and the distinction between the two terms is contested, but generally agreed that while genocide describes the destruction of an ethic, religious, or racial group, the primary objective of ethnic cleansing is “the establishment of ethnically homogeneous lands, which may be achieved by any of a number of methods including genocide.” What occured in the Baltic region throughout the 1990s is generally referred to as ethic cleansing, and that is likely where you will find this distinction made.
Generational Trauma is a quickly growing psychological study of how trauma is passed from parents to children, both in nurture and nature. This APA study outlines how specifically mothers pass on trauma to their children because of survival mode coping mechanisms they developed as traumatized youth, using qualitative data from 41 mothers who lived through the Rwandan genocide. Additionally, it references a well known study that shows how the children of Holocaust survivors were more likely to have a change in the FKBP5 gene (linked with PTSD and depression) – the same change their parents showed as a result of their trauma.
Thematically, generational trauma comes up multiple times throughout the piece. Not only is the show about how these women were able to survive the devastating effects of genocide, but also how it impacted them and their communities in the aftermath. When marking your course for the show, think about how your character has changed. How has the way they interact with the world changed?
Jewish Diaspora and the “constant refugee status”
There is no Hebrew concept for the Jewish Diaspora. Only the hebrew word Galut, meaning “exile”. When the show references the “constant refugee status of the Jewish people”, they are referring to this Diaspora, and the historical expulsion of Jewish people from their historic homelands, dating at least as far back as 586 BCE, with the Babylonian Exile, and continuing to this day. Jewish people throughout the Diaspora have developed new rich cultural traditions and ways to celebrate their ties to Israel without living there.
Further Reading (This just seemed really interesting so if you’re super curious):
Penalties against Germany following WW1
The treaty signed in Paris after World War 1 was famously harsh on Germany, creating dire political and economic vacuums that directly contributed to the radicalization and violent anti-semitism that allowed the Nazi Party to rise to power. Under the threat of a continuation of the war, Germany was forced to accept Clause 231, the “War Guilt Clause”, which held them completely responsible for the war. As a result of this, they lost land which was primarily used for coal and iron production, limiting their ability to bounce back economically, despite the Allies continuing to demand reparations payments. This led to massive inflation as the German government had to print more money in order to make reparations payments.
Germany also established a new government in this time, the Weimar Republic, which was slow moving and led to more political instability as both white nationalist and communist extremist groups attempted to seize power and establish their own government. This instability, along with the “stabbed in the back myth”, which is the belief that the German soldiers did not lose the War on the battlefield, but instead were thwarted by treasonous communists, socialists, and jewish people from within Germany. All of this economic and political turmoil allowed for Hitler to attempt a military coup in November of 1923, which was unsuccessful, before his supporters reorganized and were able to legally take power in January of 1933.
The timeline I have linked goes more in depth and covers aspects of this period of history that I didn’t know about, and I consider it a really valuable resource.
Kristallnacht was a night of legalized vandalization against Jewish owned businesses in Berlin following the assasination of Ernst vom Rath, the Third Secretary of the German Embassy in Paris by Jewish teenager Hershel Grynszpan, whose parents had just been deported to Poland. Grynszpan hoped to bring attention to the plight of the European Jewish population, saying as he was arrested, “Being a Jew is not a crime. I am not a dog. I have a right to live and the Jewish people have a right to exist on earth. Wherever I have been I have been chased like an animal.” Rath died on November 9th, and on that night the head of Security Service sent out a message to all State Police officers that Jewish owned businesses should be destroyed but not looted, and that once this was done, they should arrest as many wealthy Jewish men that local jails could hold. Despite the horrors of this night, international response was rather mild, and no concrete action was taken to help German Jews.
The Nuremberg Trials
The Nuremberg Trials were criminal trials held by the International Military Tribunal and the United States government to hold those who participated in the Nazi party to justice for their war crimes. In total, 199 defendants were tried, 161 were convicted, and 37 were sentenced to death. But many were never tried, including hundreds who came to live in the United States. You can read the transcripts of the Nuremberg trials online.
SOURCE: This link is an interactive and searchable archive in progress. https://nuremberg.law.harvard.edu/
International Court of Justice
Established in 1945, the International Court of Justice is the main judicial branch of the UN. It is housed in the “Peace Palace” at the Hague in the Netherlands. The Court’s main function is to “settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies”. It is based on the voluntary cooperation of States, which are obliged to follow any ruling it passes. The Court is composed of fifteen judges elected to nine-year terms.
The Invasion of Holland
Holland, despite remaining neutral in WW2, was invaded by Germany on May 10, 1940. The fighting lasted until the 14th, after which, the Germans occupied the Netherlands for 5 years. Germany used a combination of heavy air strikes in civilian areas and the NSB, a Duth party of Nazi sympathizers, to fight for Germany and defeat Holland. Following this defeat, Queen Wilhelmina “established a government-in-exile in England”, which many viewed as cowardly and an abandonment. Throughout the war and estimated 250,000 Dutch people lost their lives, 100,000 of whom were Jewish.
Footage from the Bombing of the Hague
Excerpts from Timeline of the Rwandan Genocide
“April 6, 1994 President Habyarimana and the president of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira, are killed when Habyarimana’s plane is shot down near Kigali Airport. Extremists, suspecting that the president is finally about to implement the Arusha Peace Accords, are believed to be behind the attack. That night the killing begins.
April 7, 1994 The Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) and the interahamwe set up roadblocks and go from house to house killing Tutsis and moderate Hutu politicians. Thousands die on the first day. U.N. forces stand by while the slaughter goes on. They are forbidden to intervene, as this would breach their “monitoring” mandate.
April 8, 1994 The RPF launches a major offensive to end the genocide and rescue 600 of its troops surrounded in Kigali. The troops had been based in the city as part of the Arusha Accords.
April 21, 1994 The U.N. cuts its forces from 2,500 to 250 following the murder of ten Belgian soldiers assigned to guard the moderate Hutu prime minister, Agathe Uwiliyingimana. The prime minister is killed and the Belgians are disarmed, tortured, and shot and hacked to death. They had been told not to resist violently by the U.N. force commander, as this would have breached their mandate.
April 30, 1994 The U.N. Security Council spends eight hours discussing the Rwandan crisis. The resolution condemning the killing omits the word “genocide.” Had the term been used, the U.N. would have been legally obliged to act to “prevent and punish” the perpetrators. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of refugees flee into Tanzania, Burundi and Zaire. In one day 250,000 Rwandans, mainly Hutus fleeing the advance of the RPF, cross the border into Tanzania.
May 17, 1994 As the slaughter of the Tutsis continues the U.N. agrees to send 6,800 troops and policemen to Rwanda with powers to defend civilians. A Security Council resolution says “acts of genocide may have been committed.” Deployment of the mainly African U.N. forces is delayed because of arguments over who will pay the bill and provide the equipment. The United States argues with the U.N. over the cost of providing heavy armoured vehicles for the peacekeeping forces.”
https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/rwanda/etc/cron.html (This link is what the excerpts above are from and is a very detailed timeline of the political events leading up to the events of 1994.)
One thing important to remember when talking about this genocide is that the ethnic tensions and violence are a direct result of the German and Belgian colonialist reign. Though the term Hutu and Tutsi had been in use before German and Belgian rule, they were loose terms that were mainly used to describe lineage of a specific person, rather than the rigid social grouping that the Europeans made them. Under Belgian rule, Rwandans were made to carry identification cards with their ethnic group, and the division and unfair treatment of the Rawndans let to the divisions that eventually resulted in the genocide of 1994.
The Massacre at Gikondo
Both the massacre at Gikondo and at the Nyarubuye Catholic Churches were instances where Tutsi civilians fled to churches for protection and were instead corralled and killed en masse. At Gikondo, 110 Tutsis were killed in the Pallottine Missionary Catholic Church, with survivors of the first attack being killed the next day. Today, the church stands as a memorial to those killed there, despite the fact that Sylvere Ahorugeze, former director of the Rwandan Civil Aviation Authority and someone who has been regularly accused of participating in the massacre is alive and free in Denmark today.
Warning: This source contains first hand accounts of killings and sexual assault.
The Massacre at Nyarubuye Roman Catholic Church
The massacre at Nyarubuye Roman Catholic Church was the horrific killing of 35,000 Tutsis. The church was located near the Tanzanian border, and many people who were unable to flee remained in the care of the parish there. Between the 7th and the 12th of April, many Tutsis gathered there, fleeing areas of the country where killings had already started. On the evening of the 13th of April, Hutu militia groups surrounded the church and began systematically killing the tens of thousands of people there. The level of violence displayed in this attack is incredibly high, and the details are very upsetting. The church still stands as a memorial to those killed there, and the graveyard on the property contains an estimated 51,000 bodies, both from this massacre and killings in neighboring areas. The link below has a virtual tour of the site, including the exhibition room.
Warning: This source contains descriptions of killings, sexual assault, as well as violence against pregnant women and fetuses.
The Assassination of Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana
The Prime Minister of Rwanda, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, was assassinated at the hands of Hutu extremist groups on April 7th, the day after a plane carrying the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi had been shot down. This was an attempt to create a power vacuum that would allow for the formation of a temporary government run by extremists that would permit the anarchy and mass killings that would take place in the following weeks. Their plan worked, and the temporary government was inaugurated on April 9th.
Great Lakes Refugee Crisis
The timeline of the Rwandan refugee crisis begins nearly four decades before the anarchy and mass killings of 1994. Tutsis began fleeing after hundreds of deaths following the overthrowing of the Rwandan Monarchy in November of 1959. Throughout the following decades, increasing ethnic tensions and attacks against Tutsi civilians led to new waves of refugees, leading to what was called the Great Lakes Refugee Crisis. Refugee camps were often overcrowded, struggled to contain diseases, and sometimes attacked.
The Baltic Region, 1990s
the Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Austria-Hungary ruled the territories that would become the Kingdom of Yugoslavia until the end of WW1, when Serbia and Montenegro united with Slavic territories in the south of the former Austria-Hungary. This led to the formation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, which became known in 1929 as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Despite the unification of national borders, most people in the region identified themselves by ethnicity, leading to ethnic tension in the decades leading up to the genocide.
Carpatho-Ruthenian is a term used to identify East Slavic peoples as well as their language. Specifically, it was used by the Austro-Hungarian Empire to refer to “inhabitants living in that state’s provinces of Galicia and Bukovina and the northeastern counties of Hungary”. Additionally, Ruthenian was how many Slavic people identified themselves when immigrating to American in the late 1800’s. Estimates suggest that there may be as many as one million Carpatho-Ruthenians living in their historic homeland today, though official census data has the number much lower.
Excerpt from a timeline of the War in Kosovo
“1991: The bloody break-up of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) begins as Slovenia and Croatia declare their independence. After a secret vote, ethnic Albanians proclaim the creation of their own Republic of Kosovo, though it earns little international recognition.”
“Dec 1992: In a secret “Christmas Warning,” U.S. President George Bush informs Milosevic that Serbian aggression in Kosovo will bring unilateral US military response. Clinton administration reiterates the threat on several occasions through 1998.”
“1993: War in Bosnia continues, as “ethnic cleansing” spreads. NATO threatens airstrikes to defend “safe areas” created to protect Muslims.”
“1994: In April, NATO carries out first airstrikes in its history — against Bosnian Serbs.”
Thinking of You:
The art piece described in the script made by Alketa Xhafa-Mripa and Anna Di Lellio. Each dress is from a survivor of wartime sexual assault.
All photos from the official Facebook page of the Installation.
Clicking this will take you to a Google Slides of pictures.