Holocaust History: A Journey Into Pol Pot’s Madness

SKULL!

If not for Cambodia’s dark past, there would be no reason for anyone to visit the quiet fields south of Phnom Penh.

A short tuk-tuk ride through the city’s dusty streets takes curious travelers to the kind of place that can only be found in a country that has experienced the worst kind of cruelty.

Marked today by a memorial stupa, or relic mound, filled with 5,000 human skulls, the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center — a.k.a., the Killing Fields — in Phnom Penh’s Danokar district is the most well-known of Cambodia’s many outdoor execution and mass-grave sites from the brief Democratic Kampuchea period between 1975 to 1979, when the communist Khmer Rouge ruled the country.

After defeating Cambodia’s Khmer Republic government in 1975, overrunning the capital Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975–13 days before the fall of Saigon — the Khmer Rouge launched a campaign of violence that rivaled the Holocaust and Rwandan genocide.

The Khmer Rouge forced Phnom Penh’s residents to work on massive communal agriculture colonies across Cambodia. They were, in essence, slaves.

Led by Saloth Sar, more commonly known as Pol Pot — a Cambodian who studied in Paris and was distantly connected to the Cambodian royal family — the Khmer Rouge killed anyone with even indirect links to the West, as well as doctors, teachers and other professionals.

The slightest indiscretion or reason for suspicion met with extreme violence or even execution. Roughly 17,000 people died on the fields of Choeung Ek— mostly Cambodians but also a handful of Westerners. The Khmer Rouge slaughtered its victims with bayonets, clubs and knives.

In all, between 1.5 million and three million people died.

 Read the Remainder at War is Boring
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