Arn Chorn is a survivor.
About eight years ago, Khmer Rouge soldiers forced Chorn to watch as his brother and sister were executed in a Cambodian labor camp.
Then, when Vietnamese forces invaded Pol Pot's Cambodia in 1979. Chorn escaped to the jungle and ultimately reached a Thai refugee camp. An American adopted Chorn and eight other Cambodian refugees bringing them to the U.S.
Yesterday, Chorn and his adoptive brother, Soncat Hong, told a Harvard class of the carnage in which more than one million Cambodians are believed to have perished.
For students in General Education 136, "Explaining the Holocaust and the Phenomenon of Genocide," the horror of genocide," the horror of genocide became shockingly real.
Lecturer in Jewish studies Erich Goldhagen said he asked the refugees to share their stories to dramatize the course's examination of the sociology of human slaughter. It was Chorn's second visit to the Harvard class: many students who heard his tale last year returned to listen again to the story of suffering.
"We discuss the Cambodian slaughters in the course," said Goldhagen. "They [the survivors] are exemplars, living evidence of the slaughters. They enrich our knowledge of it."
"Without people, it's just figures and numbers, and you don't really understand what happened," said Jonathan Rosenfield '84-85, a student in the course.
Chorn and Hong began their account with the 1975 overthrow of King Sihanouk by Pol Pot's Marxist Khmer Rouge forces. Cities were emptied as intellectuals, lighted skinned Cambodians, and monks were herded into farming camps where they were worked to death, they said.
Chorn and his family were driven into one of the camps, where his parents were put to work in the fields while he was subjected to ideological indoctrination.
As part of the indoctrination, Chorn and other children were taken to a temple where they were forced to watch as dozens of prisoners were slaughtered with axes every day.
Chorn was the only member of his family to escape the killing.
"I survived because I play the trawsaw, a Cambodian instrument." Chorn said, adding that he was called on to play music for Khmer Rouge officers.
"They killed everyone," Hong said after the lecture. "You have to close your heart. The suffering is underneath."
The Cambodians, who estimated their ages at about 19 years old but did not know their exact birthdates, described the killings in graphic detail as the students listened silently.
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