Dilemmas of Reconciliation: Cases and Concepts

By Carol A.L. Prager; Trudy Govier | Go to book overview

Introduction1

Carol A.L. Prager

The twentieth century’s tens of millions of mass human rights abuses (increasingly associated at century’s end with international interventions to stop them and to rebuild political communities afterward) have led to an intense focus on reconciliation. (The horrifying civilian toll resulting from the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, DC, on September 11, 2001, although not comparable in all respects to the issues under consideration here, reminds us that in the twenty-first century the more things change, the more they remain the same.) Practical politics and life underscore the necessity to move on, but how is this possible, or even conceivable, when unspeakable cruelty has been inflicted by hundreds of thousands of ordinary human beings on millions of others, sometimes, as in ethnic cleansing, with the explicit intent to make future reconciliation impossible? This is a central question that contributors to this volume address.

The study of reconciliation per se is quite recent.2 The voluminous Holocaust literature3 has been more concerned with how a horror of such evil and magnitude could have occurred in our time than with how reconciliation could be achieved, although the most thoroughgoing reconciliation measures have been taken by the German government, as the eminent Holocaust historian Michael R. Marrus documents in this volume. Following upon the Second World War’s Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, contributor Justice Richard J. Goldstone played a key role in establishing the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, where he served as chief prosecutor,

Notes to introduction are on pp. 24-26.

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