On the side of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum west wall is a quote etched into the rock from General Dwight D Eisenhower, who witnessed firsthand the conditions in the concentration camps in 1945, after they were liberated:
"The things I saw beggar description... I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations to propaganda.”
This ability to bear witness is vital in preventing and responding to genocide and crimes against humanity today.
Despite having far more information about the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan than previous conflicts - celebrity visits to refugee camps, CNN updates, blog posts from aid workers on the ground - it is difficult for the average American to grasp the true scope of systematic violence over an area roughly the size of Texas.
Now the Museum is providing, through its partnership with Google Earth, the most detailed picture to date of the scope and nature of the destruction that occurred during the genocide in Darfur. That thousands of villages were destroyed has been known for some time; these new data document the true enormity of the destruction.
The attacks against villages in Darfur resulted in the deaths of at least 200,000 civilians, the rape of tens of thousands of women, and a refugee crisis in which more than 2.5 million Sudanese remain displaced from their homes.
The updated Google Earth layer, created with data provided by the U.S. State Department’s Humanitarian Information Unit, shows more than 3,300 villages throughout Darfur that have been damaged or completely destroyed. These data also confirm that most villages were destroyed between 2003 and 2005, during the height of the brutal Sudanese government-backed systematic campaign targeting civilians in Darfur.
For the first time the layer also includes the locations of nearly 200 sites throughout Darfur where users can view imagery from both before and after the destruction, using Google’s own historical dataset. You can find the layer in the "Global Awareness" folder in Google Earth, as shown below, or by downloading the content directly. You can also visit the Museum's website to find out how you can take action.
The web is making it easier to take part in bearing witness to the worst crimes on the planet. Now, with millions throughout Sudan still at serious risk of violence, we must follow through on the more vital task- putting pressure on the international community to help create sustainable peace throughout Sudan. The perpetrators of mass violence in Sudan and elsewhere know that the world is watching.