[The World Is Witness logo, linked to their homepage]
By Chris James
The Google Earth layer application “USHMM: World Is Witness” is a data/blog layer from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in conjunction with Google. The layer allows users to view information about genocide, inhumane acts, and holocausts in countries that do not usually get as much public coverage. Like its name implies, World Is Witness’ primary goal is to inform us, the public, about injustices around the world so we can be enlightened and do our part to help out.
[Figure 1] The typical layout of a testimony in the USHMM: World Is Witness layer. Once you click on one of the geolocated USHMM symbols on the map (example shown below caption), a testimony and image appear as above.
Some of the features of World Is Witness include photos, eyewitness & in-depth testimonies, and interactive tours marked by location on Google Earth. The images and testimonies on World Is Witness are always eye-opening: stories of child abduction, ravaged villages, scared innocents, and bloodshed. The accompanying images give the viewer and even more intense experience as they discover more and more about crises in areas like Sudan, the Congo, and Rwanda.
[Figure 2] Gasana, a local of Rwanda, leads us along a street in Kigali while recalling the genocide he witnessed: how he had hid from the murderous militia as a child and was found by Damas Gisimba who ran a refugee orphanage. (World Is Witness, 2007).
[Figure 3] U.N. Soldiers patrol an area in South Kivu of the Eastern Congo. The Congo has been an area of mass sexual violence and abduction, and also has had ties with the Rwandan Genocide. (World is Witness, 2007).
Excerpt from “Day Becomes Night,” a testimony from the World is Witness layer, allocated to Nyamata, Rwanda:
“For an instant I saw the night sky- a thousand points of light on a dark canvas, the Milky Way, and Orion’s belt—but it was almost noon, and other details forced me back to reality: blood stains on the walls and bullet holes in the Virgin Mary; a smashed altar and an iron door twisted nearly off its hinges. My “stars” were thousands of tiny holes punched into the tin roof by grenade shrapnel.
In the first days after the start of the genocide, thousands of residents of the hills and marshes of Nyamata district gathered in the pews and offices of this Catholic Church. Surely here, in this sacred place, they would be safe from the slaughter happening around them.” (World Is Witness, 2007).
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, located in Washington DC and founded in 1993, created World Is Witness in order to provide us with a way of learning about the types of injustices that occur around the world, and learn from history’s mistakes so we can work towards a better future. USHMM strongly believes that its duty involves “cultivating a sense of moral responsibility among our citizens so that they will respond to the monumental challenges that confront our world.” The Google Earth Application also provides links to the “What Can You Do?” page and the Genocide Prevention Initiative.
More information can be found on the USHMM homepage.