Sunday, April 25, 2010

Trauma Tourism

While reading Laurie Beth Clark's "Placed and Displaced: Trauma Memorial" I was reminded of the town of Kalavryta in Greece. I visited the town by train and went to see the memorial there. What is interesting is that although there is a specific memorial "place", the whole town is really a sacred shrine of remembrance. This is what happened there:

Due to partisan activity around the town of Kalavryta in southern Greece, a unit of the German army
surrounded the town on the morning of Monday, December 13. All the inhabitants were herded into the local school. Females and young boys were separated from the men and youths, the latter being marched to a hollow in a nearby hillside. There the soldiers took up positions behind machine-guns. Below, they witnessed the town being set on fire. Just after 2pm a red flare was fired from the town. This was the signal for the soldiers to start firing on the men and youths who were huddled in the hollow. At 2.34pm the firing stopped and the soldiers marched away. Behind them lay the bodies of 696 persons, the entire male population of Kalavryta. There were 13 survivors of the massacre, the town itself totally destroyed. Only eight houses out of nearly five hundred, were left standing. It was not until late afternoon that the women and young boys were released to face the enormity of the tragedy. Today a memorial stands on the site of the massacre on which are carved the names of 1,300 men and boys from Kalavryta and 24 nearby villages who were murdered that day.

Because the town was totally destroyed, it had to be rebuilt in the wake of the tragedy. I found out about the place through a tourist guide (Clark calls this Trauma Tourism). While no one can deny the tragedy is real, and there was an eeriness about the place, it is still a destination, there is still gift shops around the town commemorating the event. This merging of what Clark calls "popular participation with state construction" doesn't seem to be harming anyone so...go capitalism!

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