Man or Monster?
This question is foregrounded in the title of this book as a provocation. It is
meant, in accordance with the Latin root of the term, “to call” (vocare) “forth”
(pro), in a “challenge” (provocare) to the reader: to “stimulate a reaction” by
“provoking” thinking about the question itself and what, ultimately, it suggests
about Duch’s trial and the banality of everyday thought.1 For the question
“Man or monster?” is highly redactic, suggesting an articulation of Duch,
and by implication perpetrators of genocide and mass vio lence in general, as
either “a monster” or an ordinary “man.”
This frame, as I have illustrated throughout this book, recurred fre-
quently during Duch’s trial, providing a key undercurrent of the arguments
of the prosecution and defense as well as civil party and expert testimony.
François Bizot strug gled with this question as he contemplated the seem-
ing discrepancy between the man with whom he had established a rapport
and who had secured Bizot’s release and the monster who ran a camp where
atrocities took place and who admitted to having beaten prisoners until
he was out of breath. If, in his testimony and books, Bizot ultimately came
down on “the man” side of the argument, he did so with hesitation and am-
bivalence, since the question suggested a troubling potentiality residing in
himself and all of us.2
Man or Monster?
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