Jean Hatzfeld

Nyamata Genocide Memorial in Bugesera
Nyamata Genocide Memorial in Bugesera

For 30 years, journalist and writer Jean Hatzfeld has returned tirelessly to Rwanda, specifically to the Nyamata region, to engage in profound conversations with Survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi. His commitment to understanding the unimaginable trauma faced by survivors has fueled a series of powerful books, including “Into the Quick of Life“, “A Time for Machetes” and “The Strategy of Antelopes“.

In a recent interview with Jeune Afrique, Hatzfeld delves into the metaphysical fear that continues to haunt Tutsi survivors, shedding light on their resilience, their silence, and the complexities of their existence.

The Initial Encounter

Hatzfeld’s journey to Rwanda began 1994. At that time, he was reporting from the besieged city of Sarajevo. The genocide seemed distant until he arrived in the United States during the World Cup. Television images revealed the magnitude of the tragedy unfolding in Rwanda. Although he had heard about it through war photographers Patrick Robert and Luc Delahaye, it wasn’t his immediate concern.

A Shift in Perspective

Upon travelling to Rwanda in July, at the end of the period of the Genocide against the Tutsi, Hatzfeld witnessed the exodus of the Hutu community, seeking refuge primarily in the Turquoise Zone, en route to Zaire. His focus shifted from the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) to the survivors. It was then that he realised his mistake: not paying enough attention to the survivors, failing to integrate their stories into the narrative.

The Silence of the Survivors

Hatzfeld’s subsequent visits to Nyamata allowed him to delve deeper into the survivors’ experiences. Their metaphysical fear of eradication persists, haunting their lives. They grapple with the unspeakable horrors they witnessed and the loss of loved ones. Hatzfeld’s interviews reveal their resilience, their struggle to articulate the inexpressible, and their determination to survive.


Jean Hatzfeld’s work transcends mere journalism. It is a testament to the indomitable human spirit, the power of storytelling, and the urgent need to remember and honor those who survived the genocide. Through his words, he invites us to confront the silence, to listen to the survivors, and to acknowledge their metaphysical fear—a fear that transcends time and memory.

Note: This blog post draws inspiration from Jean Hatzfeld’s interview in Jeune Afrique1.

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