Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, the controversial scholar who has specialized in the study of mass murder in books like “Hitler’s Willing Executioners” and “A Moral Reckoning,” has a reputation for combativeness. “Worse Than War,” Wednesday night on PBS, won’t change that.
Its dramatic high point involves Mr. Goldhagen’s stalking Efraín Ríos Montt, the former dictator, through the halls of Guatemala’s Parliament until Mr. Ríos Montt agrees to talk about the killings of Mayan villagers during his time as ruler. As a smiling Mr. Ríos Montt says that he would be in jail if he were responsible for the deaths of 200,000 Mayans, Mr. Goldhagen’s voice on the soundtrack says, “Staring into the eyes of this killer, I feel outrage and disgust.”
“Worse Than War” is a two-hour television companion to Mr. Goldhagen’s 2009 book of the same title, an examination of the causes of genocide and ethnic cleansing along with his recommendations for how to prevent them. We see him visiting scenes of mass murder in places like Rwanda, Bosnia, Guatemala and Germany, where he talks to survivors and perpetrators, often posed within beautifully photographed landscapes. (The director of photography was Rod Bachar.)
The stories are both horrifying and depressingly familiar, sometimes accompanied by disturbing archival footage of the killers in action. In a Guatemalan forensics lab where bones exhumed from mass graves are examined, Mr. Goldhagen holds a baby’s rib that easily fits in his palm.
This article is old but I am reposting it alongside the news that this murderous dictator will stand trial. “Worse Than War” introduced me to this monster and the Mayan genocide - I urge you to watch Goldhagen’s documentary and read his books/articles.