Rwanda Genocide Memorial This week, some soccer players competing in the Euro 2012 (hosted in Poland and Ukraine) have also spent time visiting the former Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camps.  According to the BBC’s Clare Spencer, this genocide tourism is not a new phenomenon.   In fact, 1.4 million people visited Auschwitz last year.

Other sites of genocides and similar atrocities, such as Rwanda, Bosnia, and Cambodia, are also becoming popular destinations for tourists.  The Aegis Trust notes that over 40,000 foreigners visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center in 2011.  And, tourists visit the hotel featured in Hotel Rwanda every day to take their pictures by its entrance.

So why do tourists increasingly visit mass graves and memorials? Psychologist Sheila Keegan says that what we want to get out of a vacation has expanded.  In other words, we want to relax, but we also want to broader our horizons.

“People want to be challenged. It may be voyeuristic and macabre but people want to feel those big emotions which they don’t often come across. They want to ask that very basic question about being human – ‘how could we do this?’,” she says.

Keegan also explains that vacations are good talking points. “It’s about creating your own history, reminding yourself how lucky you are.”

(This doesn’t come without controversy, though. For more on that, check out the article.)