Sydney Schanberg

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Sydney Hillel Schanberg (January 17, 1934 – July 9, 2016) was an American journalist who was best known for his coverage of the war in Cambodia. He was the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, two George Polk awards, two Overseas Press Club awards, and the Sigma Delta Chi prize for distinguished journalism.


  • I covered the war and witnessed first the population's joyous welcome of the Indian soldiers as liberators .. Later I toured the country by road to see the Pakistani legacy first hand. In town after town there was an execution area where people had been killed by bayonet, bullet and bludgeon. In some towns, executions were held on a daily basis. This was a month after the war's end (i.e. January 1972), ... human bones were still scattered along many roadsides. Blood stained clothing and tufts of human hair clung to the brush at these killing grounds. Children too young to understand were playing grotesque games with skulls. Other reminders were the yellow "H"s the Pakistanis had painted on the homes of Hindus, particular targets of the Muslim army.
    • The Pakistani Slaughter That Nixon Ignored, Syndicated Column by Sydney Schanberg, New York Times, May 3, 1994. Quoted in Benkin, Richard L. (2014). A quiet case of ethnic cleansing: The murder of Bangladesh's Hindus., p. 75.
  • It was Biblical,” remembers Sydney Schanberg, who reported on the refugees for the New York Times. Schanberg, steeped in the worst horrors of war from Vietnam and Cambodia, goes quiet at the memory of the desperate millions who fled into India. “You don’t tune out,” he says, “but there’s a numbness. Either that or you feel like crying. There was a tremendous loss of life on those treks out.” He remembers, “Their bodies have adjusted to those germs in their water, but suddenly they’re drinking different water with different germs. Suddenly they’ve got cholera. People were dying all around us. You’d see that someone had left a body on the side of the road, wrapped in pieces of bamboo, and there’d be a vulture trying to get inside to eat the body. You would come into a schoolyard, and a mother was losing her child. He was in her lap. He coughed and coughed and then died.” He pauses and composes himself. “They went through holy hell and back.”
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • It was all too easy for Schanberg to fill the pages of the New York Times with horror. At a railway station, he was overcome by the sight of some five thousand refugees pressed together on the concrete floor: “someone vomits, someone moans. A baby wails. An old man lies writhing on his back on the floor, delirious, dying. Emaciated, fly-covered infants thrash and roll.” Filing from a border town in West Bengal, Schanberg reported the unclean sounds of the cholera epidemic: “coughing, vomiting, groaning and weeping.” An emaciated seventy-year-old man had just died. His son and granddaughter sat sobbing beside the body, as flies gathered. When a young mother died of cholera, her baby continued to nurse until a doctor pulled the infant away. The husband of that dead woman, a rice farmer, cried to Schanberg that the family had fled Pakistani soldiers who burned down their house. “My wife is dead,” he wailed. “Three of my children are dead. What else can happen?”
    • Sydney H. Schanberg, “Bengalis Ride a Refugee Train of Despair,” New York Times, 17 June 1971. Sydney H. Schanberg, “Disease, Hunger and Death Stalk Refugees Along India’s Border,” New York Times, 9 June 1971., quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • Trying to blunt the impact of these terrible stories, Pakistan allowed in some foreign correspondents. Sydney Schanberg of the New York Times, who had been expelled from Dacca in March, jumped at the chance. He remembers the Pakistan army’s contempt for Bengalis: “Even the officers in charge of these units would say, ‘You can’t trust these people, they’re low, they lie.’ ” The officers gave “no denials that they had just killed them.” He recalls, “You’d see places where they had marked little wooden houses as Hindus.” Survivors told him that the army would “come through yelling, ‘Are there any Hindus there?’ When they found out there were, they would kill them.” He concludes, “It was a genocide”—perhaps even a more clear case than Cambodia.
    • Sydney Schanberg quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide. (NMML, Haksar Papers, Subject File 220, Pakistan ambassadors meeting, 24–25 August 1971; NMML, Haksar Papers, Subject File 220, Muhammad Khan to Dehlavi, 2 October 1971)
  • In the New York Times, Schanberg reported, “The Pakistani Army has painted big yellow ‘H’s’ on the Hindu shops still standing in this town.” Emphasizing the targeting of Hindus, he described “the hate and terror and fear” throughout the “conquered province.” Back in Dacca at last, Schanberg found the city “half-deserted,” with fresh loads of troops arriving daily from West Pakistan at the airport. Terrified merchants had taken down signs in the Bengali language and put up new ones in English, because they did not know Urdu. He wrote that foreign diplomats estimated that the army had killed at least two hundred thousand Bengalis.
    • Sydney H. Schanberg, “Hindus Are Targets of Army Terror in an East Pakistan Town,” New York Times, 4 July 1971. Sydney H. Schanberg, “West Pakistan Pursues Subjugation of Bengalis,” New York Times, 14 July 1971.
  • Sydney Schanberg, the New York Times reporter, was in Calcutta when he heard the news about the Enterprise. “I had a sinking feeling,” he says bitterly. “I’m an American, I’m standing in Calcutta, and my country is sailing up, and now I’m the enemy of my country? Because I’m living in India and thinking they’re on the right side? It was the worst feeling, to this day, one of the worst feelings in my life. You don’t want to hate your government. Somehow someone’s tipped the world upside down.”
    • About the aircraft carrier in the Bay of Bengal. Sydney Schanberg quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.

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