Young Syrian refugee opens up in video call at US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Young Syrian refugee opens up in video call at US Holocaust Memorial Museum

 The inside of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Cover source:  Wikimedia

The inside of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Cover source: Wikimedia

Some days ago, Ron Kampeas, Washington, D.C. bureau chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), wrote on its website about a unique video encounter he’s recently had with a millennial Syrian refugee, who’s residing in Berlin, at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Kampeas described the refugee, Omar, as a young man in his late 20s. The difference between Omar and the millennials visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. is that “he has seen enough grief to pack into several lifetimes,” he said.

When Kampeas asked about the best thing that happened to him the last week, Omar said: “Nothing. The last two weeks were really crazy, my aunt has died, there was an attack in Berlin, my friend had to go to the army, we don’t have water in Syria, we don’t have electricity but we have to say ‘thanks God’ because it just happens, we can do nothing.”

When Kampeas asked Omar if he has ever met a Jew, the boy answered yes, as a man who teaches him coding is Jewish and even speaks Arabic.

“We visited the history museum here in Berlin, it was really interesting and a shock at the same time,” the boy said. “We cannot imagine how they kill people that easy, you know. We saw the way they killed them, in rooms, they closed the door, they opened the gas.”

Every visitor of the museum can make appointments to have such a conversation. After traversing an exhibit covering recent genocides (like in Yugoslavia and Cambodia) and current ones (Syria), there is the “portal” inside a large video screen that allows people to see and chat with a refugee in real time.

Cameron Hudson, director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, said the idea is for the museum visitors to transition from informed to emotionally involved, describing the exhibit as part of the mission “to bring attention to the people and places at risk today for genocide and other mass atrocities.”

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