By: Celina Mahabir
On Feb. 23, NSU’s Department of History and Political Science hosted an anti-genocide event in conjunction with the Washington D.C.-based United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). Entitled “Fleeing Atrocities: Witnessing Perspectives,” the seminar featured Holocaust survivor Alfred Munzer and Syrian immigrant Mouaz Moustafa.
The discussion was conducted by Naomi Kikoler, Deputy Director, Simon-Skojdt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
“We present these stories as a way to humanize these events for the audience,” Kikoler said when introducing the two featured speakers.
The floor was then opened to Munzer, who briefly relayed his experiences as a child survivor of the Holocaust who was separated from his family at a young age. With his mother held captive as a worker at a German electronics factory and his father assembling rockets in Austrian salt mines, his two sisters were sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp and were murdered shortly after.
Munzer was taken in by the Madna family in Indonesia, who agreed to raise him as their own and protect him from Nazi officials. The family grew fond of Munzer as a result, considering him to be one of their own until the Holocaust had passed. Munzer said that living in a post-genocide world became the norm for him, despite the fact that his only immediate family survivor was his mother.
“After the Holocaust, people said, ‘Never again,’” Munzer said. “But we have seen one genocide after another. We have to somehow break that cycle by teaching our children not to hate.”
Shortly after, Moustafa took over to narrate his experience as a Palestinian refugee turned Executive Director of the Syrian Task Force. With the assistance of a video produced by the USHMM and forensic photos taken following the attacks on major Syrian cities, he detailed his encounters with people who have lost family members and even escaped torturous imprisonment. Moustafa said that he acts according to the motto of the Syrian Task Force: “To save one life is to save all of mankind.”
“They give hope to a very hopeless situation that’s unfolding in Syria,” he explained, elaborating on the belief of many Syrians that to leave their country is to surrender to the controversial Assad regime. He recounted his conversation with one man in particular, who claimed they were fighting for their universal rights.
“[This is] something we in the United States take for granted,” Moustafa said.
A major focus of Moustafa’s is the children that are unable to attend school.
“An entire generation of Syrians is left without a proper education system,” he said, ending on the idea that any form of assistance refugees receive can amount to a positive change. The case also cannot be transferred to the deliberation of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), as Russian delegates consistently veto the motion to do so.
Kikoler closed the seminar with questions from the audience, explaining that the Assad regime has violated every humanitarian law set forth by the United Nations (UN) and that the Syrian civil war is considerably the largest humanitarian crisis in history.
Both speakers pled with the audience to raise awareness on anti-genocide movements and to contribute to the changes that can be made in such controversial societies today.
Caption: Mouaz Moustafa (left), a Syrian immigrant, and Alfred Munzer (center), both spoke at the seminar about their experiences at the center of humanitarian crises.