MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The six-year Syrian civil war has created the largest exodus of refugees since World War II, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of the loudest voices demanding their protection belong to Holocaust survivors.
In an interview held at the University of Miami, CBS4 News anchor Rick Folbaum sat down with Dr. Alfred Munzer, who lived through the 20th century genocide of Jewish people, to address the comparison.
“What are your memories of the war and its immediate aftermath,” Folbaum asked.
“Well, I was hidden with the Madna family,” said Dr. Munzer. “A Dutch-Indonesian family. One Caucasian child in a family that looked very different.”
His parents faced a horrific decision. With the Nazi’s rounding up Jews in occupied Holland, they hid their young son at the home of a family friend.
“I’ve asked Papa Madna, that’s what I called him, why he took the risk, why he risked the lives of his family to take in a Jewish baby. His response was a very simple one: What was I to do? To him, really, there was no choice. There was a human in need and he was going to answer it.”
To Dr. Munzer, there is another human need now and he’s answering it, speaking out as part of an effort by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial and Museum to raise awareness about the genocide taking place right now in Syria.
“For me, what’s always hard to process, even six years into this conflict, is what’s going on in Syria on a daily basis. The amount of horror that is being perpetrated against these people is unbelievable to me.”
Mouaz Moustafa, from the Syrian Emergency Task Force, is a Syrian immigrant whose family and friends back home are under siege by the dictatorship of Bashar Al Assad, with help from the Russian military. More than 400,000 Syrians have been killed and 11,000,000 forced from their homes.
Al Munzer tells his family horror story from seven decades ago. Moustafa’s horror is unfolding each and every day.
“You were a child of war,” said Folbaum. “When you hear these stories about the children of Syria, it must move you very deeply.”
“Absolutely. I think the greatest tragedy of the Holocaust wasn’t just the loss of six million Jewish lives, lives of my own sisters, father and many other family members,” answered Muzner. “It was that the lessons of the Holocaust weren’t learned. That there have been many genocides since then. I think that’s the real tragedy. The world said ‘never again,’ but instead of that, again and again, we see these atrocities against innocent people. That’s really the sad part.”
There are Jews in Syria but not many. The country has never officially recognized the state of Israel. But the mass killings there have generated empathy from many in the Jewish community.
“For me to know that people like Al, and the institution of the Holocaust Museum, are standing up for people that are defenseless and have been deserted by the international community, is really the most inspiring thing and something that is incredibly powerful that the Syrian people will never forget,” said Moustafa. “There must be a better way. We must set aside hatred, prejudice, which can lead ultimately to murder. That’s the lesson of the Holocaust.”
Moustafa said he is not dismayed over President Trump’s revised travel ban, which specifically targets Syrian refugees. He said he’s hopeful the president follows through on his promise of creating safe zones so that his family and friends can stay in Syria, which is what, he says, they really want.