To address the growing humanitarian crisis in Syria, The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum produced a documentary film and strategically released it across the U.S. to reach students and academics.
The documentary film, 82 Names: Syria, Please Don’t Forget Us, traces the journey of Mansour Omari, a survivor of torture and imprisonment in Syria. When Mansour was released from prison, he smuggled out scraps of cloth sewn within the shirt he was wearing.
The names of his cellmates are written on them with an ink made from blood and rust.
The film continues to follow Mansour as he rebuilds his life in exile. As the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington prepares to display the cloths, he visits sites in Germany that memorialize the victims of the Holocaust and he reflects on how to bring attention to the brutal regime he escaped—and how to counter extremist ideology in the future.
The goals of the film and its corresponding national screening tour were to:
Reach new and diverse audiences of young people with Holocaust history.
Connect the ongoing war and atrocities in Syria to the Holocaust highlighting the relevency and urgency for Holocaust education and reaffirm our commitment to preventing genocide.
The Holocaust is fading from memory and there continues to be a rise in misinformation about the Holocaust, Holocaust denial/distortion, and antisemitism, the United States Holocaust Memorial Musuem produced a documentary that connects the Holocaust to current humanitraian atrocities. This film is a powerful tool to help reach out audiences in unique and unlikely venues.
Working with filmmaker Maziar Bahari, who has his own experineces with imprisonment and torture by the Iranian regime, the USHMM was able to capture Mansour Omari’s story with power and sensitivity.
The film gave us a unique opportunity to reach out to and engage renowned universities program and global affairs organizations to design programs that address truth and reconciliation, transitional justice, historical memory, memorializing victims of genocide and the increasing importance of Holocaust education.
Between Sept 2018 and February 2019, we held screenings and panel conversations at:
Johns Hopkins University, The Foreign Policy Institute at SAIS
New York University, Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies
California State University Northridge, Middle Eastern Studies
Georgetown University, Government & Conflict Resolution
George Mason University, Genocide Prevention Program at The School for Conflict Analysis & Resolution
Columbia University, Institute for the Study of Human Rights
CUNY, Middle East & Middle Eastern American Center
Texas A&M, Student Conference On National Affairs
Council on Foreign Relations
World Affairs Council
UC Berkeley, Center for Middle Eastern Studies & Human Rights Center at Berkeley Law
University of Arizona, The Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Additionally, we laid the groundwork for ongoing engagement between the USHMM and the above institutions by conceptualizing future events, screenings and student involvement in the museum’s work. We designed the tools and process for ongoing screening requests to be fielded and a Discussion Guide that is currently available on the film’s website: https://www.ushmm.org/m/pdfs/82-Names-discussion-guide.pdf
Over 70% of attendees were students, most were enrolled in middle east studies
Over 60% of audience members said they were inspired to talk about the film and the issues presented
Key quotes from audience:
“It was incredible to have a chance to ask questions to the man who directed the film. The insight he gave was invaluable.”
“I thought the differing perspectives between filmmaker and activist were conducive towards helping students learn.”
“The panel really made me consider the feasibility of peace without justice in all conflict situations.”
“My heart is broken in so many ways, but I am very happy to have been a part of this screening.”
"It was an amazing film. It brought up issues I don’t think about often. It was very hard to swallow, to know that this very moment things like this are still going on around the world, that it didn’t end with the Holocast."
“The comparison of the Syrian prisoners to the Jewish victims really stood out to me in how similar the situations were. The courage that Mansour had to bring the names out of the prison is astounding.“
The significance of the comparison between the Holocaust and the current siutaiton in Syria struck me immensely as the main figure of the film walked through the cells of the camp where Jews had been kept in German
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