Shoah educator to help Yazidis document their own tragedy


They have been persecuted, enslaved, raped and killed by Daesh terrorists. Now, the traumatic stories of survivors from the Iraqi-Syrian Yazidi community who made it to Germany are being recorded for posterity, thanks to the Israeli humanitarian organisation IsraAID.

Samuel Schidem, Germany director of IsraAID and an educator at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, plans to set up a website where stories of survival can be accessed by scholars and humanitarian workers.

All accounts must be anonymous, as the survivors in Germany and their families back home are in grave danger, said Mr Schidem, an Israeli Druze.

"Our work focuses on trauma, so the storytelling should be a kind of empowerment," Mr Schidem said. "Most people have heard about the Yazidis, and individual stories, but the dimension is so big. In every family there is a tragedy, and it is still going on today."

As Daesh captured territory in Iraq in 2014, tens of thousands of Yazidis - members of a monotheistic religious minority despised by the terrorist movement - were trapped while trying to flee. Some 30,000 eventually escaped to Germany, bringing the total Yazidi population there to about 150,000.

Mr Schidem said he was drawing on best practices from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Berlin memorial and others, to create the archive.

IsraAid's work with the Yazidi population in Germany was facilitated by the American Jewish Committee in Berlin. Director Deidre Berger, moved by the plight of the Yazidis, had learned that IsraAID was already on the ground in northern Iraq. "Who if not the Jewish people should have a particular understanding for the persecution of the biblical Yazidi minority?" Ms Berger said.

AJC provided financing for several projects, and the Central Welfare Council of Jews in Germany also helped once refugees reached Germany.

"AJC considers it of great importance to help them tell their story, to make it better known that an important religious minority is threatened by Daesh with extinction," Ms Berger said.

● A Yazidi refugee in Germany who has written a book about her ordeal will be one of three recipients of an AJC Voice of Conscience Award on May 4, the eve of Yom HaShoah.

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