Saving Syria: Syrian Refugee Project in Germany

Since 2013, Germany has taken in over 700,000 Syrian refugees due to the Syrian Civil War. These refugees are dispersed among Germany’s population of over 82 million people. Although this is still less than 1 percent of Germany’s population, Germany prioritized preserving Syrian culture, while facilitating a smooth assimilation process.

Syria has a rich culture and history that has been endangered due to the Syrian Civil War. Germany wants to make sure that Syrian artifacts and collections are preserved, as many sites have already been destroyed due to ISIS treatment of this particular places. ISIS views Syria’s historical sites as a threat to the Islamic religion – and it sells ancient artifacts to produce revenue. Recently, the city of Aleppo was leveled by ISIS forces and the ancient Roman theatre has become the chosen site for ISIS beheadings.

In order to keep record of Syria’s historical sites, especially those that are at risk, the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin and the German Archeological Institute reached an agreement with the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs to begin a program that would preserve Syria’s threatened artifacts.

The project aims to weave together present day viewpoints with digital records of Syria, including an online data base which already stores 200,000 photos and documents. Another goal is to build 3D models of the UNESCO sites that were destroyed, so that one day Syria can rebuild these ancient treasures.

Ancient City of Aleppo
Digital interface of the Syrian Archive Project. The collection currently houses over 200,000 items.

As public historians, the Syrian Archive Project raises several questions:

When accepting refugees from war-torn countries how can we preserve their history?

If we are holding these artifacts, who is the true owner? When should the artifacts be repatriated?

How, as public historians, do we handle this situation? What is our role?

Work Cited

“Ancient City of Aleppo”UNESCO. Retrieved 17 August 2011.

The Museum für IslamischeKunst (Museum of Islamic Art) belongs to Staatliche MuseenzuBerlin–Stiftung PreußischerKulturbesitz(State Museums of Berlin–Prussian Cultural Heritage Foudation), http://www.smb.museum/en/museums-institutions/museum-fuer-islamische-kunst/home.html.

THE PUBLIC HISTORIAN, Vol. 40, No. 4, pp. 107–128 (November 2018). ISSN: 0272-3433, electronic ISSN 1533-8576. © 2018 by The Regents of the University of California and the National Council on Public History. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press’s Reprints and Permissions web page, http://www.ucpress.edu/journals.php?p1⁄4reprints. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2018.40.4.107.

Impacted but Not Broken

Here stands a beam from the South tower of the World Trade Center in the Bush Museum in Dallas, Texas. The beam – which stood strong despite the severe impact – is a metaphor to President Bush’s efforts to create solidarity amongst the American people. On September 11, 2001, America witnessed the worst attack to ever occur on American soil – but for a split second, race, religion, socioeconomic status, and political party did not matter because we are all Americans. America realized that in times of crisis, it must cling tight and not break – just like the beam of impact, twisted and dismantled, yet still strong. 

Beam in museum
Beam of Impact from World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001 at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas.

Meaningless to Cherished: The Journey of the Original Historical Marker of the World Trade Center

The original informational marker for the World Trade Center was a symbol of America’s prosperous economy and wealth from big business. However, on September 11, 2001, the meaning of this sign was changed forever. In minutes, this sign changed from meaningless verbiage to one of the most cherished artifacts from the September 11th attack. It was uncovered from all of the rubble, still in tact. This sign shows America that life is precious, and we should stop to notice our surroundings – even those that seem irrelevant at the time.

Historical Marker - Sept 11 attack.
The original marker in front of the World Trade Center.

Ye Kendall Inn: The Confederacy’s Secret Hideout

Ye Kendall Inn began when the Reed family bought the Greek Revival style

Historic inn
Ye Kendall Inn today | Courtesy of Nicole Johnson

house for 200$ in 1859. In Texas’ early days, there were few regular hotels, so it was common for homeowners to rent spaces to stagecoach travelers. It is said that Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee would congregate here enroute to battle. It is not common for historic sites of the defeated to become pilgrimage sites, but this seems to be common in Boerne, Texas. Two houses have historical markers that commemorate their efforts to provide shelter to icons of the confederacy. Confederate monuments have become the source of contention recently; yet these remnants seem to be sites of praise for the Hill Country Community.

Historic Inn
Historic Picture of Ye Kendall Inn | Courtesy of Dietert Historical Archives

The Crossroads: Texas’ First LGBTQ Historical Marker

During the 1900s, being anything other than heterosexual was illegal in Dallas, Texas. Members of the LGBTQ community were ghettoized in an area called

Buildings in intersection
Dallas’ Historic Gayborhood | Courtesy of Dallas News

Oaklawn – otherwise known as Dallas’ Gayborhood. In the 1930s gays would meet in secrecy between the Magnolia Petroleum building and Commerce and Arkard streets, what was better known as “Maggie’s Corner.” The area was lined with bars that required a gestured code to enter – and it faced continued prejudice. In 1964, hundreds were arrested and deemed “perverts.”

Although there were years of perpetual social isolation for gays across Texas, along with many areas of the United States, their march towards justice persisted. Today, the gay bars have now been replaced with restaurants and apartments that are occupied by heterosexuals and LGBTQ members alike. This a representation of today’s progressive millennial climate and their desire to achieve a more diverse society.

Historical marker draped with scarves.
Texas’ first LGBTQ historical marker draped with colorful scarves before its initiation |Courtesy of the Dallas Way.

In October of 2018, the roots of Texas’ gay community were granted a marker to recognize their struggles towards societal inclusion in the South. It is fair to say that Texas has not yet reached equal historical representation for the LGBTQ community – considering that there are over 27,000,000 million LGBTQ+ members and one historical marker – but I think this will alert Texans of the need to urge local and state historical commissions to share LGBTQ history and other less-known stories.

Texas has often been reluctant to incorporate different perspectives into its history, so this marker not only serves as justice for the Texas LGBTQ community, but also as a triumphant symbol for Texas History.

Ullie: The Doll that Survived Hitler’s Rule

Doll sitting in chair
Ullie sitting in chair. Photo courtesy of Nicole Johnson.

 

Ullie might look to some as an ugly figurine, or worse yet, Chucky – but to my family he is a historical treasure. Ullie witnessed Hitler burn books, painfully said goodbye to Jewish neighbors that would never return, and survived multiple bombings to his home in Berlin. Years later, he retold these stories to my family and the world with ease. My grandfather was able to transcend from his past and retell his life through the lens of his cherished childhood doll. Without Ullie, I fear my family’s history would’ve been forgotten.