Knowing that the world sometimes forgets how wars, including civil wars, affect children, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR in Sweden asked award-winning Swedish photojournalist Magnus Wennman to photograph Syrian children in refugee camps and temporary shelters in the Middle East and Europe.
Wennman visited camps in Lebanon, Turkey, Greece and Germany among others where he photographed children as they slept or tried to sleep.
The photos are powerful but the stories next to each one are even more so. They make up a traveling exhibit with the #I Care, now at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, titled “Where the Children Sleep.” The I Care hash tag came from a #Who Cares question that was raised.
In the US Capitol in 2016, the exhibit is now at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie to recognize April as International Genocide Awareness & Prevention Month. Titled ”Where the Children Sleep,” it went up April 4 and continues through Sept. 16, 2018.
“The Syrian crises was not on Swedish minds,” said Museum Chief Curator Arielle Weininger, explaining why the UNHCR the UN Refugee Agency wanted to capture the plight of Syrian refugees in a photo essay.
“When Magnus saw the children he was heartbroken. He used the hash tag I Care,” Weininger said.
After pointing out that the Syrian civil War began in 2011 and was already in its fourth year when UNHCR contacted Wennman, Museum Education Director Kelley Szany noted that he visited seven refugee camps to take his photos.
“Specifically, where children were sleeping. He had a six-year-old at the time so he knew how important it was for children to sleep and to feel secure when sleeping,” said Szany.
Weininger and Szany, a noted speaker on the Holocaust and the genocides in Bosnia, Cambodia, Darfur, Rwanda and Syria, were in the photo gallery to meet with “Chicago Theater and Arts” opening day to talk about the exhibit and why it was very appropriate for the museum.
Noting that many of the children had nightmares, Weininger pointed out a photo of a girl in an orange sweater. “She was fearful of her pillow because she associated it with nightmares.”
Weininger added that the museum’s president (Fritzie Fritzshall) a Holocaust survivor explains in a video that no matter how normal a day’s activities are that when it comes to night time there are the nightmares.
“It’s important the exhibit shed light on parallels of genocide,” said Kelley. “These are human beings doing this to other humans.”
Weininger said, “It’s important we raise awareness here at the museum.”
“We can do statistics and facts but what we do best is to tell stories,” said Kelley. “We must put a face to it. “Where the Children Sleep” powerfully relates their story.”
“Here, you have a face behind the story,” said Wininger.
“Where the Children Sleep is at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie (west across Edens Expressway from Old Orchard Shopping Center).
Note: If you go do read the story plates next to the photos. In the case of this photo exhibit the short, identifying plates are important. There are also two videos.
For more information on the UN exhibit visit UNHCR.
For more information on the museum visit Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education center.