BRADENTON -- A well-known former musician with ties to Manatee County is hoping to help the thousands fleeing from Syria.
Yank Barry, former lead singer of the band The Kingsmen, is helping displaced families to a better life.
“If we sit on the sidelines, in two or three years from now we’re going to be talking about the Holocaust of 2014, 2015 and 2016,” said Barry.
Barry, who lives in Manatee County a few months out of the year, runs The Global Village Champions Foundation, which has supplied almost 1 billion meals worldwide, including to those in need in the Tampa area. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the past three years.
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He’s going through great lengths to help refugees fleeing Syria, Iraq and Iran. Many head to Bulgaria, escaping the wars and persecution.
After visiting the camps, Barry said he was upset about the conditions.
Using his own money, he has converted hotels into temporary homes with plans to get the refugees into other countries.
“So far we’ve moved more than 600 families into other EU countries and now I’m working with the Canadian government to try and get another 50 to 100 families there,” said Barry.
Barry, who is referred to as the “Jewish Schindler,” seeks to provide housing for thousands of refugees.
His goal was to match Oskar Schindler’s rescue of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust. To date, he said he has rescued more than 1,400 Middle Eastern refugees.
Barry said most have been forced to leave their countries because of their faith.
“They are rounding up Christians and beheading them if they don’t convert to Islam,” said Barry.
It’s a loss of life he said he can’t sit back and watch.
“In World War II, my great-grandfather and my grandfather’s entire family was wiped out by the Nazis," said Barry. “Two of my cousins escaped and went to Bulgaria and Bulgaria was the only country that wouldn’t let Hitler take the Jews out. I felt an obligation that I couldn’t sit on the sidelines. They helped my people when very few people did. Nobody cares about the Syrians. I just couldn’t stand on the sidelines. I could afford to help and dedicate the time. It’s very fulfilling.”