Databases of the week: Holocaust survivor video testimonies
The purpose of oral history testimony is not only to gather facts, but also to gain a deeper understanding of events as they were lived and filtered through personal reflection. Unlike most documentation from th[e] period - written by the perpetrators – oral testimony gives a voice to the survivors and other witnesses, allowing them to speak directly about their personal experiences. [Source: Visual History Archive website.]
The USC Shoah Foundation was established in 1994 by Steven Spielberg to collect and preserve the testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust. The Foundation maintains one of the largest video digital libraries in the world: nearly 52,000 video testimonies in 32 languages and from 56 countries. [Please note that to access this content, users must link to the VHA website through the Searchworks entry and create a username and password.]
Since 2006 the Institute has partnered with other organizations to expand the Visual History Archive to include testimony from other genocides:
•The 1937 Nanjing Massacre, which were collected in partnership with the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall to preserve the testimonies of the last survivors of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanjing, in which 300,000 civilians and unarmed soldiers were killed over the course of two months.
•The 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda, collected in partnership with Aegis Trust and the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. The Rwandan Testimony Collection presents survivor, eyewitness, and soon a few perpetrator accounts of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis that claimed as many as one million lives over the course of approximately 100 days.
•The 1915 Armenian Genocide, which were presented to the Institute by the Armenian Film Foundation. With over 370 interviews conducted by genocide survivor and documentary filmmaker Dr. J. Michael Hagopian, the Armenian Genocide Collection explores the WWI-era massacres and deportations in the Ottoman Empire that claimed the lives of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians.
•The Guatemalan Genocide, which occurred during the country’s 36-year Civil War that ended in 1996, collected in partnership with La Fundación de Antropología Forense de Guatemala (FAFG).
•The 1975 Cambodian Genocide, begun with assistance from the Documentation Center of Cambodia.
[Source: Visual History Archive website.]
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Jeff and Toby Herr Oral History Archive is one of the largest and most diverse collections of Holocaust testimonies in the world. The Museum conducts its own interviews, and also actively collects testimonies produced by individuals and institutions such as libraries, archives, and local Holocaust research centers.
Individuals whose experiences are represented in the collection include Jews, Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, political prisoners, and others who were targeted by the Nazis and their collaborators. The collection also contains testimonies from liberators, collaborators, witnesses, and rescuers.
Voices of the Holocaust consists of oral history testimonies gathered from Jewish men and women who came to live in Britain during or after WWII. These testimonies are personal, individual, true stories, that describe the hardships of life during Hitler's reign.
Video testimonies collected by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem.