During the filming of the 1993 major motion picture Schindler’s List, director Steven Spielberg had something of an epiphany: as he stood just outside the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau, he realized that had it been years earlier, he might very well have been killed. He met a number of Holocaust survivors during the movie’s production, the experience of which led him to initiate a project in which he would record the testimony of survivors and witnesses. He felt that original audio-visual interviews with survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust (and other genocides) would become a compelling educational voice for future generations.
He created the Spielberg Foundation, which now is called the USC (University of Southern California) Shoah Foundation. “Shoah” is the Hebrew word for catastrophe and is used as a proper noun to refer to attempts to eradicate the Jewish population of Europe in the 1930s and 1940s by Nazis during and before World War II.
Between 1994 and 1999, Spielberg created an archive of videotaped testimony of 52,000 Holocaust survivors and witnesses, from 64 countries in 42 languages. Some of them can be viewed here: https://sfi.usc.edu/full-length-testimonies.
The entire Visual History Archive is available at 97 institutions around the world. Smaller collections are available at 229 sites. There is also a substantial collection of full-length testimonies and clips on the USC Shoah Foundation’s YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/USCShoahFoundation.
In 2006, the Visual History Archive moved to the University of Southern California to be housed there in perpetuity. The original testimonies, which comprise more than 115,000 hours recorded on VHS, are stored in a secure location off-site. More than 1.95 million names are mentioned in the testimonies.