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 50 years earlier, he might very well have been a prisoner there. 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 from all over the world. He believed that original audio-visual interviews would become a compelling educational voice for future generations.
Through his Spielberg Foundation, Steven managed to spearhead the recording of videotaped testimony by 53,000 Holocaust survivors and witnesses, from 65 countries in 43 languages. Some of them can be viewed here: https://sfi.usc.edu/full-length-testimonies.
In 2006, his Visual History Archive moved to the University of Southern California (USC) to be housed there in perpetuity. Now called the USC Shoah Foundation, the archive has grown to 55,000 testimonies covering nine genocides. 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.
The entire Visual History Archive is available at 97 institutions around the world. Smaller collections are available at 220 sites in 36 countries. To find an access site near you, visit https://sfi.usc.edu/locator/all. There is also a substantial collection of full-length testimonies and clips on the USC Shoah Foundation’s YouTube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/USCShoahFoundation.
“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 the Nazi regime.