|| History of Shoah
After filming Schindler's List In 1994, film-producer Steven Spielberg established the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation to videotape and preserve testimonies of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses before it was too late. Having collected nearly 52,000 videotaped testimonies in fifty-six countries and thirty-two languages, the mission
of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute today is to overcome prejudice, intolerance and bigotry - and the suffering they cause - through the educational use of the foundation's visual history testimonies.
The Shoah Foundation Institute is currently working to develop global partnerships to achieve three strategic goals: to preserve and provide access to the archive; to build and support educational programs; and to develop educational products based on the foundation's testimonies.
The Testimony to Tolerance Initiative is a community-driven tolerance education program for implementation in cities across the United States. Des Moines is one of the first of just a few communities to have been selected to date. The Shoah Foundation Institute hopes to assist communities around the country in advancing their own efforts towards tolerance education by providing a local site such as the public library with testimonies for its permanent collection; sponsoring programs to involve the entire community and inspire students; and distributing free educational materials to every middle and high school in the district.
In November, 2005, the Foundation moved to the University of Southern California and is now identified as the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education. For general information on the Testimony to Tolerance Initiative and the Des Moines Visual History Collection, call the Library at (515) 283.4152.
What is the SHOAH Foundation Institute and what does it do?
The mission of the Shoah Foundation Institute is to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry - and the suffering they cause - through the educational use of the Foundation's visual history testimonies. The Foundation is pursing its mission by focusing primarily on underserved students and young people in the United States and abroad.
In 1994, Steven Spielberg established the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation as a nonprofit organization to document the experiences of survivors of the Holocaust and other witnesses, including those who aided, rescued, and liberated the survivors. The Shoah Foundation has videotaped some 52,000 testimonies, given in thirty-two languages by people living in fifty-six countries. In each testimony, the interviewee speaks about his or her life before, during, and after the war, guided by questions from a Shoah Foundation interviewer.
How is the material made available at the Des Moines Public Library?
DVD collections of seventeen individual testimonies of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses who were interviewed in Iowa are available at the Des Moines Public Library for research and public viewing. These may be checked out at Central, Franklin Avenue and South Side Libraries. There is also a designated computer viewing station located on the second floor of the Central Library.
Also available to assist library patrons with their research, are the Testimony Catalogue binders, which provide basic life-history information taken from interviewee questionnaires that were completed before each interview was videotaped.
What should I bear in mind while watching the testimonies?
Shoah Foundation Institute testimonies are unedited, primary sources of information, presented here in their entirety. Their integrity lies in their unaltered authenticity. The Shoah Foundation Institute's primary concern is to preserve each interview as it was given-without cuts, retakes, or editorial commentary.
Unlike the films and television programs to which viewers are accustomed, Shoah Foundation Institute interviews are not practiced or polished, and thus retain the imperfections and interruptions that sometimes occur. Most interviews are conducted in the homes of the interviewees - dogs may bark, telephones may ring, and neighbors may enter.
Shoah Foundation Institute testimonies are often emotionally raw, sometimes horrific, and frequently disturbing to watch. The interviewee speaks directly to the viewer, often expressing his or her deepest feelings and relating moments of extreme pain and suffering. This intimate relationship, formed, on average, over a mere two and one-half hours of testimony, can have a powerful effect on the viewer.
Are testimonies suitable for children?
Parents should use careful judgment when determining if the content of a particular testimony is suitable for their children.
What if the interviewee's recall of factual information is inexact or inaccurate?
Oral history testimonies are unique in that they are personal, emotional, and subject to the vagaries of memory. The purpose of oral testimony is not only to gather facts, but also to glean a deeper understanding of the interviewee's experience.
Unlike most documentation from the period-written by the perpetrators-oral testimony gives the voice to the survivors and other witnesses. Their memories of particular events may or may not conform to the written historical record. However, the narratives offer a deeper understanding of events as they were lived and filtered through personal reflection.
The Testimony to Tolerance Initiative - Des Moines, Iowa, was funded by a
generous grant from James and Andrea Gordon.