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USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive: Holocaust

Established in 1994 to preserve the audio-visual histories of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust, the USC Shoah Foundation maintains one of the largest video digital libraries in the world: the Visual History Archive (VHA).

Holocaust Testimony Overview

The Visual History Archive contains over 52,000 audiovisual testimonies of Holocaust witnesses. They were recorded by the USC Shoah Foundation (51,425) and the Jewish Family and Children's Services (JFCS) of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties (907) between 1988 and 2015.

The majority of the interviews are with Jewish Holocaust survivors. The archive also includes the testimonies of political prisoners, Roma (Gypsy) survivors, Jehovah's Witness survivors, survivors of eugenics policies, and homosexual survivors as well as rescuers, liberators, and participants in war crimes trials.

USC Shoah Foundation interviews were conducted by a single interviewer, while JFCS interviews were in many instances conducted by two. Interviewees were typically encouraged to share their stories in chronological order, recalling memories from before, during, and after World War II. At the end of the interview, they displayed photographs, documents, and artifacts pertaining to their family and wartime experiences, and then introduced family members and friends on camera. Around 159 testimonies conclude with walking interviews, filmed at sites of former concentration camps, ghettos, mass graves, hiding places, or in front of prewar family homes.

The indexing of each interview enables researchers to search in detail for the people, places, events, and experiences described in each one. For example, the archive includes over 1.2 million name records—those of the interviewees themselves, their family members and anyone else they talk about in the interview. The indexing terms include approximately 47,000 specific geographic locations, not only from Europe but from all over the world, and around 8,000 experiential terms used to describe the huge variety of events, experiences, organizations, and other subjects (browse the latter in the Thesaurus).

The Holocaust interviews available in the VHA encompass 11 different experience groups:

  • Jewish Survivors (48,997),
  • Rescuer and Aid Providers (Holocaust) (1,133),
  • Sinti and Roma Survivors (407),
  • Liberators (363),
  • Political Prisoners (261),
  • Jehovah's Witness Survivors (83),
  • War Crimes Trial Participants (62),
  • Miscellaneous (World War II) (32),
  • Eugenic Policies Survivors (13),
  • Non-Jewish Forced Laborers (11),
  • Homosexual Survivors (6).

32 languages:

  • English (24,626),
  • Russian (7,068),
  • Hebrew (6,211),
  • French (1,858),
  • Polish (1,485),
  • Spanish (1,337),
  • Hungarian (1,331),
  • Dutch (1,074),
  • German (916),
  • Bulgarian (624),
  • Slovak (565),
  • Czech (560),
  • Portuguese (560),
  • Yiddish (553),
  • Italian (433),
  • Croatian (392),
  • Serbian (376),
  • Greek (305),
  • Ukrainian (303),
  • Swedish (264),
  • Romanian (129),
  • Danish (68),
  • Lithuanian (45),
  • Norwegian (34),
  • Romani (24),
  • Ladino (9),
  • Macedonian (9),
  • Slovenian (6),
  • Flemish (5),
  • Sign (5),
  • Japanese (1),
  • Latvian (1).

and 56 countries where interviews were conducted:

  • U.S.A. (19,698),
  • Israel (8,384),
  • Ukraine (3,427),
  • Canada (2,811),
  • Australia (2,472),
  • France (1,649),
  • Poland (1,353),
  • Netherlands (1,041),
  • United Kingdom (861),
  • Hungary (781),
  • Argentina (724),
  • Russia (673),
  • Germany (662),
  • Slovakia (654),
  • Bulgaria (627),
  • Brazil (564),
  • Czech Republic (562),
  • Italy (417),
  • Yugoslavia (345),
  • Croatia (327),
  • Sweden (325),
  • Greece (303),
  • Moldova (284),
  • South Africa (250),
  • Belarus (244),
  • Venezuela (227),
  • Belgium (203),
  • Austria (186),
  • Romania (147),  
  • Lithuania (137),
  • Uruguay (121),
  • Mexico (110),
  • Denmark (94),
  • Latvia (79),
  • Switzerland (69),
  • Chile (65),
  • New Zealand (53),
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina (52),
  • Norway (34),
  • Uzbekistan (25),
  • Bolivia (23),
  • Costa Rica (19),
  • Colombia (15),
  • Slovenia (11),
  • Ecuador (9),
  • Estonia (9),
  • Macedonia (9),
  • Zimbabwe (8),
  • Spain (6),
  • Georgia (6),
  • Kazakhstan (6),
  • Ireland (4),
  • Peru (2),
  • Portugal (2),
  • Finland (1),
  • Japan (1).  

Selected Bibliography

Gutman, Israel (ed.). Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. New York: Macmillan Pub. Co., 1990.

Hayes, Peter; Roth, John. Oxford Handbook on Holocaust Studies. Oxford [England]; New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Hilberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews. Vols. 1-3, 3rd ed., New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2003.

Ingrao, Christian. “General Chronology of Nazi Violence.” Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence. 14 Mar. 2008. Web.

Megargee, Geoffrey (ed.). The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945. Vols. 1 and 2. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009-2012.

Spektor, Shemuʻel. The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust. New York: New York University Press.

Stone, Dan. Histories of the Holocaust. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Holocaust Encyclopedia. Web.

Visual History Archive Curator

Crispin Brooks's picture
Crispin Brooks
Contact:
DML 232, 213-740-5463
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