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USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive: VHA FAQs

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).

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the USC Shoah Foundation?

See About Us. Between April 1994 and December 2005, the organization bore the name Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. Between January 2005 and July 2012, it was known as the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education. As of August 2012, the full official name is USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education.

What is the Visual History Archive?

The Visual History Archive (VHA) is the search tool that allows users to search and browse the entire collection of audiovisual testimonies collected by the USC Shoah Foundation and other partnering organizations. It is based here at USC. See About the VHA.

How does the VHA work?

Please consult the VHA Help Page.

Is the VHA on the internet?

On the public internet, desktop computers and mobile devices can search the entire Visual History Archive and view around 4,000 video testimonies. The full VHA, containing 55,000 testimonies, is accessible only at subscribing educational and research institutions: locations worldwide.

I am a USC student (staff/faculty member). How can I watch a testimony?

See Search the VHA.

I am not a USC student (staff/faculty member). How can I watch a testimony?

See Search the VHA.

How can I get a copy of a testimony?

See VHA Copies & Downloads.

How many interviews are there in the VHA?

Almost 55,000. In total, the VHA contains over 13 years of continuous video.

When were the interviews in the VHA recorded?

Anti-Rohingya Mass Violence (August-October 2017): 2018

Armenian Genocide: 1970-2017

Cambodian Genocide: 2009-2015

Central African Republic Conflict: 2016

Contemporary Antisemitism: 2015-2019

1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda: 2004-2021

Guatemalan Genocide: 2015-2019

Holocaust: 1981-2021

Nanjing Massacres: 2012-2017

South Sudan Civil War: 2015

Where were they recorded?

In 62 different countries. See Collecting Testimonies.

Did you only interview in English?

No, we have recorded interviews in 41 different languages. English is the largest language, with over 27,700 interviews. All Kinyarwanda and Mandarin-language testimonies have English subtitles, although other languages do not. See Collecting Testimonies.

Did you only interview Jewish Holocaust survivors?

While the experiences of Jewish survivors make up 95% of the total, the Holocaust/World War II interviews also include 10 other interviewee experience groups (homosexual survivors, Jehovah's Witnesses, liberators and liberation witnesses, miscellaneous, non-Jewish forced laborers, political prisoners, rescue and aid providers, Roma survivors, survivor of eugenics policies, war crimes trials participants).

The Armenian Genocide interviews contain the experiences of Armenian Survivors, descendants, scholars, foreign Witness, Yezidi survivors, and miscellaneous. The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda testimonies are made up of Tutsi survivors, rescuers, elders, Hutu Power opponents, and victims' spouses. The Guatemalan Genocide and Nanjing Massacres testimonies are all with survivors. The Central African Republic conflict witnesses were interviewed as delegates to a peace conference in Kigali in 2016. The interviewees in the Contemporary Antisemitism testimonies discuss how the 2015 Copenhagen shootings, especially the attack on the Great Synagogue, has affected their own lives, those of the Danish Jewish community, and Danish society at large.

How does the USC Shoah Foundation define the term “survivor”?

In terms of the Holocaust, the USC Shoah Foundation refers to survivors as anyone who suffered and survived persecution for racial, religious, sexual, physical, or political reasons while under Nazi or Axis control between 1933 and May 8, 1945; or who was forced to live clandestinely; or to flee Nazi or Axis onslaught during the war in order to avoid imminent persecution. A person is a survivor if he/she was alive at the point of liberation and/or on May 8, 1945. A person is a survivor if he/she died before May 8, 1945, but successfully fled from German or Axis countries.

In terms of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, the USC Shoah Foundation refers to Tutsi survivors as anyone who suffered and survived persecution as Tutsis in Rwanda between April 7 and July 19, 1994. This includes individuals who were of Tutsi descent or were perceived to be of Tutsi descent.

How were the interviews conducted?

See Collecting Testimonies.

How is the archive preserved?

See Preserving the Archive.

Do you have transcripts for the testimonies?

Currently, transcripts are available in the VHA for over 3,700 English-language and for 896 German-language testimonies (NB: German-language transcripts, not translations). The transcripts can only be viewed in the subscription version of the VHA. Indexing is available for all testimonies.

How did you index the testimonies?

The USC Shoah Foundation created proprietary software for indexing. We devised indexing terms to meet the needs of the collection’s content and organized them into a Thesaurus conforming to standard practice. The Thesaurus evolved over time and grew in volume as the testimonies were indexed. It currently contains more than 60,000 terms, around 90% of which are geographic.

Each testimony is indexed in two ways. Biographical profile indexing refers to the data-entry of the pre-interview questionnaires (PIQs) and/or other paperwork accompanying the audiovisual testimony. Video indexing refers to the minute-by-minute indexing of the video interviews. To do this, each interview was divided into one-minute segments  Then, indexers assigned terms for times, places, people, and experiences directly to digital time codes within testimonies where those topics were discussed - in a similar way to book index entries that specify the page numbers where topics are covered.

For more details, see Indexing.

Are there other places that have interviewed Holocaust survivors?

Yes, many of them. Please see the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's International Database of Oral History Testimonies.

Is the USC Shoah Foundation still collecting interviews?

Yes, the USC Shoah Foundation continues to conduct a small number of interviews with Holocaust witnesses. See the Last Chance Testimony Initiative.

Other organizations that may still be recording Holocaust survivors and witnesses include:


Association of Holocaust Organizations

(516) 582-4571

P.O. Box 230317

Hollis, NY 11423


Florida Holocaust Museum

(727) 820-0100

55 5th Street South

St. Petersburg, FL 33701


Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies

(203) 432-1879

Yale University - Sterling Memorial Library

New Haven, CT 06520-8240


Holocaust Documentation & Education Center, Inc.

(954) 929-5690

2031 Harrison St.

Hollywood, FL 33020


Holocaust Museum Houston

(713) 942-8000

5401 Caroline St.

Houston, TX 77004


Jewish Family and Children's Services of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties

(415) 449-3717

2245 Post Street

P.O. Box 159004

San Francisco, CA 94115


Jewish Heritage Project

(212) 925-9067

150 Franklin Street, #1W

New York, NY 10013


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

(202) 479-9717

100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW

Washington, DC 20024-2126


Virginia Holocaust Museum

(804) 257-5400

2000 East Cary Street

Richmond, VA 23223


Yad Vashem - Jerusalem

Visual History Archive Curator

Profile Photo
Crispin Brooks