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Tutorial offered on Visual History Archive, world's largest collection of eyewitness accounts of Holocaust

April 19, 2010

Pamela Whiteley McLaughlin
(315) 443-9788

Syracuse University is one of just 25 institutions worldwide to provide access to the complete Visual History Archive (VHA), an online collection of more than 50,000 digitized video interviews of Holocaust survivors, rescuers and liberators, and war crimes trial participants. Librarian Lydia Wasylenko and College of Arts and Sciences instructor Sam Gruber will introduce this vast and unique resource as an instructional and research tool to interested faculty and students at a special meeting, sponsored by the Syracuse University Library and the Judaic Studies Program, on Friday, April 23, at 10 a.m. in Room 204 of the Tolley Humanities Building. 

Inspired by his experience making “Schindler’s List,” film director Steven Spielberg founded the Shoah Foundation Institute in 1994 to gather and preserve video testimonies from survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust. The resulting Visual History Archive contains testimonies from Jewish survivors, homosexual survivors, Jehovah’s Witness survivors, liberators and liberation witnesses, political prisoners, rescuers and aid providers, Roma and Sinti (Gypsy) survivors, survivors of Eugenics policies, and war crimes trials participants.

Holding nearly 52,000 video testimonies in 32 languages and representing 56 countries, the VHA is one of the largest databases of its kind in the world. It is fully indexed and fully searchable through a set of more than 50,000 keywords and phrases, 1.2 million names and 500,000 images, allowing users to retrieve whole testimonies or segments within testimonies that relate to their areas of interest.

Given the broad scope and diverse content of the VHA, the testimonies have the potential to support research and pedagogy in a variety of disciplines. Four sections of SU’s CAS 100 “First-Year Seminar” made extensive use of the VHA in 2008-09. The VHA has also served as a key resource for dozens of courses offered at universities around the world—courses in history, Judaic studies, political science, religious studies, sociology, film/cinema, anthropology, German/Eastern European/Slavic studies, women’s/gender studies, English, French, art, communications, education, psychology and philosophy. Examples include:

  • “Cultures of Commemoration & European Identity: Italy & Germany in Comparison” (political science, Freie Universität-Berlin)
  • “Psychological Adjustment Following Traumatic Life Events: the Case of Genocide” (psychology, University of Southern California)
  • “Visuality and Violence” (women & gender/American studies, Yale University)
  • “Remembering + Narrating = History?: Introduction to Historical Science Theories” (history, Freie Universität-Berlin)
  • “Human Rights & Genocide Workshop” (education, University of Minnesota)
  • “Recording Oral History: History and Practice” (history, Monash University, Australia)
  • “Between Resistance & Collaboration: Individuals Responding to National Socialism” (German studies, Rice University)
  • “Holocaust as Public History” (history, University of California-San Diego)

For more information on this session or on using the Visual History Archive, contact Wasylenko at 443-4692 or

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