The Wiener Holocaust Library is very pleased to announce that access to the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive (VHA) will be available in the Wolfson Reading Room to all our members, users, and visitors. Please note that due to the continuing COVID-19 restrictions the Library is currently only open to those who have pre-booked.
The VHA provides online access to more than 54,000 video testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust, collected from Jewish survivors, political prisoners, Sinti and Roma survivors, Jehovah’s Witness survivors, survivors of eugenics policies and homosexual survivors, as well as rescuers and aid providers, liberators, and participants in war crimes trials.
There are video testimonies collected from survivors of other genocides such as the Armenian Genocide, the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in China, the Cambodian Genocide, the Guatemalan Genocide, the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, and the ongoing conflicts in the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the anti-Rohingya mass violence. It also includes testimonies of contemporary acts of violence against Jews.
This online archive of video testimony is the largest digital collection of its kind, with the aim of preserving history as told by those who lived it. Each testimony is a unique source of insight and knowledge, offering powerful stories from history that demand to be explored and shared. In this way we can see their faces and hear their voices, allowing each person to teach and inspire action against intolerance.
Professor Dan Stone, Professor of Modern History and Director of Holocaust Research Institute at the Royal Holloway, University of London, describes the resource as:
“a remarkable resource for anyone researching the Holocaust and other genocides. The testimonies are rich in detail, often containing information about little-known sites or events, and they open up many questions about the impact of the Holocaust on those who endured it.”
Testimonies within the VHA are from 62 different countries and have been recorded in 41 languages. Every testimony is digitised and fully searchable to the minute via indexing. This means that researchers can access 114,000 hours of testimony in the VHA. This is possible due to the use of more than 64,000 keywords, such as city and country of birth; religious identity; places of incarceration (e.g. Nazi concentration camps and ghettos) and hiding; flight or resistance details. These keywords have been assigned directly to the testimonies where the specific topics are discussed.
Dr Christine Schmidt, Deputy Director and Head of Research at The Wiener Holocaust Library described the VHA as:
“an unmatched opportunity to examine a large number of testimonies of survivors and eyewitnesses to genocide, including the Holocaust, the Cambodian genocide, the Rwandan Genocide and others. Eyewitness accounts provide an invaluable primary source of information for examining the history of genocide and its ongoing impact on.”
The VHA complements the Library’s own collections of early accounts from eyewitnesses and survivors of Nazi persecution and genocide. Testifying to the Truth: Eyewitnesses to the Holocaust is a digital collection of over 1,000 accounts that Library staff gathered during the 1950s, led by the then Head of Research Dr Eva Reichmann. These accounts cover a wide range of subjects with material touching on almost every aspect of the Holocaust.
Since 2006 the VHA has been expanded to include testimony from other genocides:
- The 1937 Nanjing Massacre, which were collected in partnership with the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall to preserve the testimonies of the last survivors of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanjing, in which 300,000 civilians and unarmed soldiers were killed over the course of two months.
- The 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda, collected in partnership with Aegis Trust and the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. The Rwandan Testimony Collection presents survivor, eyewitness, and soon a few perpetrator accounts of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis that claimed as many as one million lives over the course of approximately 100 days.
- The 1915 Armenian Genocide, which were presented to the Institute by the Armenian Film Foundation. With over 370 interviews conducted by genocide survivor and documentary filmmaker Dr. J. Michael Hagopian, the Armenian Genocide Collection explores the WWI-era massacres and deportations in the Ottoman Empire that claimed the lives of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians.
- The Guatemalan Genocide, which occurred during the country’s 36-year Civil War that ended in 1996, collected in partnership with La Fundación de Antropología Forense de Guatemala.
- The 1975 Cambodian Genocide, begun with assistance from the Documentation Center of Cambodia.
To find out more about the Library’s holdings relating to other genocides than the Holocaust, please visit our Subject Guide.
Please note that the VHA digital resource is available onsite as long as one is connected to the Library’s free Wi-Fi. First-time users will have to create an account with the VHA by filling in an online registration form and choosing a username and password. A very user-friendly guide is available here, alternatively, Library staff will be happy to help.
Access to the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive was possible due to the generous support by the Pears Foundation.