Literature of the Holocaust
maintained by Al Filreis

SUMMER Newsletter 1996
Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies
Sterling Memorial Library, Room 331C

"Toward a Fifteenth Anniversary"

In December of 1981 a New Haven grassroots organization, the Holocaust Survivors Film Project, deposited two hundred interviews at Yale which were to become the core of our collection. It seems like yesterday; but in December of this year the Video Archive marks its fifteenth anniversary.

The Archive has grown to hold 3600 testimonies: close to 9000 hours of videotaped interviews. The demand on it by survivors who wish to be recorded has not diminished. We continue to respond to individual requests, and will also complete significant projects in Israel, Belgium, Germany (Berlin), Slovakia, the former Yugoslavia, the Czech Republic and France (Paris) over the next two years. By the end of the century, when the recording of survivor and bystander witnesses is essentially complete, Yale's Fortunoff Video Archive, which pioneered the video testimony, will contain well over 4000 witness accounts.

Statistics are not the whole story, of course. We have approached our task aware of the individual survivor and diverse communities. Our aim in creating affiliates throughout the US and then in Israel, Canada, South America, and Europe, was always to foster a community spirit, and to join with major educational institutions. The future importance of the video testimonies for education cannot be exaggerated. They will provide the most vivid collective portrait of the eyewitness generation as well as considerable historical data. Each country in which we have worked will have a small but significant collection of witness accounts in its own language, which should facilitate their use in the media and the schools.

No archive should be just a collection, sitting inertly on the shelves of a library. To encourage research and educational dissemination, we decided from the beginning to catalog the collection, using computer technology. Summaries of over 1000 testimonies are presently on line, and can be searched at libraries and institutions in any country. This may be done through RLIN (Research Libraries Information Network), or through the Yale Library Online Public Access Catalog on the Internet. We hope to complete cataloging the testimonies by the beginning of 1999. Researchers who use our catalog can search the database with keywords to access summaries and obtain an overview of our holdings. They can then visit Yale, where the Department of Manuscripts & Archives has made viewing facilities available and our staff provides reference assistance and expert advice. The Righteous Persons Foundation (see page 10) has provided a grant to help us complete our computer catalog.

This Newsletter is a crowded one. From its pages you will be able to acquire a fuller sense of all our activities. We have become an international resource. But as the work of collecting reaches toward completion, the responsibility of thinking about the educational uses of the testimonies increases. More and more visitors are coming to the Archive, and many institutions are seeking out our help. Steven Spielberg's Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation has designated Yale's Video Archive as one of five depositories. The number of conferences at which principals of the Archive are invited to speak or which they help to organize grows from year to year.

Moreover, as we enter the age of the Internet we have a responsibility for establishing access policies as well as effectively integrating the testimonies into the programs of museums, high schools and universities -- here and abroad. We already have cooperative agreements with the Moses Mendelssohn Center for the Study of European Judaism at the University of Potsdam (Berlin) and the Milan Simecka Foundation in Bratislava, as well as with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. We are presently discussing the deposit of the tapes made in France and Israel with national or university archives there. Among future challenges, one of the greatest is the fact that videotape has a limited life and that we will eventually have to preserve our collection by reformatting it as new technologies become affordable.

In conclusion, I wish to thank the many who have entrusted their testimonies to us. Without the loyal and hardworking staff of the Fortunoff Archive, I would be frazzled and frantic. And without our supporters, who help us from year to year, we could not look with confidence into the future or plan to make the Video Archive an important educational presence in the new millennium.

Geoffrey H. Hartman
Faculty Advisor and Project Director, Fortunoff Video Archive
for Holocaust Testimonies
Sterling Professor of English and Comparative Literature
Yale University

Search for a (single) word:

http://writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/Holocaust/hartman-yale.html - - - Last modified: Friday, 06-Aug-2004 09:19:17 EDT