50,000th Testimony Recorded: Spielberg Sets New Goals for Shoah Foundation

Mon, 02/01/1999 - 12:00am

Last night, Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation commemorated the recording of its 50,000th testimony with survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust. At a ceremony attended by over 400 people involved with the project, both at its Los Angeles headquarters and abroad, Shoah Foundation Founder and Chairman Steven Spielberg thanked everyone and announced the future direction of the organization. Spielberg told the group, "no one could have imagined the breadth of the undertaking we embarked on four years ago. Your commitment and hard work have made possible a remarkable achievement."

"Survivors and witnesses took a great leap of faith in order to revisit their painful past and give us their stories for safekeeping," he continued. "Now it is up to us to make sure that future generations can learn lessons from survivor's lives, their struggles and their triumphs. The survivors will become the educators and continue telling their stories so that future generations will not forget what happened."

Now, while interviews still will be conducted on a limited basis, the Foundation's focus will turn to the task of making the testimonies available for educational purposes. These testimonies, folded into a comprehensive computer archive, will be a resource for teaching racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural tolerance. Interviews will be catalogued using keywords, names, and other criteria, enabling individuals and institutions to access the archive. This complex process includes the pioneering work of an indexing technology for oral history testimonies developed by the Shoah Foundation.

Eventually the archive will be linked via secure computer lines to museums and other educational institutions throughout the world. Currently the archive is accessible to the staff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, and plans are underway to make the material available to the general public at the Center by the end of 1999.

"Our hope is to create a resource so enduring that ten or fifty or even one hundred years from now, people all around the world will learn directly from survivors about the atrocities of the Holocaust, what it means to survive, and how our very humanity depends upon the practice of tolerance and mutual respect," said Spielberg.

The Foundation's first educational CD-ROM, "Survivors: Testimonies of the Holocaust" is being released to U.S. schools this semester, and their third documentary, "The Last Days," is set for domestic theatrical release in February.