Institute News

Shoah Foundation Co-sponsors New California Holocaust and Genocide Education Bill

Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, the nonprofit organization established by Steven Spielberg to videotape the firsthand testimonies of Holocaust survivors and witnesses and make them accessible for educational purposes, is co-sponsoring legislation that will be introduced into the California State Assembly today.

The bill, titled Holocaust Genocide Education Act of 2003, was co-authored by Assembly Members Paul Koretz and Mark Wyland. It recommends that survivor testimony be central to the teaching about slavery, genocide and the Holocaust. The significance of the bill in relation to the mission of the Shoah Foundation is apparent. The mission of the Shoah Foundation is to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry—and the suffering they cause—through the educational use of the Foundation’s visual history testimonies. By co-sponsoring this bill, the Foundation hopes to underscore the need for state and federal governments to recognize the impact and unique value of personal stories in the teaching of history, social studies, and character education.

This marks the first time the Shoah Foundation has taken an active role in supporting any type of legislation. Since it’s inception in 1994, the Foundation has directed its efforts to recording the testimonies of Holocaust survivors and witnesses. Now the Foundation has turned to the urgent task of seeing that the testimonies are given back to the public, for this and future generations to hear directly from the survivors stories of triumph, heroism, and survival.

By recognizing the unique power of visual histories as a teaching tool, the California State Assembly becomes a leader in understanding the value of the personal interaction between eyewitnesses to the past and and today’s students. Douglas Greenberg, CEO of the Foundation, spoke at the press conference announcing the bill and praised Koretz and Wyland for recognizing that “history is not just facts and figures. It is human, individual experience as well. There is no substitute for the immediate person to person impact of a witness to history speaking directly to the present.”