Institute News

Living Histories

USC Shoah Foundation Institute Unveils Interdisciplinary Resource for High School Educators

LOS ANGELES, CA–May 5, 2009–As part of the activities recognizing the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s 15th year, the Institute has released Living Histories:  Seven Voices from the Holocaust, a multimedia educational resource geared toward high school students and educators in the United States.

An essential component of Living Histories is a series of downloadable, 30-minute video testimonies in which 7 Holocaust eyewitnesses—a Jewish survivor, a Jehovah’s Witness survivor, a liberator, a political prisoner, a rescuer and aid provider, a Roma and Sinti (Gypsy) survivor, and a war crimes trials participant—share their life stories through memories of prewar, wartime, and postwar experiences.

With Living Histories, the Institute has for the first time posted testimonies online which have been abridged to accommodate the classroom timeframe, yet retain the narrative arc of the unabridged testimonies in the archive.

Each testimony forms the basis of a unique classroom lesson on such themes as responsibility and justice, the power of resistance, standing firm in faith, and survival and loss. In addition to 3-1/2 hours of video, Living Histories includes downloadable student activities, discussion questions, extension activities, biographical information about the eyewitnesses, glossaries, and links to maps and other online materials that can provide additional context for each life story.

With its modular structure, Living Histories gives teachers the freedom to use its components in ways that meet their individual curricular needs. As an interdisciplinary resource, the series can be integrated into a variety of courses and grade levels, and the testimonies and classroom lessons address a broad range of content standards including social studies, English/language arts, behavioral studies, and life skills.

“The Institute is grateful to the donors who have made possible the creation of Living Histories, a resource that exemplifies how testimony can be used to enhance the study of required subject matter while concurrently inspiring dialogue and critical thinking about tolerance and intolerance,” said Kim Simon, Institute Interim Executive Director.

Lesson development and the online distribution of Living Histories were made possible through generous funding by the Leo Rosner Foundation. Funding for the creation of the videos was made possible through generous funding by the Anne & Henry Zarrow Foundation and Maxine & Jack Zarrow Family Foundation.

“As a longtime supporter of the Institute, the Leo Rosner Foundation is proud of the opportunity that has been created through Living Histories to introduce students across the United States to the personal stories of seven Holocaust survivors and other witnesses,” said William D. Robbins, President of the Leo Rosner Foundation. “It is our hope that these seven life histories will serve as significant educational tools for generations to come.”

Living Histories:  Seven Voices from the Holocaust is available on the Institute’s website.

About the USC Shoah Foundation Institute

Established in 1994 to collect and preserve the testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute maintains one of the largest video digital libraries in the world:  nearly 52,000 video testimonies in 32 languages and from 56 countries. The Institute is part of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California; its mission is to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry—and the suffering they cause—through the educational use of the Institute’s visual history testimonies.

The Institute works within the University and with partners around the world to advance scholarship and research, to provide resources and online tools for educators, and to disseminate the testimonies for educational purposes. In addition to preserving the testimonies in its archive, the Institute is working with partner organizations to help document the stories of survivors and other witnesses of other genocides.