Institute News

Bay Area Holocaust Survivors Honored

Holocaust survivors from the Bay Area of California who have shared their experiences on video, and in numerous in-person appearances, were recognized for their contributions at a ceremony in San Francisco on June 9, 2013.

A Tribute to Holocaust Survivors: Honoring Those Who Gave Their Testimonies, co-sponsored by Jewish Family and Children Services (JFCS) of San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, and USC Shoah Foundation - The Institute for Visual History and Education, was held at the Palace Hotel and drew 350 guests, including more than 100 honorees (survivors).

Now in their 80s and 90s, the survivors have shared their stories of moral courage, tolerance, and social responsibility, playing a vital role as educators of future generations. The honorees originally recorded their testimonies for the JFCS Holocaust Center, which holds the world’s sixth-largest collection of video-recorded survivor testimonies. The tapes on which the earliest JFCS testimonies were recorded were beginning to show signs of degradation, so JFCS joined forces with the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive to preserve the more than 1,400 testimonies through the Institute’s high-tech digitization processes.

“These survivors, whose testimonies have done so much to enrich local learning experiences, are destined to have an impact on scholars, educators, and students across the planet,” said Stephen D. Smith, USC Shoah Foundation executive director. “We thank the survivors and other witnesses. Their memories will endure as a voice of conscience for all humanity.”

Eyewitness accounts are essential tools for Holocaust education, scholarship, and remembrance, and are a valuable weapon against Holocaust denial. The partnership with USC Shoah Foundation will help preserve the JFCS video testimonies for students, researchers, teachers, and the general public in perpetuity.

USC Shoah Foundation maintains the world’s largest digital repository of video testimonies of the Holocaust. Its Visual History Archive contains the testimonies of 52,000 individuals, making up 105,000 hours of video, which would take a viewer 12 years to view in its entirety. The 1,400 testimonies from the JFCS Holocaust Center added an additional 4,300 hours to the archive, making up 4 percent of the total archive.

The JFCS Holocaust Center is dedicated to the education, documentation, research, and remembrance of the Holocaust. It is Northern California’s primary resource for Holocaust education, leading efforts to increase awareness among the general public about the causes and consequences of racism, anti-Semitism, intolerance, and indifference during the Holocaust and today. The center’s Speakers Bureau sends survivors to public, private, parochial, and Jewish schools, where they share their stories of courage with students.