Shoah Foundation Visual History Collection Opens at Archivio Centrale Dello Stato in Rome

Fri, 01/28/2005 - 12:00am

In a ceremony held today in Rome commemorating the Day of Memory, the Archivio Centrale dello Stato (Central State Archive), together with Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, announced that the Foundation’s videotaped interviews of more than 400 Holocaust survivors and other witnesses are now available for public viewing and educational use at the Archivio. The testimonies contained in this national collection were either recorded in the Italian language or in Italy.

The opening of this visual history collection is an historic milestone in a partnership that began in 2002 when the General Directorate of Archives, with funding from the Ministry of Cultural Assets and Affairs, sent three Italian archivists to Los Angeles to index the entire Italian collection of testimonies . The three-year program was successfully completed in August 2004. The Foundation’s partnership with the General Directorate of Archives is about to enter a new phase with another research grant from the Ministry of Cultural Assets and Affairs. Beginning in 2005, the General Directorate of Archives will undertake a development project to license the Foundation’s indexing system, adapt it for its own collections, and use it as the model for indexing audiovisual material throughout Italy.

The Shoah Foundation’s archive of nearly 52,000 eyewitness testimonies is the largest collection of videotaped Holocaust testimonies in the world. The varied experiences of survivors and other witnesses in this Italian collection represent the breadth of the Shoah Foundation archive. Jewish survivors, rescuers and aid providers, war crimes trials participants, and Sinti and Roma survivors offer recollections of their lives before, during, and after the war. Regardless of their personal experience, each of them offers warnings about the dangers of racial hatred and the need for tolerance and multicultural understanding.

Speakers at the ceremony included: Salvatore Italia, Chief of the Department for Archives and Libraries; Maurizio Fallace, General Director for Archives; Maria Grazia Pastura, Director of 3rdService, Non -State Archives of the General Directorate for Archives; Aldo G. Ricci, Superintendent of the Central State Archives; Micaela Procaccia, State Archivist, Coordinating Director of 3rd Service; Prof. Alessandro Portelli, Professor of Anglo-American Literature at the University of Rome "La Sapienza," Oral Historian, Advisor of the Major of Rome for Memory; and Douglas Greenberg, Shoah Foundation President and CEO.

“When the Shoah Foundation first came to Italy to record testimonies in 1998, we were embraced by overwhelming numbers of volunteers from all over the country eager to embark on this task with us,” explained Douglas Greenberg, Shoah Foundation president and CEO. “Today, as the testimonies are returned to Italy, we mark the culmination of that cooperative effort, and continue to move forward, inspired by the passionate commitment of educators, archivists, and government agencies to bring the testimonies to people throughout Italy.”

Giuliano Urbani, Italian Minister of Cultural Assets and Affairs said, “ Now these testimonies, fully indexed,, are delivered to the Archivio Centrale dello Stato; the voices of the protagonists of that crucial historical time come back to Italy to be heard by Italians, today and in the future . Also, we must not forget the importance of the professional experience we exchanged in these years. I think that we can say with certainty that working together has enriched us both, in our technical and professional knowledge.”

Maurizio Fallace, General Director of the Italian Archives said, “The completion of this important collaborative project represents a significant milestone for the Italian State Archives. With these three years of work, the Italian State Archives have given a significant contribution to keeping the memory of the Shoah alive in Italy: the Italian testimonies of this event are now available to historians and citizens in the reading room of the Archivio Centrale dello Stato. Moreover, we were able to familiarize ourselves with, and try an oral sources indexing methodology that opened up new prospects for us, and will inspire new projects that will directly benefit from the professional experience that our archivists acquired in Los Angeles.”

In a videotaped message played at the ceremony today, Steven Spielberg, Founding Chairman of the Shoah Foundation, said, “In a few short years, the unique partnership forged between the Italian State Archives and the Shoah Foundation has yielded remarkable results, due in large part to the innovative thinking of our Italian friends…We had always dreamed of returning the testimonies to the countries and communities where they were first gathered. Today, we are pleased to open the Italian collection of more than 400 testimonies of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses to the public for their viewing.”