USC Shoah Foundation, National Historical Museums in Sweden, and the Institution for Jewish Culture in Sweden Begin Filming Socially Distant Swedish-Language Dimensions in Testimony Interviews

Wed, 08/26/2020 - 9:07am

USC Shoah Foundation—working with on-site partners National Historical Museums in Sweden and the Institution for Jewish Culture in Sweden—recently began filming two Swedish-language Dimensions in Testimony interviews in Stockholm, Sweden utilizing innovative social distancing and filming techniques.

The interviewees are Holocaust survivors and Swedish citizens Tobias Rawet and Elisabeth Citrom, who is also the mother of Joel Citron, Vice Chair of USC Shoah Foundation's Board of Councilors. Interviewing commenced last week with Tobias Rawet and will continue next week with Elisabeth Citrom.

"In Sweden, as in other countries, there are very few survivors left that can share their testimonies. Capturing two Swedish survivors in the Dimensions in Testimony program means that the Holocaust will be closer linked, in context, to the history of Sweden,” Susanna Zidén, Project Manager at National Historical Museums in Sweden.

Production was originally scheduled for earlier this year, but with the spread of COVID-19 global pandemic, the Institute initially stopped filming testimonies across the world for the safety of everyone involved. With the urgency to capture the stories of Holocaust survivors as immediate as ever, USC Shoah Foundation and its partners adapted and developed a new production method that delivers the capture of a week-long interview while observing hygienic practices and responsible health and safety guidelines.

“I am proud our organizations have tapped into their creativity and spirit of innovation to continue the critically important service of capturing the stories of survivors of the Holocaust before it is too late,’ said Citron. "My mother and Tobias can each now tell their own personal and unique stories of survival—in a safe environment—that will educate future learners in a new medium for generations to come.”

During filming, the mobile rig, normally constructed with 18 cameras, was restructured into a three-camera rig. The production featured minimal crew on site, with the content team participating in the interview process via zoom from their homes in California. Due to the time difference, the USC Shoah Foundation team worked between midnight and 6:00a.m PST. The on-site interviewer—Lizzie Oved Scheja, Founder and Director of the Institution for Jewish Culture in Sweden—also maintained a sizable distance during the filming.

“Conducting the first interview with Tobias Rawet is one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had and a great privilege,” said Scheja.

“Tobias is a warm, generous and engaged person. Interviewing him about his early life experiences – he was three years old when the war broke out, spent his childhood in the Lodz ghetto and later in concentration camps until he was liberated at the age of 9 – is an emotional process that will cling to me for the rest of my life. And, as with most survivors that I have met, the words ‘hatred’ and ‘revenge’ do not exist in his vocabulary. Instead, his message to future generations is ‘be a good person.”

Dimensions in Testimony is an initiative pioneered by USC Shoah Foundation to record and display testimony in a medium that highlights the significance of dialogue among Holocaust survivors and learners, and preserves the ability to do so far into the future. Dimensions in Testimony has revolutionized the concept of oral history by integrating adapted filmmaking techniques, specialized display technologies, and natural language processing to provide an intimate and unique experience. Each specially recorded interview enables viewers to ask questions of the survivor about their life experiences, and hear responses in real-time, lifelike conversation. Questions are answered naturally, as if the survivor is in the room, and through artificial intelligence, the more questions asked, the better the technology becomes.