USC Shoah Foundation Partners with the Srebrenica Memorial Center, Adds Srebrenica Survivor Testimonies to Visual History Archive

Thu, 02/10/2022 - 12:05pm

A pilot collection of 20 testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the 1995 genocide that took place in Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina has been added to USC Shoah Foundation’s 55,000-strong Visual History Archive (VHA) thanks to a new collaboration with the Srebrenica Memorial Center

The testimonies document the genocide of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) men and boys and the deportation of over 25,000 women and children that occurred as part of the campaign of “ethnic cleansing” in eastern parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina during the 1992-1995 war.

USC Shoah Foundation Interim Finci-Viterbi Executive Director Kori Street underscored the importance of the first collection in the VHA to focus on the war and genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“The Srebrenica genocide remains a moral stain on Europe, a mass murder perpetrated at the center of the continent 50 years after the world vowed, ‘Never again,’” Dr. Street said. “Preserving these voices in the Visual History Archive pays tribute to the victims and provides opportunities for research and education about this relatively recent example of genocide.”

The testimonies of Bosnian survivors and witnesses from the first genocide to take place on European soil since World War II have been recorded by the Srebrenica Memorial Center and cover interviewee lives before, during, and after the war, with a particular emphasis on their experiences during the Srebrenica genocide.

The groundbreaking new partnership between USC Shoah Foundation and the Srebrenica Memorial Center is a major step in creating a space for ​Srebrenica genocide survivors to share ​their experiences and educate others ​globally.

Director of the Srebrenica Memorial Center, Dr. Emir Suljagić, said the partnership between USC Shoah Foundation and the Srebrenica Memorial Center and the inclusion of the testimonies of Srebrenica genocide survivors into the VHA comes at a critical time.

“In the era of denial and post-truth societies, these individual narratives are always a strong ally in the face of those who wish to support revisionism,” Dr. Suljagić said.

In the coming months the initial 20 testimonies in the VHA will be indexed, an intricate process by which terms from the archive’s 60,000+ keyword thesaurus will be assigned to each minute of testimony by a team of specially trained experts in Bosnia.

The VHA is the world leader in the archival capture, preservation and access to testimony related to the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity. Its 55,000 firsthand accounts of mass atrocities spanning more than 100 years are indexed by keywords including geographical locations and time periods and are available to researchers, educators, family members, and the public.

Dr. Badema Pitic, Acting Research Associate at USC Shoah Foundation, said that having the testimonies of Srebrenica genocide survivors in the VHA “will not only ensure their preservation and representation alongside other events in the archive, it also will fill a gap in the research on this topic.”

The testimonies about the war and genocide in Bosnia will enable the interrogation of questions such as how the experiences of survivors of “ethnic cleansing” compare to the experiences of those who survived the genocide; what the patterns, forms, and dynamics of violence in ethnically cleansed areas of Bosnia were; and how the ethnic cleansing that took place in Bosnia compares to current events, specifically to the current cases of identity-based persecution, Pitic said.

Along with being preserved in the Visual History Archive in perpetuity, the testimonies from this collection will also be featured in IWitness, USC Shoah Foundation’s award-winning educational website that provides educators and students with access, resources, and tools to integrate testimony into their curriculum and education.

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Smajil Klempić

In this excerpt from his testimony, a Srebrenica genocide survivor Smajil Klempić recalls the ordeal of Bosnian Muslim men who left Srebrenica after its capture on July 11, 1995 and embarked on a long and dangerous journey through the surrounding woods to reach safety. In this segment, he describes this column being attacked by Bosnian Serb forces while resting at the edge of a forest to prepare to cross an open field. More than 10,000 Bosnian Muslim men embarked on this journey in 1995. Only around 3,000 of them reached safety, some as late as September 1995.

Isabel Zarrow
Isabel Zarrow is a junior at Boston University majoring in public relations and minoring in business and entrepreneurship. She interned at USC Shoah Foundation in summer 2021.