On this day, 27 years ago, my city of Sarajevo became a besieged city, and remained such for the following four years. A seven-year old at the time, I remember those first days of April of 1992 well. On one of them, my family’s Yugo 45 – an iconic car model of the former Yugoslavia – broke down right next to the Kasarna Maršala Tita (military barracks), where the U.S. Embassy is located today. Without a car, we could not go home that night, so we returned to my grandparents’ house. Later that night, the Bosnian Serb forces took away all the Bosnian Muslim men from our street and killed them. That Yugo 45, which we sold for some firewood months later, saved my father. This is how I remember that April of 1992.
cagr, op-eds / Friday, April 5, 2019
cagr, op-eds, holocaust / Wednesday, April 1, 2020
I much enjoyed my stay at the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research in early March, just before the pandemic turned all of our lives upside down. Meeting the wonderful members of the staff and seeing how much the operations of both the Foundation and the Center have grown since my last visit in 2014 were remarkable experiences.
cagr, op-eds / Wednesday, April 1, 2020
“Most leading authorities and publications use ‘anti-Semitism.’ I prefer ‘antisemitism,’ the spelling used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. But this debate obscures the core issue: whether spelled anti-Semitism or antisemitism, we should retire the term entirely and begin calling it what it really is: Jew hatred.”
op-eds, opinion, antiSemitism / Tuesday, July 7, 2020
From visiting family in China during summer breaks growing up, I became acutely aware of the devastation and suffering that occurred during the Japanese occupation of our hometown of Nanjing. Museums, movies, television programs, and commemorative art kept the Nanjing Massacre alive in public memory. But what I also noticed, from visits to museums, shuffling through television channels, and discussions with family, was the seeming absence of Chinese resistance.
cagr, op-eds / Monday, August 10, 2020
I had the opportunity to research the USC Shoah Foundation's Visual History Archive this past summer thanks to the Beth and Arthur Lev Student Research Fellowship. I was initially introduced to the archive through a course taught by Dr. Maria Zalewska in the School of Cinematic Arts entitled “Meme, Myself and I: How We Remember in the Digital Age.” Prior to the course, I was unaware of this resource at USC despite having a visual art practice deeply engaged with Holocaust remembrance and archives.
cagr, op-eds / Monday, August 31, 2020
Testimonies and the Socioeconomic Aspects of the Armenian Genocide: Reflections from 2019-2020 Junior Postdoctoral Research Fellow Mehmet Polatel
As a postdoctoral research fellow at the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research in the 2019-2020 academic year, I carried out a research project focusing on the long-term impact of Hamidian Massacres of 1894-97 and the experiences of genocide survivors with regards to extortion, plunder, and robbery during the genocide of 1915. Since 2008, I have been working on socio-economic aspects of the genocide and of the deterioration of relations among different communities.
cagr, op-eds / Monday, August 31, 2020
All university campuses are first and foremost places of learning. As such, I believe it is our duty to use this controversy as a teaching moment, for Jewish and non-Jewish students alike.
op-eds, opinion, antiSemitism / Thursday, September 3, 2020
Testimonies and Resistance at Treblinka: Reflections from 2020-2021 Breslauer, Rutman, and Anderson Research Fellow Chad Gibbs
My recent stay at the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my academic career. From the remarkable power and content of the Visual History Archive, to the welcoming and helpful nature of the staff and donor community, I leave my term as the Breslauer, Rutman, and Anderson Research Fellow strengthened by new friendships and enriched by new findings for my work.
cagr, op-eds / Wednesday, November 11, 2020
I never intended to spend months listening to Holocaust testimonies. My name is Chaya Nove, I am a sociolinguist working on a doctoral dissertation about language change in Yiddish vowels. In my research, I consider the Yiddish spoken by Hasidic Jews in New York today (Hasidic Yiddish, or HY) as a living, changing language, with the understanding that this language was once spoken by a group of people in another time and place.
cagr, op-eds / Monday, November 30, 2020
The young boy was walking down the street in Łodz, Poland, when he spotted the treasure. He could not believe his luck! He picked up the belt admiring its beautiful etchings and the decorative metal buckle. With his chest out, he proudly continued walking down the street with his new treasure rolled up and safe in his pocket. Now he would be able to wear long pants instead of the short pants and suspenders young boys wore. His new belt would rocket him from boyhood to manhood status! What a monumental find!
op-eds / Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Welcome to Through Testimony, the official blog of USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education.
op-eds / Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Mohammed Dajani teaches about the Holocaust to Palestinians although he insists it is impossible to do so. “In my class is a girl who was recently released from an Israeli jail. When I raised the subject of the Holocaust in class all she could say was, ‘I am still dealing with my own traumatic experiences, I am nowhere near ready to learn about this!’” Dajani is unflustered by such push back.
GAM, Genocide Education, op-eds / Thursday, November 21, 2013
Steven Spielberg was awarded this year's Records of Achievement Award by the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
op-eds / Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Shortly after I saw Schindler’s List for the first time, I had an argument with my father about the value of such Hollywood blockbusters for teaching people about the Holocaust. We debated the following question: If Schindler’s List was the only source of information for people about the Holocaust would it perhaps be better if they did not see it at all? That is, is Schindler’s List better than nothing if what it shows is all you know about what happened to nearly six million Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe? My dad said (or shouted) yes, but I was unconvinced.
#TTIC14, conference, Schindler's List, op-eds / Sunday, December 1, 2013
Let's just say I throw my smartphone over the wall into the Warsaw ghetto. Along with it, I send instructions to make a video diary until the battery drains, then to wrap it in lots of newspaper before throwing it back.
op-eds / Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Sid Shachnow has two Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts -- and that's just for his service in Vietnam, where he led his troops with courage and distinction. “There was no room for conscience,” he confides when discussing his 39 years of military service. “Once I was face to face with a Viet Cong. I had him in my sights as he ran toward me. He dropped his weapon and veered left. I did not pull the trigger. I still do not know if I did the right thing. My conscience got in the way.”
blog, Stephen Smith, Sid Shachnow, op-eds / Thursday, December 5, 2013
Growing up, it wasn’t terribly unusual to see people in our house with telltale tattoos on their arms. We kids somehow knew what those blurry inked numbers meant, but we also knew it wasn’t polite to ask about them. And so, I never did. And honestly, no one in my family had been so marked — the people with tattoos were mostly friends of my grandparents — so it wasn’t something I had a lot of interest in hearing about. And perhaps in an effort to protect our innocence, family elders showed no interest in talking about it.
op-eds / Sunday, December 8, 2013
“Time heals all wounds,” they say. It’s difficult to find any other element in our daily lives that possesses the sobering effect that time does. It tames emotions and calms nerves. It allows for much needed reflection and analysis. And, perhaps most importantly, it brings with it resolution and closure. By any account, a century would be more than enough time to heal even the deepest wound, but, surprisingly, time’s impact isn’t always as thorough as we’d expect it to be.
Armenian Genocide, GAM, op-eds / Tuesday, December 10, 2013
As I write this, I am standing alongside 30 of the last 200 survivors of the Nanjing Massacre, which began 76 years ago Friday. Sirens sound around this Chinese city as the last few eyewitnesses of a massacre gather. Starting Dec. 13, 1937, and lasting six weeks, as many as 300,000 civilians were murdered during the atrocities.
nanjing, op-eds / Friday, December 13, 2013
When I tell my fellow USC students that I’m the president of an organization called SFISA, it’s usually safe to assume that 90% of them have no idea what it is. It’s not the most elegant of acronyms and we acknowledge this. Our club’s full name – the Shoah Foundation Institute Student Association – is equally as unwieldy but at least it’s descriptive, and that’s something, right? But even if they’ve heard of our less than stellar name, they still might not know who we are or what we do. So let me take this moment to enlighten you.
rwanda, op-eds / Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Benjamin Murmelstein was the first person Claude Lanzmann interviewed on his epic journey that led to what eventually became his definitive film, “Shoah.” Lanzmann sat for a full week with the only living former Alteste Der Judenrat (a term used to describe the head of a ghetto Judenrat) and penetrated deep in to the moral labyrinth of Murmelstein's world.
claude lanzmann, last of the unjust, op-eds / Friday, December 20, 2013
The Cold War began its thaw 25 years ago, then apparently melted sufficiently for us to get on with our lives without fear. Surprisingly, the slow thaw is still in progress.
russia, moscow, op-eds / Monday, December 23, 2013
The email wasn’t so different from many others I’ve received since I started working at the USC Shoah Foundation last summer. A woman named Olga in Germany was moved by watching survivor Paula Lebovics talk about her stolen childhood during the Holocaust. Olga had a young daughter of her own and felt an immediate bond with Paula, who was taken to Auschwitz when she was the same age. And so she wanted to contact her.
op-eds / Monday, January 13, 2014
The word journey comes to the English language from the Old French jornee, meaning a day, or, by extension, a day’s labor or travel. This word, which we normally associate with something pleasant, takes on a different meaning when placed in conversation with the word Holocaust. This was the challenge placed in front of me by colleagues at UNESCO, when they requested that the USC Shoah Foundation prepare an exhibition for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27 – the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.
unesco, GAM, op-eds / Friday, January 24, 2014
The recent New York Times article, The Shroud over Rwanda's Nightmare (January 9, 2014), had me perplexed at first. Michael Dobbs' enquiry centers on the character of Jean-Pierre, the informant who tipped off United Nations head of mission General Romeo Dallaire about preparations for widespread killing of civilians in Rwanda 1994 as evidenced by the training of the Interhamwe militia, the presence of arms caches and the purchase of large numbers of machetes.
rwanda, GAM, op-eds / Monday, January 27, 2014
I first learned about Helena Horowitz’s life history when I found her testimony as I searched through the archive in IWitness the Institute’s educational website featuring the testimonies of survivors and other witnesses to the Holocaust and other genocides.
immigration, Los Angeles, undocumented student, op-eds / Wednesday, February 5, 2014
I did not sleep well last night. It was not the kind of sleeplessness brought on by jet lag, stress or workload. It is best described as a kind of numbness that leaves one physically discharged, emotionally drained and deeply troubled. I just completed one the most sedentary days I’ve had in months, just sitting in a chair listening to one of the most intelligent, sophisticated, gentle, yet strong people I know tell me about his life.
poland, Sigmun Rolat, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, résistance, op-eds / Monday, February 10, 2014
The other morning I checked the BBC News website like I always do only to discover that French film director Alain Resnais had passed away at the age of ninety-one. Resnais’s films frequently explored the relationship between memory, consciousness, and the imagination in a non-linear manner and his innovative method of filmmaking won him numerous awards and prestige throughout his prolific career.
Alain Resnais, French Film, op-eds / Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Over the last six weeks, I have had the unique opportunity to be the Senior Fellow at USC Shoah Foundation - The Institute for Visual History and Education. It’s been an honor for me to be here, especially since I led the Institute between 2000 and 2008. Returning to this remarkable place, having the opportunity to use the Visual History Archive, and working among dear former colleagues and new friends has been simply thrilling.
Senior Fellow, Volyn, Ukraine, op-eds / Monday, March 17, 2014