Penn to Host Access to USC Shoah Foundation Institute's Video Archive of Holocaust Survivors, Witnesses

PHILADELPHIA — The University of Pennsylvania has become the first university in Pennsylvania with access to the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s entire Visual History Archive that contains nearly 52,000 video testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust in 32 languages and from 56 countries.

Penn's partnership with the Shoah Foundation Institute is supported by the joint efforts of the Annenberg School for CommunicationPenn Libraries and Penn’s Division of Information Systems and Computing

Penn President Amy Gutmann, who was moved by the Institute's work when she attended its Ambassadors for Humanity Gala here last year, officially launched access to the collection in April. 

The Ambassadors for Humanity Gala honored Brian L. Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation, and was chaired by Stephen A. Cozen, member of the Penn Law Board of Overseers, and Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen, chair of Penn's Board of Trustees.

"This partnership between the University of Pennsylvania and USC's Shoah Foundation Institute provides an unparalleled resource for scholarly exploration across many disciplines, and I am proud we are able to offer the Philadelphia community access to the entire collection," said Gutmann. "I have seen and experienced first-hand the impact that these personal testimonies can have. They are a poignant reminder that we must stand together against hatred and intolerance of any kind." 

Gutmann’s father fled Nazi Germany in 1934, eventually emigrating to the United States, where she was born. "My father's journey has been one of the most important influences in my life, and I feel a strong personal connection to the value of these educational opportunities made available by the Shoah Foundation Institute." 

“Survivors’ memories are the authoritative source for information on the Holocaust, and the value of audiovisual testimony to other areas of research has been demonstrated at universities around the world where the Institute’s Visual History Archive has enhanced 275 academic courses in a wide range of disciplines,” Stephen D. Smith, executive director of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, said. “By partnering with the Institute to bring the Visual History Archive to Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania has demonstrated its commitment to scholarship guided by the highest humanitarian principles.”

In addition to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute has gathered testimony from homosexual survivors, Jehovah’s Witness survivors, Roma and Sinti (Gypsy) survivors, survivors of eugenics policies, political prisoners, liberators and liberation witnesses, rescuers and aid providers and war crimes trial participants. The Institute has also begun to collect testimonies of survivors and witnesses of others genocides, such as those in Rwanda and Cambodia. 

The USC Shoah Foundation Institute was established in 1994 by film producer/director Steven Spielberg to collect and preserve these testimonies, and the Institute maintains one of the largest video digital libraries in the world. It has a long history in Philadelphia where its regional office was based and where the training of local residents as interviewers and videographers was coordinated. More than 600 testimonies were taken in Pennsylvania.  

About the USC Shoah Foundation Institute

Established in 1994 by Steven Spielberg to collect and preserve the testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute maintains one of the largest video digital libraries in the world: nearly 52,000 video testimonies in 32 languages and from 56 countries.

The Institute is part of the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California; its mission is to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry —and the suffering they cause—through the educational use of the Institute’s visual history testimonies.

The Institute works within the University and with partners around the world to advance scholarship and research, to provide resources and online tools for educators, and to disseminate the testimonies for educational purposes. In addition to preserving the testimonies in its archive, the Institute is working with partner organizations to expand the archive with accounts of survivors and witnesses of other genocides. For more information, visit the Institute’s website.

About the University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania is an Ivy League institution with a distinctive past. Founded in the 18th century by Benjamin Franklin, its 12 undergraduate, graduate and professional schools are located in Philadelphia on an attractive urban campus that today serves a diverse community of more than 20,000 students from throughout the nation and around the world.  Ranked consistently among the top 10 universities in the nation, Penn has a longstanding reputation for excellence in graduate and professional education, with a number of its schools ranked at or near the top in their fields.