The Archives

As France’s first host of the complete Visual History Archive of USC Shoah Foundation (a collection of over 54,000 testimonies in 39 languages from 63 countries of survivors and witnesses to the Shoah and the Armenian, Rwandan, Nanjing, Guatemalan and Cambodian genocides), the American University of Paris makes this important resource available to researchers, teachers and students for the purpose of investigating and disseminating new insights into the origins of collective hatred, fundamentalist ideologies, discrimination and mass violence as well as the aftereffects of these in historical, social and individual memory.

Founded by Steven Spielberg, the testimonies are preserved in the Visual History Archive, one of the largest digital collections of its kind in the world. They average a little over two hours each in length and were conducted in 62 countries and 41 languages. The vast majority of the testimonies contain a complete personal history of life before, during, and after the interviewee’s firsthand experience with genocide. 

The Visual History Archive is digitized, fully searchable via indexed keywords, and hyperlinked to the minute. With more than 112,000 hours of testimony stored in the Archive, indexing technology is essential for enabling users to pinpoint topics of interest. 

Indexing allows students, teachers, professors, researchers and others around the world to retrieve entire testimonies or search for specific sections within testimonies through a set of nearly 64,000 keywords and phrases, 1.8 million names, and 695,000 images.

Each testimony is indexed by a native speaker and each minute of video is time coded in English to a proprietary search engine using Institute-patented technology. The bulk of the video testimonies expound on the Holocaust, including such experiences as Jewish Survivors, Rescuers and Aid-Providers, Sinti and Roma Survivors, Liberators, Political Prisoners, Jehovah’s Witness Survivors, War Crimes Trial Participants, Eugenic Policies Survivors, Non-Jewish Forced Laborers and Homosexual Survivors. But the Visual History Archive has expanded to include testimonies from the 1994 Rwandan Tutsi Genocide, the 1937 Nanjing Massacre and the Armenian Genocide that coincided with World War I. Plans to integrate testimonies from other genocides, including Cambodia and Guatemala are in development. 

Each collection adds context for the other, providing multiple pathways for students, educators and scholars to learn from the eyewitnesses of history across time, locations, cultures and socio-political circumstances. Ultimately, the Visual History Archive forever preserves the faces and voices of the people who witnessed history, allowing their firsthand stories to enlighten and inspire action against intolerance for generations to come.

The Visual History Archive is available to all AUP faculty, staff and students on any computer terminal on the campus of the American University of Paris. To view videos you must login on the USC Shoah Foundation website.

If you have any question regarding the Visual History Archive, need help or advice with your research or want to plan a viewing of video testimonies, please contact Constance Pâris de Bollardière, Postdoctoral Fellow of the George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention: cparisdebollardiere@aup.edu

The outside public can view the Visual History Archive at the AUP library. Please contact Constance Pâris de Bollardière beforehand in order to arrange an appointment.