The George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention has access to the entire Visual History Archive and the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies.

The Visual History Archive

As France’s first host of the complete Visual History Archive of USC Shoah Foundation (a collection of over 55,000 testimonies in 43 languages from 65 countries of survivors and witnesses to the Shoah and the Armenian, Tutsi, Nanjing, Guatemalan and Cambodian genocides and other events of mass violence), 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 in 1994, the testimonies are preserved in the Visual History Archive, one of the largest digital collections of its kind in the world. The testimonies average a little over two hours each in length, a vast majority of which contain a complete personal history of life before, during and after the interviewee’s firsthand experience with genocide.

The Visual History Archive project is one of the most interesting projects I have ever been assigned. The fact that there are people that I am related to that have spoken about what they have been through gives me the feeling of honor to be related to these people who want to tell their story to the world. I find this learning experience to be one of the best that I have been through. It seems to be very well thought out and how AUP has this connection with these testimonies shows the interest of making their students better for the world. Since this class capitalizes on this tool to help the students shows how invested the professor is in the student's education.

Natalie Seelenfreund Science, Society and Human Origins Class with Linda Martz

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.

A scholarly introduction to the history and specificities of the Visual History Archive is available in French in the journal Histoire@politique.

The Visual History Archive is available to all AUP faculty, staff and students through a proxy link available with their AUP ID, and to the wider community at the AUP Library.

Classes that explored the archives

Science, Society and Human Origins (Linda Martz)

Political Anthropology (Tanya Elder)

Public International Law (Susan Perry)

International Human Rights Law (Susan Perry)

Ecole de Guerre Practicum (Susan Perry)

Provocative Witness: Cinema and Genocide (Marie Regan)

Social Memory (Brian Schiff)

Understanding Genocide (Brian Schiff)

Twentieth Century European Jewish History (Constance Pâris de Bollardière)

The Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies

Since 2019, the George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention also has access to the complete Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies. Initiated in 1979 in New Haven, Connecticut by a group of Holocaust survivors, what was then known as the Holocaust Survivors Film Project donated its original collection of testimonies to Yale University in 1981 and was renamed as the Fortunoff Video Archive in 1987.

The collection which started as a grassroots project currently holds more than 4,400 testimonies of victims and witnesses of the Nazi persecutions, including those who were in hiding, survivors, bystanders, members of the resistance and liberators. Testimonies were produced in cooperation with 36 affiliated projects across North America, South America, Europe and Israel. Over 12,000 recorded hours of videotape are now available in 20 different languages in a digital format on the Aviary platform. Index words, transcripts and a Visual search tool are among the newest technological developments of the collection. The Archive is also launching projects to display its collection: “Glimpses: Moment from Testimony”,Those Who Were There: Voices from the Holocaust” and “Songs from Testimonies” are for instance available online.   

The Fortunoff Video Archive is available to all AUP faculty, staff and students through a proxy link available with their AUP ID, and to the public at the library of the university.

If you have any questions regarding the archives, need help or advice with your research, or want to plan a viewing of video testimonies, please contact Kelly Demjanick, Administrator and Communications Coordinator of the George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention:

The outside public can view the Visual History Archive and the Fortunoff Video Archive at the AUP library. Please contact Kira 24 hours before your visit.