The United Nations and the USC Shoah Foundation Institute launched iWitness, an interactive Internet application that allows students and educators to retrieve more than 1,000 video testimonies from the Holocaust, on Monday.
The application has been in progress since the Shoah Foundation was founded in 1994 by Steven Spielberg to preserve the testimonies of Holocaust survivors. The institute gained more than 50,000 archived testimonies, but developing a plausible method to share the information was its biggest challenge, said Kim Simon, managing director of USC Shoah Foundation institute.
“We were founded on the premise by Steven Spielberg after Schindler’s List to gather 52,000 testimonies of survivors and witnesses, and to videotape their life stories before the war, during the war and after the war,” Simon said. “The question of how to get access was a quest, but as the Internet became more prominent and important to education, we saw that it would be a responsible and appropriate educational setting.”
The development allows students to gain an extensive understanding of the Holocaust that would be limited by learning solely through a textbook.
“By searching and receiving, the student will have the ability to operate or engage in an intersection of the story and the video,” Simon said. “They are adding their own voice because they can record their narration that expresses what it means to them.”
Through the video testimonies, the viewer is given a different perspective on the history of the Holocaust.
“The video is an immediacy that allows them to not only see the faces but also hear the voices,” Simon said. “It’s from a personal point of view because they are connected with something that is very human, and that’s unique.”
Currently iWitness focuses on the Holocaust, but the institute is already planning to add testimonies from the Armenian, Rwandan and Cambodian genocides to the archive.
“We are interested in broadening and expanding the scope of testimony,” Simon said. “The archive will continue to expand.”