Conference will commemorate
25 years of Holocaust archives
An archive at Yale that has collected the personal stories of over 4,000 Holocaust survivors over the past quarter century
will mark its milestone anniversary with a conference titled “Testimony
Across the Disciplines: 25 Years at Yale” on Sunday, Nov. 4.
Sponsored by the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, the conference
will take place in Rm. 102, Linsly-Chittenden Hall, 63 High St. It is free and
open to the public.
The speakers at the conference will explore topics ranging from “Testimonies
as Historical Evidence: Reconstructing the Holocaust from Below” to “Survivor
Testimony in Nazi Criminal Trials: Lessons from the Fortunoff Video Archive” to “Psychological
Responses to the Holocaust,” and more. The full program can be found online
The event will begin at 9 a.m. with welcoming remarks by Geoffrey Hartman, a
founder of the Video Archive of Holocaust Testimonies and Sterling Professor
Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature, and Alice Prochaska, University
The Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, founded in 1982, is dedicated
to the recording, collection and preservation of videotaped oral testimonies
of survivors and witnesses. The archive holds more than 4,400 testimonies comprising
over 12,000 hours of videotape, which were recorded in cooperation with 37 affiliate
projects in North America, South America, Europe, Israel and the former Soviet
Union. The archive serves as a resource for students, scholars, museums and educational
associations; catalogues its testimonies to make them intellectually accessible;
and lends programs of testimony excerpts to educators, schools, museums and community
The archive came into being through the efforts of a grassroots organization
called the Holocaust Survivors Film Project, initiated by local television interviewer
and producer Laurel Vlock in association with Dori Laub, associate professor
of clinical psychiatry at Yale and a child survivor of the Holocaust himself.
In 1979 organizers began videotaping testimony from survivors and witnesses in
the New Haven area. The archive now includes first-hand testimonies from survivors,
bystanders and rescuers as well as those involved in the Nazi resistance and
liberation efforts. When project organizers decided to expand the scope of the
project to include testimonies from across the nation, one of their board members — Hartman — urged
the University to assist the project.
In 1981, the collection, which then numbered some 200 testimonies, came to the
Sterling Memorial Library. A grant from the Charles H. Revson Foundation supported
the transfer and cataloguing of the testimonies, and made it possible for Yale
to extend the collection’s reach to a national and international level.
The archive became accessible to the public in 1982, and in 1987, the late Alan
M. Fortunoff, president of Fortunoff specialty stores, provided endowment funding.
The 25th anniversary conference was made possible by a grant from the Edward
J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Memorial Fund and by support from Yale’s Judaic
Studies Program. Joanne Rudof, archivist at the Fortunoff Video Archive, is coordinator
of the conference.
Additional support was provided by the John K. Castle Fund of the Program for
Ethics, Politics and Economics, Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale,
the Orville H. Schell Jr. Center for International Human Rights of the Yale Law
School, the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, and the Jewish
Federation of Greater New Haven.
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