As France’s first host of the complete (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 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.
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.
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)
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@
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.