Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies


Reviewed by Melanie Mason


This site was assembled by Yale University to allow access to the Holocaust Survivors Film Project, which was given to the University in 1981. The project, begun in 1979 as a grassroots organization, videotaped Holocaust survivors and witnesses in New Haven, Connecticut. The videotapes and manuscripts are part of the Manuscripts and Archives Division, at Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University. The Archive is still working to record, collect, and preserve Holocaust witness testimonies.


The homepage for the site was last updated in March of 2002, and the linked pages have not been touched since August of 2001. This should not however, pose a great question of accuracy with the exception of the “Affiliate Programs” page. Here are listed 37 international programs, 15 with linked Internet access. Unfortunately, one third of those linked are broken. It would behoove the library to check these programs at least once a year.


Contact information for the archive is a separate page with detailed listings including mailing and shipping addresses (a wonderful addition for those interested in contributing to the collection.) Also listed are phone, fax and email contacts.


Yale University is certainly a well known and highly respected institution. Steven Spielberg's Righteous Persons Foundation has given grants to the Archive. As far as accessibility, “the testimonies are cataloged and cross-referenced with the aid of the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN) international bibliographic database. These catalog records are also freely available and searchable on the Internet, via Orbis, the Yale University Library online catalog.”


The site makes the following statement in regards to the accuracy and authenticity the interviews. “The Archive's interviewing methodology stresses the leadership role of the witness in structuring and telling his or her own story. Questions are primarily used to ascertain time and place, or elicit additional information about topics already mentioned, with an emphasis on open-ended questions that give the initiative to the witness. The witnesses are the experts in their own life story, and the interviewers are there to listen, to learn, and to clarify.” They also strive to have many different viewpoints. On the “Testimony excerpt” page, they include survivors of many different nationalities along with WWII military participants and German witnesses.

I found this to be a fascinating site and a good portal to other related materials regarding oral history of the Holocaust.

Reviewed by Rebecca Caldow

Originally assembled by the Holocaust Survivors Film Project, The Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies is now a collection of more than 4,200 taped interviews with Holocaust survivors and witnesses. Started in 1979 by a grassroots effort, in 1981 the collection was donated to the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University as part of their Manuscripts and Archives collection. Since that time, the Yale library has continued to record and preserve the testimony of Holocaust survivors. Because the number of Holocaust survivors keeps diminishing and their memories become more distant from the actual events, the timeliness of the collection is critical. Adding to the collection is an on-going effort by Yale University. This collection contains over 10,000 hours of testimony and is available to the public as well as researchers and educators.

This web site describes the collection, offers excerpts from the video testimonies, a catalog and research guide, and notices of upcoming conferences and publications. The home page was last revised on March 12, 2002. While the video excerpts may not need updating, the catalog contents and the conference schedules most certainly do. Seeing the announcement for a conference taking place in October, 2002 prominently displayed on the home page gives the site a dead look. Looking further, however, the publications page was last updated June 25, 2003 and the 2003 newsletter is included.

Contact information for the Sterling Memorial Library is given. Included are a mailing address, a shipping address, telephone and FAX numbers, and an e-mail address for the Fortunoff Archive. The revision date of this information is August 9, 2001. It may be that when the rest of the site was revised on March 12, 2002 there were no changes to this information.

All of the information in this collection has been gathered from direct witnesses and survivors of the Holocaust. Biographical information and a current photograph of each video subject are provided.

The information contained in both the website and the video collection appears to be highly accurate, although the entire website is not completely current. Information from the collection has been published in book form, release in video, and shown on PBS television as a documentary.

With the exception of the lack of timely updates, this is an excellent web site containing substantial information about the history and authenticity of the collection. Through the excerpts from the survivor and witness testimony, the user is able to assess whether or not accessing the collection will be useful. I recommend this site to anyone involved in an internet search for Holocaust information.