USC Shoah Foundation, Blavatnik Family Foundation preserving crucial memories, war stories of Holocaust survivors

The USC Shoah Foundation is accelerating efforts to preserve the stories, memories, and personalities of Holocaust survivors, thanks in part to the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

The USC Shoah Foundation, founded in 1994 by legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg, recently debuted hologram-like projections of stories by Holocaust survivors, deepening the public’s understanding of World War II.

CBS News program 60 Minutes highlighted the project, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the ongoing, multi-year production that involves a complex mix of mobile cameras, lighting, and cutting-edge technology.

The Shoah Foundation interviewed more than 50 survivors with a variety of experiences, allowing future generations access to first-hand commentary on the Holocaust.

Today, in Holocaust museums around the country, students, educators, parents, and others interact with these survivors through their holograms, asking them questions about their experiences, life, and even favorite songs. Visitors get real-time, detailed responses from pre-recorded footage.

The latest effort reflects the shared missions of both USC Shoah Foundation and the Blavatnik Archive to preserve first-person accounts of those who were there, the Holocaust survivors and the Jewish partisans and soldiers who fought the Nazi enemy. Hundreds of oral testimonies, thousands of photographs, letters, documents and even diary pages written by the Jewish soldiers during the war can be found on the Archive’s website.

This partnership and shared mission led to a collaboration in 2014 when the Archive exhibit about Soviet Jewish soldiers during WWII opened in collaboration with the USC Shoah Foundation and USC Doheny Library. The exhibit highlighted the experiences of Jewish Red Army soldiers being targeted for genocide while fighting Nazi Germany.

In 2019, the partnership shared a selection of the Archive’s testimonies on the USC Shoah platform, increasing digital accessibility to widespread audiences.

“As the witnesses of WWII and the tragic events of the Holocaust pass, the first-person accounts of those who were there have become more invaluable for preservation of history and for interpretation (or analysis) of current traumatic events and conflicts,” said Julie Chervinksy, director of the Blavatnik Archive.

In November 2021, the Blavatnik Archive held an international conference saluting WWII Jewish fighters. Scholars and experts from numerous top colleges and universities took part in informational panels, while experts from Harvard University, Penn State University, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum discussed the importance and future of archives, research, and testimony in ensuring an accurate narrative on Jewish WWII fighters. Details of each panel from the event can be found here.