Holocaust Video Archive at Yale Marks 25th Anniversary with Conference

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 November 4.

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 November 4.

Sponsored by the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University, the conference will take place in Room 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 appears below.

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 Librarian.

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; catalogs its testimonies to make them intellectually accessible; and lends programs of testimony excerpts to educators, schools, museums and community groups.

The archive has 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 child survivor of the Holocaust himself.

In 1979 organizers began videotaping testimony from survivors and witnesses in the New Haven area, and 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—Geoffrey 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 cataloging 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 University’s Judaic Studies Program. Fortunoff Video Archive archivist Joanne Rudof is coordinator of the conference.

Additional support was provided by the John K. Castle fund of the Program for Ethics, Politics and Economics, the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights of the Yale Law School, Germanic Languages and Literatures Department, and the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven.

For further information, see the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies online.

Testimony Across the Disciplines
Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies: 25 Years at Yale
November 4, 2007
Linsly-Chittenden Hall, Room 102, 63 High Street

8:30 a.m. Continental breakfast

9 a.m. Welcome and introduction
Geoffrey Hartman, Yale University
Alice Prochaska, University Librarian, Yale University

9:15 a.m. “Testimonies as Historical Evidence: Reconstructing the Holocaust from Below”
Omer Bartov, the John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History and Professor of History and Professor of German Studies, Brown University

10 a.m. “Survivor Testimony in Nazi Criminal Trials: Lessons from the Fortunoff Video Archive,” Robert Burt, the Alexander M. Bickel Professor of Law, Yale University Law School

10:45 a.m “Psychological Responses to the Holocaust”
Lawrence Langer, professor emeritus of English, Simmons College

11:30 a.m. “Written in the Body: Dance as Testimony”
Carol Bernstein, research professor of English and Comparative Literature; editor of the Bryn Mawr Review of Comparative Literature, Bryn Mawr College

12:30 p.m. Lunch

2 p.m. “Broken Attachments: Witnessing Linguistic Traces of Trauma”
Carolin Emcke, war correspondent for Die Zeit

2:45 p.m. “Writing My Documentary Prose”
Henryk Grynberg, award winning writer and Holocaust survivor

3:30 – Coffee break

4 p.m. “Yiddish Folklore and Creative Resistance in Testimony””
Itzik Gottesman, associate editor, Yiddish Forward

4:45 p.m. “Remembering Raul Hilberg”
Walter Reich, the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Professor of International Affairs, Ethics and Human Behavior, George Washington University; former Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

5:15 p.m. Final Remarks
Jay Winter, the Charles J. Stille Professor of History, Yale University



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Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325