The Holocaust Living History Workshop

by Zev Horowitz, Summer 2015

Student Interviews Holocaust Survivor

The ending of the Oscar-winning 1993 film “Schindler’s List” was only the beginning.

Nearly immediately after the credits rolled in 1993, the film’s iconic director Steven Spielberg founded what became the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation — seeking to record and digitize an incredible number of first-person testimonies from Holocaust survivors.

The collection of stories, memories, and firsthand narrative of the atrocities of the Holocaust became the Visual History Archive, now housed at the University of Southern California. The tens of thousands of videotapes in 26 languages are the largest database of Holocaust testimony in the world.

In 2006, UCSD Librarian Brian Schottlaender and Judaic Studies Professor Deborah Hertz coordinated a lease of the Visual History Archive, making the entire collection of videos available for free to UCSD affiliates and interested community members.

As of 2014, UCSD is only of only 55 organizations worldwide — and one of only two universities in California — to have access to the complete archive.

UCSD’s leasing the archive paved the way for the creation of the Holocaust Living History Workshop program — a lecture series designed around the Visual History Archive in order to boost UCSD affiliates’ utilization of the archive.

Project Manager Susanne Hillman, who has run the program since 2010, said that the format of the workshops has changed since the early years.

“In the first few years of the program, the program invited Holocaust survivors on a monthly basis and every year was sort of like a re-run because there is a limited number of local Holocaust survivors who will agree to come and speak,” Hillman said. “Later, we decided to widen the scope and we began bringing in people who have done research on family members, children of Holocaust survivors and scholars on Holocaust studies.”

Each year, the program takes on a theme for the yearlong speaker series. Last year the series was called “Forgotten Stories: Legacy of Pain.” In 2015-16, Hillman says, the theme will be “Holocaust Journeys.” “What’s amazing about the study of the Holocaust,” Hillman adds, “is that no matter how much you study, there are always new angles that have been neglected or that haven’t even been brought to light. There are countless journeys that survivors, family members and scholars have taken to come to terms with this catastrophe.”

In October the Holocaust Living History Workshop will kick off the year-long series with a public event featuring Roger Grunwald, an artist and playwright and the son of an Auschwitz survivor. The The Mitzvah Project explores the dilemma of Mischlinge in Hitler’s army through performance, a history lesson, and interaction with the audience. Other speakers that are scheduled for the 2015/16 season include the noted historian and genocide expert Norman Naimark, the Italian refugee Elio Schaechter who found a new home in Ecuador, and Goldie Morgenthaler, the daughter of the great Yiddish novelist and survivor Chava Rosenfarb.

While each of these events offers an account of a journey and provides important insight into the Holocaust in its own right, Hillman hopes that the series will increase awareness of the Visual History Archive. “We would like students and teachers throughout San Diego to know that we have this valuable resource on campus and introduce them to the Visual History Archive,” she said.

Hillman is available for consultation and training throughout the summer and academic year. Please contact her by email at