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USC Shoah Foundation's Visual History Archive

The USC Shoah Foundation's Visual History Archive makes available over 52,000 video testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides.

Technical FAQ

What do I need on my computer to use the USC Shoah Foundation's Visual History Archive (VHA)?

Please see the technical requirements for Windows or Macintosh. Note that you must be on a U-M Ann Arbor, Dearborn or Flint campus network to use the VHA. 

Even though you are viewing the VHA over the high-speed U-M network, display of video testimonies may still be slow. This can be due to your computer's processor speed, video card, or amount of memory.

I am on the U-M network through a dial-up connection. Why can't I access the VHA?

A dial-up connection is not able to handle streaming testimony video, although it can handle searches and request testimonies for viewing. You can then view the testimonies from a computer directly connected to the U-M network.

What can I access through U-M's link to the VHA?

Our local server can hold about 1,700 testimonies locally, out of some 51,400 digitized testimonies. Most testimonies have to be downloaded from the USC Shoah Foundation's central digital storage location to our local server, which can take up to 24 hours. Please be patient!

What should I do if I can't remember my password?

If you have forgotten your password, please email vhahelp@usc.edu.

The testimony I want to view is marked “Not Yet Viewable.” When can I view it?

A small number of testimonies have not yet been digitized. These testimonies must be specially requested from the USC Shoah Foundation and may take several weeks to be digitized. Send an email to svha.help@umich.edu to request digitization of a testimony.

I requested a testimony for viewing more than 48 hours ago and it still is not available. What should I do?

Please email svha.help@umich.edu for assistance.

Why can't I see everything on the screen? I don't want to have to keep scrolling!

The VHA interface is too large for a typical browser window and was designed to be viewed full-screen. Press F11 to maximize the screen.

What if the picture looks squeezed?

First, make sure that you are using the latest version of Windows Media Player. Then, while the testimony is playing, do the following:

  1. Right-click anywhere on the video, and select 'Options...'
  2. Click on the 'Advanced...' button
  3. under Video Acceleration, uncheck the 'use video mixing renderer' option
  4. Click 'OK', then click 'OK', then click 'Yes' if asked
  5. The video should now be displying correctly

(There is presently no way to correct the 'squeezed' display on Macintosh computers.)

The testimony audio doesn't sound right. What is wrong?

Make sure that your headphones or speakers are plugged into the correct jack on your computer's sound card. If they are plugged in correctly, check to see if the system sound is muted by double-clicking on the volume icon in the system tray at the bottom right of your screen. Adjust the volume to a comfortable level.

What if it still doesn't sound right?

Some testimonies have issues with the audio that we cannot control. In some cases, the interviewer being much louder than the interviewee, which makes the sound of the interviewer much louder than the interviewee. In other cases, the audio was not processed properly in the digitization phase. If you think there is a problem with the audio that you cannot solve by turning up the volume or checking your system settings as above, please email svha.help@umich.edu.

Where can I find out more about the USC Shoah Foundation?

Please visit the USC Shoah Foundation's website at sfi.usc.edu.

What if I am still having technical difficulties and my question is not answered here?

Send email to svha.help@umich.edu

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the USC Shoah Foundation?

The USC Shoah Foundation has been working since 1994 to collect and preserve the testimonies of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses to the Holocaust. The USC Shoah Foundation has videotaped nearly 52,000 testimonies from 56 countries and in 32 languages. In spring 2013, the Visual History Archive expanded to include a collection of 65 audiovisual testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the 1994 Rwandan tutsi genocide. These testimonies are collected and made available to the campus community through the Visual History Archive (VHA), an interface which allows users to search and view the visual history testimonies and any additional corresponding data.

How is the University of Michigan Involved?

The University of Michigan has partnered with the USC Shoah Foundation to make these testimonies available to the campus community via the Internet. The Visual History Archive (VHA) provides a rich bed of educational opportunities, for both classroom use and as a research tool. Access to the Visual History Archive is available from any computer on campus.

What is the Visual History Archive (VHA)?

The Visual History Archive (VHA) is a software tool created by the USC Shoah Foundation that allows users to both search for and view the digital video footage contained in the USC Shoah Foundation archive. The VHA provides a way for users to search for and to locate whole testimonies of relevance, as well as to locate more specific segments within the testimonies that relate to their interests.
 
The digitization, cataloguing and indexing of the testimonies allows users to create educational value from the raw testimonies by permitting full searching of the archive. The VHA currently contains access to video and data for most of the testimonies, and digitization, cataloging and indexing is a work in progress. Because of this, users will find that they have varying levels of access to the information contained in the testimonies. Most are fully accessible, but some are only partially accessible. See Archive Facts & Figures for more information regarding the number of testimonies that have been catalogued, indexed, and/or digitized.

What is a visual history testimony?

Each testimony consists of one survivor or witness speaking about his or her life before, during and after the Holocaust. About a week before the videotaping session, the interviewer assisted the survivor or other witness with completing a “Pre-Interview Questionnaire” (PIQ). This 40-page document was designed to elicit detailed biographical information such as birthplace, education, wartime experience, and information about family members. The answers provided a basis for the interviewer's preparatory research and enabled him or her to formulate questions appropriate to the interviewee's age, education, social and religious background, and experience during the Holocaust.
 
During the videotaped interview sessions, survivors are guided by questions from the Shoah Foundation interviewer.   At the end of the testimony, the interviewee is given the opportunity to display artifacts (such as photographs) and at this time family members are also given the opportunity to speak.   These testimonies were recorded on videotape and preserved on digital master tapes.   The testimonies average 2.5 hours in length.

Who did the USC Shoah Foundation interview?

The USC Shoah Foundation includes testimonies from multiple survivor and witness experience groups. Over 90 percent of the interviewees are Jewish. For a more detailed account of the languages, countries and experiences groups, see the Archive Facts & Figures.

Facts and Figures

Who did the USC Shoah Foundation interview?

The USC Shoah Foundation's Visual History Archive includes testimonies from multiple survivor and witness experience groups. Over 90 percent of the interviewees are Jewish. 

The experience groups include:

Homosexual Survivors: Interviewees who were targeted for persecution based on their homosexuality or suspected homosexuality.

Jehovah’s Witness Survivors: Interviewees who were targeted for persecution based on their religious convictions and/or expression of those convictions as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Jewish Survivors: Interviewees who were targeted for persecution under laws and/or policies against the Jews.

Political Prisoners: Interviewees who were targeted for persecution based on their political convictions and/or expression of those convictions.

Rescuers and Aid Providers: Interviewees who rescued those targeted for persecution and/or interviewees who were involved with the planning and implementation of aid programs during and after the war.

Sinti and Roma Survivors: Interviewees who were targeted for persecution under laws and/or policies against the Sinti and Roma (“Gypsies”).

Liberators and Liberation Witnesses: Interviewees who participated in the liberation of concentration camps and/or interviewees who entered concentration camps immediately after liberation due to assignments in or around camps.

Survivors of Eugenics Policies: Interviewees who were targeted for persecution under eugenics laws and/or policies.

War Crimes Trials Participants: Interviewees who were involved in war crimes trials after the war.

Non-Jewish Forced Laborers: Interviewees who were conscripted for labor by the Germans during World War II.

Miscellaneous (World War II): Interviewees whose World War II narrative falls outside other experience groups listed.

Tutsi Survivors: Interviewees who suffered and survived persecution as Tutsis in Rwanda between April 7th and July 19th, 1994. This includes individuals who were of Tutsi descent or were perceived to be of Tutsi descent.

Rescuer and Aid Providers (Rwandan Tutsi Genocide): Interviewees who saved the lives of, provided means of subsistence, or who were involved with the planning or implementation of aid programs to Tutsi and those opposed to the genocidal policy during the Rwandan Tutsi genocide of 1994.

In what countries has the USC Shoah Foundation conducted interviews?

Interviews were conducted in the following 57 countries:

Number of Testimonies By Country
Argentina
726
  Kazakhstan
6
Australia
2,475
  Latvia
79
Austria
187
  Lithuania
137
Belarus
246
  Macedonia
9
Belgium
204
  Mexico
111
Bolivia
23
  Moldova
284
Bosnia & Herzegovina
55
  Netherlands
1,044
Brazil
564
  New Zealand
53
Bulgaria
628
  Norway
34
Canada
2,815
  Peru
2
Chile
65
  Poland
1,372
Colombia
15
  Portugal
2
Costa Rica
19
  Romania
147
Croatia
327
 

Russia

675
Czech Republic
563

Rwanda

53
Denmark
94
  Serbia & Montenegro
346
Ecuador
9
  Slovakia
656
Estonia
9
  Slovenia
11
Finland
1
  South Africa
250
France
1,651
  Spain
7
Georgia
6
  Sweden
325
Germany
668
  Switzerland
69
Greece
303
  Ukraine
3,427
Hungary
80
  United Kingdom
863
Ireland
5
  United States
19,759
Israel
8,504
  Uruguay
122
Italy
417
  Uzbekistan
25
Japan
1
  Venezuela
227
Kazakhstan
6
  Zimbabwe
8

 

In which languages has the USC Shoah Foundation conducted interviews?

The Shoah Foundation has conducted interviews in 33 languages:

Bulgarian • Croatian • Czech • Danish • Dutch • English • Flemish • French • German • Greek • Hebrew • Hungarian • Italian • Japanese • Kinyarwanda • Ladino • Latvian • Lithuanian • Macedonian • Norwegian • Polish • Portuguese • Romani • Romanian • Russian • Serbian • Sign • Slovak • Slovenian • Spanish • Swedish • Ukrainian • Yiddish

Are the interviews fully indexed and fully catalogued?

The USC Shoah Foundation began the indexing process with the English-language testimonies, which make up nearly half of the archive. The English-language portion of indexing was completed in January 2004. Indexing for the interviews in other languages was completed at the end of 2005.

The USC Shoah Foundation's Cataloguing Department catalogues and indexes each testimony. The cataloguing consists of the entry of brief biographical information about each interviewee while the index links a controlled vocabulary of 60,000 key words to time codes in the video. Keywords include cities, villages, and other geographical locations (e.g., Oswiecim, Poland) and place names (Auschwitz [Poland: Concentration Camp]), as well as descriptions of experiences during the Holocaust (“sense of time in the camps”).  Much of this information was collected in a Pre-Interview Questionnaire (PIQ), a tool that interviewers employed to gather background information from survivors, so that they could tailor the interviews to each survivor’s experience.

In addition, staff members also index each testimony by assigning index terms to every one-minute segment of video viewed. This level of indexing permits researchers to locate all instances in which interviewees discuss a given topic in detail, and provides access by time-period, place, and theme. The names of individual people are also indexed, using a set of basic biographic data associated with each person in the testimony.