An online tool to learn about the Holocaust

Today, the 27th of January, is the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. It is declared an International Day of Commemoration to honor victims of the Holocaust by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution on Holocaust remembrance: resolution A/RES/60/7.

The resolution condemns any denial of the Holocaust’s happening. It urges schools of member nations to adopt educational programs that facilitate learning about the Holocaust to prevent the horrors of genocide in the future.   

The UN Department of Public Information has partnered with the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation Institute to make the educational plans happen. According to a press release, the Shoah Foundation Institute was established by Stephen Spielberg in 1994. The institute manages one of the largest video digital libraries, with 54,000 testimonials from Holocaust survivors.

And now students and teachers have access to some of the video testimonials–more than 1,000 of them—as an online educational resource. The resource has been named IWitness. It is developed for students between the ages of 13 and 18. IWitness has added a deeply personal and relevant touch to learning about the Holocaust beyond what any textbook could teach.

“The video is an immediacy that allows them to not only see the faces but also hear the voices. It’s from a personal point of view because they are connected with something that is very human, and that’s unique,” Kim Simon, managing director of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute told USC’s campus publication, the Daily Trojan.

The Shoah Foundation Institute’s Web site also states that the IWitness application contains access to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s vast Holocaust Encyclopedia and Yad Vashem’s Holocaust Resource Center. This includes access to archived documents, photographs, maps, letters, and diary entries.

That’s pretty cool, in my book.

On January 23, more than 350 New York metropolitan area high school students assembled at the UN Headquarters to discuss their experiences with IWitness, a UN press release states.  Students talked about the videos they had seen. They also had the opportunity to interview a Holocaust survivor, Roman Kent, who was a guest at the event.

A webcast of the gathering can be viewed here.

Other than the links I have provided, there isn’t much that has been written about the schools’ reception of this program. I can only assume that it has been a useful and positive educational tool. But I would really like to know how many schools and how many classrooms are implementing the program. Is the program available to college students like myself?

For this important part of history I am glad to see an innovative way of teaching. If we are to make sure history won’t repeat itself, it is important to learn fully as many different perspectives and voices on the subject as possible.

You can view some sample testimonial videos on the IWitness Web site.

So extensive are the archives that you can plug in a name and videos will appear. It may be worth a subscription.

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