How the Shoah Foundation Works

Through the Author's Eyes: How It Works

As we're doing research for our articles, we generally look for what we call the "aha!" moment or moments. For some topics, this comes fairly quickly and for others it takes more time. But we always find them. You'd figure that for articles that are about some process or device, the "aha" moments would be fairly abundant, and you'd be correct in that assumption. But for articles like this one, you might be wondering how the "aha" moment relates. Let me assure you that it does.

After several days of research both for the article and in preparation of an interview with the Shoah Foundation CEO, Doug Greenberg, I experienced a really satisfying "aha!" It was while watching the "About the Foundation" video (for the second time). There I sat, completely mesmerized by what I was seeing (tearful clips from testimony, heart-breaking images from the Holocaust and other genocides, clips of reactions from students upon seeing testimony) and hearing (Morgan Freeman's comforting voice backed by just the right music) when I had the moment. A young girl, presumably one of the students from the "Giving Voice" video, actually admits that watching the testimony and participating in a Shoah Foundation educational program helped her identify her own bigotry:

I identified many beliefs that I have that are prejudicial, and it made me think twice about the things that I do or even the jokes I laugh at.

For me, that exemplifies how the Shoah Foundation works. Getting a person to admit that he or she has bigoted or prejudiced ideas is difficult. If you can get someone to admit that within themselves, then that's the first giant step toward the Foundation's overarching mission "to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry -- and the suffering they cause -- through the educational use of the Foundation's visual history testimonies." I spoke with Doug Greenberg about this, and here's what he had to say:

We trust the survivors to tell their stories in a compelling way, and we trust students to draw from these stories conclusions that are appropriate to their own lives. Our experience is that if we do it right, the survivors in some ways do all the hard work. All we have to do is find some way to get this material in front of young people. They don't all draw the same conclusions from it, and they don't all the next day go out and say "My cause in life is to eliminate intolerance, prejudice and bigotry."

But, according to Greenberg, the process is a lot like climbing Mount Everest. You don't do it in one giant step. It's all about each individual step -- you keep taking them, and eventually you find yourself at the summit. Greenberg continues:

If we can introduce one more survivor to one more young person, that's going to make a difference. The Nazi's didn't murder 6 million people all at once; they murdered them one person at a time, and the world changes the same way -- one person at a time. One survivor talking to one student whose life is changed in consequence. We're very lucky we have 52,000 teachers in the archive -- each of them with a different story to tell. I believe those stories are stories that will change young people if only we can be creative about how to get [the stories] in front of [them].

For more information regarding the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation and related topics, check out the links on the following page.

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