How the Shoah Foundation Works

Gathering the Testimonies
A Shoah interview
A Shoah interview
Photo courtesy Shoah Foundation

To create one visual history testimony, it took:

  • Someone to organize the assignment of an interviewee with an interviewer
  • An interviewee (a survivor or witness)
  • An interviewer
  • A videographer
  • A production assistant

In order to locate survivors and witnesses to interview, the Shoah Foundation established an outreach program through local lay and religious leaders in communities around the world. The word-of-mouth campaign among these communities was supplemented by some media coverage such as advertisements and articles in local newspapers. As interest in giving testimony blossomed, the Shoah Foundation hired and trained more than 100 personnel in 34 countries to act as Regional Coordinators. It was the responsibility of the coordinators to match each interviewee with the right interviewer.

More than 2,300 interviewers participated in three- and four-day seminars given by the Shoah Foundation. These seminars consisted of focused instruction in interviewing methods, lectures in history, and practice sessions in conducting sample interviews. One of the most amazing things about this entire process is that all of the interviewers were volunteers. Absolutely for free, these folks gave their time and expertise to conduct interviews that, on average, took two and one-half hours. Some interviews were somewhat shorter and many were much, much longer. The longest interview in the archive is just over 17 hours.

The majority of the interviewers have some foundation in psychology, education, history, sociology and/or journalism; some hold professional degrees in law or medicine; some have a close connection to the Holocaust in that they are survivors themselves or the children of survivors. Each interviewer was required to adhere to a strict interviewing methodology developed by the Shoah Foundation specifically for Holocaust survivors and witnesses. This methodology was developed with the help of Holocaust historians, psychologists, oral historians and other experts.

Left to right: Bill Clinton, survivor Renee Firestone, Steven Spielberg, and Douglas Greenberg
Photo courtesy Shoah Foundation