University receiving taped testimonies of Holocaust survivors

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown State University’s Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies is adding videotaped testimonies of Holocaust survivors from the Mahoning Valley to its collection.

The tapes were donated to the center by the Thomases Family Endowment of the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation.

YSU said it is the only place in Ohio, and one of only a handful of universities across the nation, with such videotaped interviews. Previously, the closest place to view the testimonies was at the University of Michigan or at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.

Helene Sinnreich, director of the Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies at YSU, said the tapes are an important part of preserving history. She said YSU joins prestigious universities like Yale, Harvard and Virginia, that have such testimonies.

“Soon, there will not be any Holocaust survivors available to give first-hand accounts of their experiences,” she said. “This wonderful gift will allow those voices to live on for generations, bringing their stories to students, researchers and the community at large for years to come.”

Kristine Blair, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, said YSU is honored to be the permanent home to the oral histories.

“Our understanding of history really needs to be experienced through those who lived it, those who survived it. So I think it that sense, this set of narratives is a powerful research tool and something that will put YSU on the map in terms of Holocaust and Jewish studies, more than it already is,” she said.

The 2- to 3-hour videotaped testimonies by 30 Holocaust survivors who settled in the Mahoning Valley were originally part of the Shoah Foundation collection at the University of Southern California. In 1994, Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg founded the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education to record testimonies in video format of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust.

The testimonies will be permanently housed at YSU to facilitate a research project being carried out by the Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies and the History Department.

Over the past three years, the Center has been gathering all known data on every Holocaust survivor who lived in the Mahoning Valley. To date, it has collected the names of 184 Holocaust survivors who at one time lived in the Youngstown area.
Anyone with a YSU login, including students, faculty and staff, will be able to access the collection anywhere on campus or at home by logging in remotely. The general public will be able to access the collection through public terminals at Maag Library.

For more information, visit the YSU Center of Judaic and Holocaust Studies.

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