The Fortunoff Archive as Model of Grassroots Refugee/Survivor Archival Activism

  • Date: –17:00
  • Location: IRES Library, Gamla torget 3, 3rd floor
  • Organiser: Hugo Valentin Centre, Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES) and Uppsala Forum
  • Contact person: Hanna Abakunova
  • Föreläsning

In 1979, a grassroots organization, the Holocaust Survivors Film Project, began videotaping Holocaust survivors and witnesses in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1981, the original collection of 183 testimonies was deposited at Yale University, and the Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies opened its doors to the public in 1982. Since then, the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies has initiated, recorded, and preserved witness testimonies in North and South America, Europe, and Israel. The collection of over 4,400 testimonies comprising more than 12,000 hours is available to researchers, educators, and the general public. 


Because it was founded by refugees and survivors, the Archive is a fascinating early example of the use of video oral history as a form of “archival activism” by and for survivors of mass violence. Its embeddedness in the community has had a lasting influence on all aspects of the Archive’s work including its conceptualization, interview methodology, cataloging, and how the collection should be used in teaching and research. This presentation will explore this influence by examining the history of the collection, the archive’s role in helping to shift focus to the individual witness in Holocaust historiography, and some of the ethical challenges and obligations inherent in an archive of this nature.

Stephen Naron has worked as an archivist/librarian since 2003, when he received his MSIS from the University of Texas, Austin (USA). Stephen pursued a Magister in Jewish studies/history at the Freie Universitaet Berlin and the Zentrum fuer Antisemitismusforschung, TU (Germany). He has worked with the Fortunoff Archive for more than 12 years, starting as an Archivist. Now, as director of the Fortunoff Archive, Stephen works within the wider research community to share access to our collection through the access site program, as well as writing and presenting on testimony for conferences, symposiums and class sessions inside and outside Yale. Stephen is also responsible for spearheading initiatives such as preservation and digital access to the collection; cooperative projects with other testimony collections; oversight of fellowship and research programs; and the production of the podcasts, ethnomusicological recordings, and the Archive’s documentary film series.