This book covers in detail both the making of the epic movie Schindler's List as well as the concept, development and implementation of the Holocaust eyewitness fact-finding operations that would become
The Shoah Foundation.
Testimony: The Legacy of Schindler's List and the USC Shoah Foundation (A Twentieth Anniversary Commemoration) consists of two portions.
The first section delves into the making of the motion picture and the challenges to shoot the difficult source material, much of it in frigid conditions on location in Poland where
a great deal of the story originated. Additionally, the book covers the impact of the shooting on the actors, including everybody from the stars to the local population who were used as extras for much of the filming. This section also describes how some of the locals who had lived through the Nazi nightmare came to visit the set to meet Steven Spielberg and to thank him for the story he was about to tell.
It was during these random meetings that Spielberg got the idea to capture the video testimony of these eyewitnesses. He wanted to capture for historical documentation their own memories of this darkest time of human recorded history.
This segues into the second part of the book, which describes the need, the creation and the deployment of a worldwide operation to find and video-document the WWII survivors. With many of them at that time in their seventies and older, time was quickly running out.
The book then describes in detail how the processes were developed. This includes all aspects, including how the actual survey questioners and survivors were located. Material covers the training of the interviewers
and the collection and cataloguing of the immense amounts of video, all the way through to the indexing and editing of material.
It was a tremendously daunting process, but through the focus and determination of many dedicated volunteers as well as staff, the work was finally completed. In 1994, Spielberg established
The Shoah Foundation; in the following four years nearly 52,000 eyewitness interviews were video recorded in 56 countries and 32 languages. Since 2006,
the foundation has been partnered with the University of Southern California. It has broadened its mission and now collects and preserves testimonies from other genocides, including those in Armenia, Cambodia, and Rwanda, while expanding its educational outreach. Its Visual History Archive, which is now fully digitized and searchable, has become the largest digital collection of its kind in the world.
Beyond the many memorable and enjoyable movies made by Steven Spielberg, The Shoah Foundation is truly his greatest legacy.