IWitness: Holocaust Archive for students and educators

Many of the students in my school are fascinated by military history. It is not just the weaponry or the battle descriptions but they love to research the idea of strategies, the personal stories, the heroism and the villany. The ethics of warfare is also a topic debated by the boys. Themes are covered in the history classes and in English, when in Year 10 they read “All quiet on the Western Front”. Novels set in times of war are perennially  popular and in RE the boys undertake studies on morality and ethical decision-making.

Always looking for resources to assist in our students’ education I was very interested to look through the IWitness site which I found from the AASL’s Best websites for Teaching and Learning. This is a good list if you are looking for useful sites/tools to use in schools

IWitness is a testimony archive that allows students and their teachers/educators more than 1,000 video testimonies to view, search and learn from.

The video clips offer very rich and comprehensive accounts told by Holocaust survivors. The videos allow the survivors talk use “their own voice” to describe a number of Holocaust topics. You can search for videos on 52 topics including: Anti-Jewish laws, Antisemitism, Auschwitz, Choice/dilemma, Courage, Daily life (wartime), Fear, Hitler Youth, Justice, Kristallnacht, Prewar life, Postwar Life, Reflections on the Holocaust, Stereotypes, War Crimes Trials to name just some. Click on the topics listed and you get a description and thumbnails.

Open up a video and you can listen to the subject recount their experience. Each of the videos has information about the person talking and, below the video, a list of related links. Each of the clips are usually about one-minute long and are part of much longer testimonies given by the subjects.

You can search a topic or concept, for example Bergen-Belsen. This search brought up a lot of hits and had various options for me to filter or refine my search.

At the moment IWitness is still in Beta form so if you want to go further in this part of the site you have to be able to login. Educators can apply to gain access to the fuller version of the site.

There are additional links to information via the resources page and a useful FAQ page.

The testimonies available on IWitness are part of around 52,000 testimonies of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses archived on a website that is maintained by the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation Institute, which was established in 1994 by Steven Spielberg.

I like that the voices of survivors will be able to be heard into the future. I believe it is important that our students will be able to hear real-life stories of people from many countries, both the survivors of and witnesses to, the Holocaust. Students need to be able to understand how many different ways, large and small,  people were impacted by this major 20th century occurrence. Personal stories help our students better comprehend the impact on both the individual and society.

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