USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s Visual History Archive and FU Berlin

Freie Universität Berlin partners with USC Shoah Foundation Institute to become first in Europe to access Institute’s Visual History Archive

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA/BERLIN, GERMANY – December 4, 2022 – Today, at the Freie Universität Berlin, the University’s President Dieter Lenzen and Douglas Greenberg, Executive Director of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, announced that the University is the first outside of the United States to access the Institute’s Visual History Archive, which contains nearly 52,000 testimonies from survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust.  The archive is the world’s largest of its kind.

“A primary goal of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute is to provide access to the archive to the broadest audience possible,” said Institute Executive Director Douglas Greenberg. “We are thrilled that Freie Universität Berlin will be one of the institutions to provide this resource to its students, educators, and scholars.  As the first institution in Europe to provide digital access, Freie Universität Berlin is leading the way in incorporating video and related multimedia applications into the traditional way of teaching and research.”

“The Freie Universität Berlin, which was founded after the Second World War, is proud to be the first university in Europe to provide access to the Visual History Archive for researchers and students,” said Dieter Lenzen, President of the Freie Universität Berlin. “In various ways, this unique archive broadens the opportunities for research on National Socialism, particularly on the Holocaust and on racial persecution, and helps us to intensify the culture of remembrance. History not only consists of facts and figures, but also of individual ways of life and personal destiny - precisely what the archive documents. It opens completely new and additional resources for the numerous research and teaching projects in the respective academic fields at our university.”

Friends of Freie Universität Berlin, a not-for-profit charitable organization located in New York City, was instrumental in creating the collaborative partnership between the USC Shoah Foundation Institute and the Freie Universität Berlin that resulted in the University’s access to the Visual History Archive. “We are proud and humbled by our role in bringing about for the Freie Universität Berlin access to this priceless historical repository; this is forever a sustainable project, as countless generations will be able to understand why such atrocities must never happen again,” said Hélène Sostarich-Barsamian, the Executive Director of Friends of Freie Universität Berlin.

Until today, only four universities in the United States – Yale University, Rice University, University of Michigan, and the University of Southern California, where the Institute is located – provided digital access to the archive.  Access is enabled via Internet2, a high-capacity network created to allow educators, researchers, and scholars to share large amounts of data efficiently. Internet2 was created to promote research and communication between more than 200 universities and research institutions in the United States, and between institutions connected worldwide to similar networks.  A broadband connection between Internet2 and DFN – the Internet2 equivalent in Germany – across the Atlantic Ocean enables the University to access the Visual History Archive digitally, ensuring efficient use.

At Freie Universität Berlin, the Visual History Archive will be hosted by the central computer center. Faculty, students, and staff will be able to perform searches, conduct research, and view specific segments or entire testimonies. The project will be managed by the Center for Digital Systems (CeDiS), the multimedia and e-learning competence center of the Freie Universität. CeDiS will provide content and technology support for the use of the archive in research and classroom teaching, entering into the very innovative and future-oriented area of digital video teaching. In cooperation with the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, it plans also to develop advanced e-learning applications using the Visual History Archive. The archive includes interviews with individuals representing a broad range of experiences, including Jewish survivors, homosexual survivors, Jehovah’s Witness survivors, Sinti and Roma survivors, survivors of Eugenics policies, political prisoners, rescuers and aid providers, liberators and liberation witnesses, and war crimes trials

The Freie Universität Berlin has placed itself at the forefront of academic establishments by advancing an overall agenda against totalitarianism, anti-Semitism, and racism via numerous partnerships. The Visual History Archive enhances the multi-disciplinary studies at the University, creating a hallmark program that is international in scope, and providing an exemplary comprehensive model.

About Freie Universität Berlin
The Freie Universität Berlin is one of the leading universities in the world and distinguishes itself through its modern and international character. It is also one of the largest universities in Germany, offering degree courses in more than 130 subjects for 35,000 students – of which 15 percent come from other countries. The Freie Universität maintains wide ranging international contacts to other universities and organisations which provide key impulses for research and teaching:

Already in the 1950s, the Freie Universität had established partnerships with leading American universities such as Stanford, Princeton, and Columbia, as well as with West European universities. Today, the Freie Universität has 121 partnerships world-wide, and every year more than 1.500 visiting scientists contribute to the university’s teaching and research. The university also exerts a considerable academic attraction for students and researchers from Germany and other countries. Its library system is one of the largest of any German university and it is closely linked with the other major libraries in Berlin and Brandenburg. In addition to a large history faculty, the Freie Universität has a broad spectrum of small subjects in the humanities and the social sciences, including for example Jewish Studies and Theatre Studies, which fit in quite well in Berlin’s cultural landscape, with its unparalleled array of libraries and museums.

About the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education
With a collection of nearly 52,000 video testimonies in 32 languages and from 56 countries, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s archive is the largest visual history archive in the world.  The Institute interviewed Jewish survivors, homosexual survivors, Jehovah’s Witness survivors, liberators and liberation witnesses, political prisoners, rescuers and aid providers, Roma and Sinti survivors (Gypsy), survivors of Eugenics policies, and war crimes trials participants.

The mission of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute is to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry–and the suffering they cause–through the educational use of the Institute’s visual history testimonies.  The Institute relies upon partnerships in the United States and around the world to provide public access to the archive and advance scholarship in many fields of inquiry.  The Institute and its partners also utilize the archive to develop educational products and programs for use in many countries and languages.


Talia Cohen 
USC Shoah Foundation Institute
(213) 740-6036              

Helene Sostarich-Barsamian                     
Friends of Freie Universität Berlin 
(212) 644-5865

Nicolas Apostolopoulos
Freie Universität Berlin

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