Fortunoff Video Archive featured in “End of Testimony?,” a new exhibit in Vienna

  • Large marble interior with chandeliers and arched ceilings. Large video display shows seated man with grey hair, glasses, white shirt, dark tie, and jacket.
  • Closeup of exhibit display showing grey betacam cassette case on top of mylar surface; typed page shows through underneath; in upper left corner is a small video display showing a round decorative skylight. Descriptive text panels in German and English are visible along the bottom edge of the image.
  • Closeup of video screen of man with white hair and glasses; in upper right of screen is the word "Yale." Below his chin are the German caption of speaker, "Mochten Sie etwas sagen?"
February 1, 2023

Yale Library’s Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies has contributed materials from its collection to “End of Testimony?,” an exhibition now on view in the House of Austrian History museum in Vienna. According to the museum’s website, the exhibition explores the inevitable end of the “era of living Holocaust survivors.” When survivors pass away, all that remains are documents, memoirs, archives—and recorded testimonies like those preserved in the Fortunoff Video Archive. The exhibition raises the question, “How will societies make use of this legacy in the future?” 

The exhibit—which opened on Jan. 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day—includes more than a half-dozen Fortunoff testimonies. Three interviews are installed on video screens just a few feet away from the altan where Adolf Hitler greeted some 200,000 supporters after the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria into the German Reich in 1938. “It was with equal feelings of nausea, sadness, and something like pride to see our testimonies there,” said Stephen Naron, director of the Fortunoff Video Archive.

The archive also displayed some of its interview training materials, Betacam videocassettes (a broadcast recording format its interviewers use often), and an excerpt from the 1983 documentary Those Who Were There. The documentary was created from interviews with survivors and with the founders of the New Haven–based Holocaust Survivors Film Project, the archive’s predecessor organization.

Since its founding in 1979, the mission of the Fortunoff Video Archive has been to preserve and share the experiences of eyewitnesses to the Holocaust era. As time passes, there will be increasingly fewer surviving witnesses, making Fortunoff’s ongoing work invaluable. To date, this special library collection contains more than 4,400 videotaped testimonies—more than 12,000 recorded hours of interviews, conducted in more than 20 languages.

“End of Testimony?” is on view through Sept. 3. at the House of Austrian History, Neue Burg, Heldenplatz. The exhibition is a cooperative effort between the Jewish Museum Hohenems, a regional museum located in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg, and the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp Memorial in Germany.

Learn more about the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies and listen to its podcast series “Those Who Were There: Voices from the Holocaust.”

—Deborah Cannarella

Images: Projected videotaped testimonies and case of objects from the Fortunoff collection, on display in “The End of Testimony?” at the House of Austrian History, Vienna. Photos by Stephen Naron