In a significant expansion of its archive, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education is launching a new effort to preserve and share video testimony from survivors of the 1994 Rwandan Tutsi genocide.
With key partners in Rwanda, the institute plans to add at least 50 testimonies from Rwandan survivors and witnesses to its Visual History Archive in 2012.
The Shoah Foundation Institute’s Visual History Archive is one of the largest repositories of video testimony from Holocaust survivors in the world, with nearly 52,000 video testimonies in 32 languages, and representing 56 countries.
“We cannot compare human suffering, but its causes and consequences must be compared, with the historical integrity of each experience clearly delineated in a manner that is deep and respectful,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Shoah Foundation Institute.
In the last few years, the institute has formed landmark collaborations with IBUKA, the umbrella organization representing survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center.
With a grant from the ACE Charitable Foundation, the Shoah Foundation Institute conducted 10 pilot interviews with Rwandan survivors living in the United States, and then indexed them according to the institute’s methodology.
Four survivors of the Rwandan genocide – Yves Kamuronsi, Diogene Mwizerwa, Martin Niwenshuti and Paul Rukesha – currently are visiting fellows at the institute, working with staff to develop indexing terminology for the new testimonies that will be added to the Visual History Archive.
“The lesson we’ve gotten from the pilot program is that survivors want to come forward, and they come with the mindfulness that they are speaking on behalf of those who did not survive. They are leaving a legacy so people know what happened,” said Karen Jungblut, director of research and documentation at the Shoah Foundation Institute. “For people who were meant to be eradicated, these testimonies are an important reassurance that their lives – their stories – are important to the world.”
Testimonies from survivors of the Rwandan genocide, which took more than 800,000 lives in less than 100 days, have been collected in Rwanda by the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center and will be added to the institute’s Visual History Archive. The local organizations will retain ownership of the files, with the Shoah Foundation Institute helping to build expertise in visual cataloging and providing a technical platform for worldwide dissemination.
Roméo Dallaire, force commander of the United Nations peacekeeping force for Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, gave testimony to the Shoah Foundation Institute as part of the new initiative. Dallaire’s testimony was recorded at the institute after “Measures of Humanity: An Evening With Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire,” a signature event of Visions and Voices, the arts and humanities initiative at USC.