Inspired by the experience of making “Schindler’s List,” filmmaker Steven Spielberg established the USC Shoah Foundation in 1994 to videotape interviews with survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust. Since the Foundation’s inception, nearly 52,000 eyewitness testimonies have been recorded in 56 countries and in 32 languages. Today the Institute is committed to teaching through testimony, endeavoring to make the power of each story accessible to students, educators, scholars, and the general public on every continent. It is meant to be a powerful reminder of the heroism and humanity exhibited by those willing to stand up against intolerance.
In honor of the 20th Anniversary of “Schindler’s List,” Universal Studios Home Entertainment has partnered with the USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education for the launch of the IWitness Video Challenge. It is a program for middle and high school students bringing testimonies into the classroom for guided exploration, connecting kids with the past while engaging them in the present.
The contest is open to middle and high school students attending public, private or home schools in the U.S. and Canada. It challenges students to honor the legacy of “Schindler’s List” by engaging in community service, having been inspired by survivors’ testimonies. They showcase their actions in an IWitnessvideo essay.
The announcement of the program’s launch was made last week at The Chandler School in Pasadena, California. Spielberg joined USC Shoah Foundation Executive Director Dr. Stephen Smith and USC Shoah Foundation Director of Education Dr. Kori Street in commemorating the Schindler’s List 20th Anniversary Limited Edition Blu-ray release and the global launch of the USC Shoah Foundation’s IWitness Video Challenge. Three students from The Chandler School who had participated in the IWitness Video Challenge as a school project presented videos that demonstrated what they gained from their experiences.
Spielberg’s heartfelt speech included a tribute to his parents who he credits with inspiring his interest in the Holocaust from a young age. He said that it took him ten years after finding out about the Schindler’s List story to become ready to produce it. He felt the need to transition from doing kids’ movies to making movies for more mature audiences.
When Spielberg started filming in Poland, he met a woman who described her Holocaust experiences to him. Hearing her story was the catalyst for creating the Shoah Foundation. “It was my goal when I established the Shoah Foundation that future generations would learn from the incredible life stories preserved in the Visual History Archive,” Spielberg said. “This challenge was created because I’ve seen how students connect with survivors through watching their testimony – and the impact it has on them. They experience a kind of learning that is profound and personal. And they take that with them into their lives.”
“Schindler’s List” is now available for the first time on Blu-ray. Digitally restored in high-definition from the original film negative, the Blu-ray release will expose the film to a whole new generation of viewers.