There’s something compelling about looking a person in the eye as they tell you a story. Especially if the story is theirs, and especially when it is a difficult story to tell. It’s this raw moment of personal connection that makes our collection of Oral Testimonies one of the most popular resources in Boniuk Library, and as we celebrate National Library Week, we would be remiss not to share a bit about these well-loved resources with you all. This collection of videos is made up of 300 recorded interviews with Survivors, Liberators, and Witnesses of the Holocaust, which offer viewers the chance to zoom in on history for a more personal and impactful experience.
Through tears and laughter, the testimonies take viewers on a journey into the lives of individuals before, during, and after World War II. As the interviewee leads you through their memories, it becomes increasingly difficult to observe history at a distance. You’ll find yourself relating to stories in unexpected ways; raging at injustice, breaking over loss, and ultimately wondering what you would do in the same situations.
This is the moment history starts to matter to our patrons. When a once murky and distant past draws close enough to see, the picture it reveals is often more familiar than we are comfortable with.
By breaking history down into the stories of individuals, it becomes easier to see pieces of ourselves in the past. Suddenly their lives become real, familiar even, and the phrase “Never Again” becomes an urgent warning; because if our lives look like theirs, then the events of the past don’t feel nearly as distant, or as impossible to repeat.
Whether you are a student, teacher, or just interested in exploring history, these Oral Testimonies are an excellent gateway for anyone looking to make a personal connection with the past. Start exploring today by viewing one of the Oral Testimony interviews easily accessible on our website under the Education Resources section, and search the library’s online catalog to see the other engaging testimonies which will be available to the public when the Museum reopens.
For those of you at home who are isolating with family or friends, consider this a unique opportunity to learn what stories they have to share. If you need some ideas about how to get started, HMH’s education team put together an activity guide with lots of helpful advice for collecting your own interviews. Here in Boniuk Library we love hearing new stories and seeing the ways our vibrant community is connected by both past and present, so be sure to share your stories with us on social media.