Thompson Rivers University

DVD collection: BC survivors of the Holocaust share their stories

  Posted on: January 26, 2015

Holocaust survivors from BC share their stories

Some of the video testimonies of Holocaust survivors from B.C. that make up a collection in the TRU Library.

With Jan. 27, 2015 being the 70th anniversary of the liberation of prisoners from Auschwitz concentration camp, it’s a poignant time to remind people of TRU Library‘s unique DVD collection of testimonies from British Columbians who survived the Holocaust of the Second World War.

In 2007, TRU Philosophy faculty member Jeff McLaughlin spearheaded the university’s purchase of the entire BC collection of testimonies as created by the USC Shoah Foundation Institute.

The 74 DVDs are part of a larger collection created by Shoah of 50,000 testimonies in 32 languages by people living in 56 countries.

Jan. 27 is also International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Read more about the collection through the article below.

TRU Library acquires archive of BC’s Holocaust survivor testimonies

The following article was originally published in the print edition of Inside TRU, Winter 2007.

Update: McLaughlin is now an Associate Professor in Philosophy and Nancy Levesque has since retired.

The Thompson Rivers University library has become the home of the only archive of the province’s Holocaust survivor testimonies.

Dr. Jeff McLaughlin, assistant professor of philosophy at TRU, located the Holocaust archives when he was researching the ethical decision making of persons involved with the Holocaust. He was preparing materials for his new course on the topic, Philosophy 491.

The collection of 74 DVDs is part of the legacy from the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education. Established in 1994 by Steven Spielberg after filming Schindler’s List, the foundation documented the experiences of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust by videotaping more than 50,000 testimonies in 32 languages, by people living in 56 countries.

Although the USC Shoah Foundation Institute has some association with either a library, university or government department in most countries of the world (for example France and Germany purchased thousands of records of survivors from their countries), McLaughlin discovered there was no such major collection associated with any institution in Canada.

With endorsement from TRU’s department of Philosophy, History and Politics, plus support from the School of Education, McLaughlin arranged for TRU’s library to purchase the entire collection of BC survivor testimonies for the people of BC.

“The purchasing of this collection fit perfectly into the library’s collection policies,” Nancy Levesque, TRU University Library Director, said. “It was affordable and enables us to support the teaching, learning and research activities of the university.”

“As TRU grows and offers more graduate programs, accessing primary source research materials to our students becomes increasingly important.”

The collection will also be available to other university students through interlibrary loan. “The Holocaust has been studied at length from psychological, historical and political perspectives; there has been limited analysis from philosophers on the ethics of the Holocaust,” McLaughlin said.

Each DVD is two to four hours long, giving students and faculty access to hundreds of hours of primary research material.

“Viewing the survivor testimonies, people who could be the student’s neighbours, or grandparents, will give them an opportunity to theorize, understand, evaluate and perhaps gain insight into the current issues of genocide in Rwanda and Darfur,” McLaughlin said.

The visual testimonies in TRU’s collection include those imprisoned in the concentration camps, as well as those who survived either by hiding through the pogrom or those who hid others and how a member of the Sonderkommando (special unit for the gas chambers) escaped death during the Holocaust.