DVD collection: B.C. survivors of Holocaust share their stories

Editor’s note: Jan. 27, 2015 is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of prisoners from Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945. TRU has the only collection of video testimonies of British Columbians who survived the Holocaust, purchased by the TRU library in 2007. The following article was originally published in the print edition of Inside TRU in 2007. Dr. Jeff 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.

Some of Holocaust videos.

Some of Holocaust videos.

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 B.C. survivor testimonies for the people of B.C.

“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.

About Mel Rothenburger (9652 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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