Preserved in perpetuity in the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive are more than 1,200 Canadian Holocaust. In 1988, the Holocaust Centre of Toronto (now the Toronto Holocaust Museum) began a project to collect oral histories from Toronto’s diverse community of Holocaust survivors. The interview process was designed and directed by historian Dr. Paula Draper and was supported by Holocaust survivors, Nate Leipciger, Elly Gotz, and Max Eisen along with other members of the committee. In Toronto alone, over 400 Holocaust survivors were interviewed and they spoking about their family life before the war, their survival during the Holocaust and their eventual arrival and life in Canada. Similarly, in 1989, volunteers with the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre began conducting interviews with survivors in a small studio at their Centre, collecting 550 recorded interviews. These interviews; along with other recorded testimony collections from McGill University, Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee National Archives, the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University, Ottawa Jewish Archives, Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre and Jewish Archives and Historical Society of Edmonton and Northern Alberta, and Calgary Jewish Federation; have become part of the USC Shoah Foundation’s Canadian Collection, a part of their Visual History Archive. These 1,253 Canadian testimonies have been digitized, fully indexed, and preserved to serve the purposes for which they were so painfully recorded, clarifying the Canadian story in relation to the Holocaust and Jewish immigration to Canada post-1945. Without this initiative, many of these smaller Canadian collections of testimony would be at risk of deterioration. As the current generation of students will be the last to experience the in-person survivor testimony, this initiative is more important than ever for both educational purposes and for providing this community the opportunity to hear their own family’s histories in perpetuity. The sheer volume of indexed testimonies allows for in depth research, revealing historical specificity and details about the Holocaust experience.
The digitized and integration of the Canadian collection of survivor testimony into the VHA was made possible in part, by the Government of Canada. We are grateful for additional generous support from the Azrieli Foundation, Paula Nussbaum and family, Janette & Michael Diamond in memory of Jack and Mila Penn, POWER Corporation, and the Asper Foundation.