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The Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, which is a part of the Yale Library, has opened a temporary European Outreach Office in Vienna, Austria in collaboration with the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies, or VWI.

The goal of the new office, which may have office fitouts, is to develop an interconnected network of institutions and researchers within Europe and Israel that can make use of the archive’s 4,400 video testimonies of Holocaust survivors, witnesses and liberators. 

“The Fortunoff Archive was built as a cooperative, grassroots effort with affiliate partners recording testimonies all over the world,” Archive Director Stephen Naron said. “Now that the collection is digital, we have the unique possibility of returning this international collection to the countries where many of these testimonies originated and helping promote their use in education and research.” 

The VWI, an academic institution focused on the study of antisemitism and the Holocaust, has been collaborating with the Fortunoff Archive for the past three years, working on a variety of projects including the establishment of a postdoctoral fellowship program based in Vienna. The opening of the office is the culmination of that collaboration.

The Fortunoff Archive has committed to keeping the office open for the next two years, which according to Naron is the “minimum amount of time” needed for it to fulfill its intended purpose. The European Outreach Office will be housed in VWI’s Vienna location for the duration of those years. Naron has relocated to Vienna to oversee the project while the remainder of the archive’s staff continues to be based in Sterling Memorial Library. 

“I’m excited about the archive working more directly with the European research community,” said Christy Bailey-Tomecek, project archivist for the Fortunoff Archive. “I think that the Vienna office will help us to make and maintain stronger connections with European researchers and allow for more thorough examination, analysis and remembrance of survivors’ experiences documented in our testimonies.”

Naron described Vienna as the optimal location for the new office, explaining that the centrality of the city provides him with easy access to relevant conferences and workshops occurring throughout Europe. The location also facilitates the archive’s participation in the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure, an umbrella organization of about 20 groups working to advance Holocaust research. 

Naron also noted the historical importance of locating the office in Austria, the birthplace of some of the most historically significant proponents of Nazism, including Hitler himself. 

“I cannot overstate the significance of the location,” Naron said. “As an early collaborator with Nazi Germany, the country is still having a hard time working through its own dark past, which is why access to a collection such as the Fortunoff Archive is so important.” 

Since the office’s opening, Naron has given presentations on the archive’s collection in Germany, Poland and Greece. The archive also plans to support four major conferences held in Poland, Israel and Lithuania over the next 12 months that will feature parts of its collection.

The establishment of the European Outreach Office now makes the Fortunoff Video Archive geographically accessible for some of the most important Holocaust research being conducted today. Naron described Europe as a hub for Holocaust research, where scholars are “grappling painfully” with the roles their countries played in the mass extermination of European Jews and other groups.  

“Through [the] work in the Vienna office, these 4,400 testimonies will be more widely seen and heard, so that scholars and others can continue to learn from the lives and memories of survivors and witnesses,” said Patricia Carey, director of communications for the Yale University Library. 

The Fortunoff Video Archive’s original collection was donated to Yale University in 1981. 

Ines Chomnalez writes for the University desk covering Yale Law School. She previously wrote for the Arts desk. Ines is a sophomore in Pierson College majoring in History and Cognitive Science.