Survivor testimonies—firsthand accounts from individuals who lived through genocide and other atrocities—help students more deeply appreciate and empathize with the human and inhuman dimensions of important moments in history. They supplement what we learn from historians and secondary sources by offering unique perspectives on the difficult and sometimes impossible situations individuals were forced to confront during moments of collective violence and injustice.
The aging of members of our precious survivor network and the advent of digital testimony that is both available and accessible have changed the landscape of what it means to hear an authentic eye witness account. New technologies provide the opportunity for the children and now the grandchildren of survivors who are devoted to their own family story to add new dimensions that support teaching about the Holocaust in classrooms. New tools, such as IWitness allow us to create the proper historical context for each survivor story.
The classroom discussions that follow an exploration of survivor visits often complicate students’ ideas about choices, compassion, courage, rescue, resistance, memory, and legacy. These rich conversations reconfirm the significance of our work—to educate students to find their voice and then use it to contribute to the world around them.
Lesson Ideas for Exploring Survivor Testimony in the Classroom
Our free resource "Exploring Survivor Testimony Lesson Ideas" collects the tools you need to build a successful classroom visit or projects, including Preparing for a Visit, Experiencing Survivor Testimony, Discussing and Debriefing, and more.
Survivor Profiles give students access to video testimony, as well as primary source documents, photographs, and biographical information about the survivor. They can be used to bring survivor voices into the classroom or to help prepare for a survivor visit. Your Facing History program associate can help you locate a survivor or a survivor’s descendent in your area.
To deepen your understanding of survivor testimonies, as well as the possibilities and limits of this genre, we invite you to explore in-depth articles by Lawrence Langer, a prominent scholar in the fields of genocide studies, history, psychology, and literature.
Resources on Survivor Experiences
Facing History Library Resources: For educators in our network
Facing History Online Video Clips: Survivors talk about their experiences
Web Resources: Survivor testimony available through other organizations
Finding Memoirs by Survivors