In 1994 Stephen Spielberg made one of his most famous films, Schindler’s List, a requiem for the millions of Holocaust victims. Dedicated to those who miraculously survived, Spielberg’s film received a tremendous amount of feedback. The bottom line is not the seven Oscars but the fact that the events described by Spielberg were not the creative invention of a talented director but the truth, which can be revealed only when “boring” contemporary democratic ideals have been forgotten and cease to work.
After Schindler’s List was released, Spielberg created the Shoah Visual History Foundation to shoot and collect visual history testimonies of Holocaust survivors. In the next few years the foundation completed a great amount of work, accumulating around 52,000 eyewitness testimonies in 56 countries and 36 languages. Between 1996 and 1998 roughly 3,500 survivors and other Holocaust witnesses from Ukraine shared their memoirs with the Shoah Foundation. The interviews are not simply stored in the archive but are used for creating documentaries. The Foundation sees its mission in overcoming prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry.
Although a number of feature films [on the Holocaust] were shot in the USSR, including Babyn Yar and Komisar, a large-scale documentary featuring thousands of testimonies was never made. On January 19, people’s deputy of Ukraine Viktor Pinchuk made a substantial contribution to creating a new documentary based on eyewitness testimonies taped in Ukraine and on material from the Shoah Foundation. Mr. Pinchuk, who initiated this project, is also the founder of the Interpipe Scientific and Production Group. The film project, which will take 18 months to complete, also envisages the publication of a textbook for students and teachers. The film will include mostly interviews with Holocaust survivors and witnesses, recorded in Ukraine. The Foundation has long nurtured the idea of creating a film about the terrible events in Ukraine, primarily the tragedy of Babyn Yar. The film will be produced by Messrs. Pinchuk and Spielberg, who agreed that studying this horrible page of Ukraine’s history would help create a strong and democratic Ukraine. The producers are convinced their film will be of interest to the general public. People will be eager to listen to these stories, which some of us heard from relatives or friends who experienced this nightmare. Others read about it in books or imagined the events of fall 1941 while taking a stroll in Babyn Yar. The heroes of the film will describe how they survived and also how they dealt with this experience. The Shoah Foundation Archive presents an extremely vivid and detailed picture of the Holocaust and life in Ukraine in the pre- and post-war period.
President and CEO of the Shoah Foundation Douglas Greenberg thanked Mr. Pinchuk for his assistance in implementing this project. He said that the Shoah Foundation is responsible for unearthing testimonies collected in the countries whose history they are documenting. Hardly any country deserves more respect in this regard than Ukraine, Mr. Greenberg emphasized.