Frequently Asked Questions
» Is there a tutorial for IWitness?
You can watch a short video demonstration of IWitness here.
» Who conducted the interviews and when were they done?
Between 1994 and 1999, the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation—now
the USC Shoah Foundation—interviewed nearly 52,000 survivors and other
witnesses of the Holocaust. After developing an interviewing methodology in consultation
with Holocaust historians, psychologists, and experts in the field of oral history,
the Institute trained 2,300 interviewer candidates in 24 countries, hired 1,000
videographers, and recruited more than 100 regional coordinators and staff in 34
countries to organize the interviewing process in their respective regions.
» Are all of the USC Shoah Foundation's testimonies available to
search and view on the IWitness site?
No. IWitness contains 1,321 of the nearly 52,000 total interviews in the USC Shoah
Foundation's Visual History Archive.
» Do I have permission to share or use portions of the testimonies?
make derivative works using the editing tools provided on the site.
» How long is each testimony?
Testimonies vary in length depending upon the depth and details provided by the
survivor. The average length of a testimony available on the IWitness site is 2
hours 50 minutes. With regards to the entire archive of nearly 52,000 testimonies,
the average length of a testimony is 2 hours 5 minutes.
» How can I search the testimonies?
You can search for testimonies in a variety of ways. You can browse testimonies
that have been grouped by topics. Or you can search for testimonies using specific
terms or keywords. Once a term is entered into the search box, a list of suggested
matches appears in a drop-down box. As you place your cursor over each keyword term,
a box appears with the number of clips matching that term along with a definition
of the term. This will help you determine the most effective terms to use for your
» How are my search results presented?
The search results screen provides a thumbnail photo of each interviewee, with the
relevant keywords highlighted. There are several tools on the search results page
that allow you to sort and filter results in a variety of ways.
» What is the significance of the numbers that are displayed under the testimony
thumbnails in the search results screen?
Each number is a time code that represents the start and end of the clip in the
testimony during which the keyword is mentioned or described.
» What is a clip?
A clip is a part of a whole testimony. Most testimonies are indexed into one-minute
clips which can be retrieved by the user through keyword searches. Approximately
one in five testimonies within this collection were indexed using clips that are
longer than one minute. For these testimonies, the actual clip length can range
from one minute to nine minutes. Not every clip has keywords attached.
» Why do some clips have keywords and other clips have none?
Keywords are attached to one-minute clips when a topic is discussed or described
in some detail. If the discussion or description spans several clips, the relevant
keywords are usually applied once. Keywords may appear at the beginning of the discussion,
in the middle of the discussion, or towards the end of a discussion. New keywords
appear when the topic of conversation changes.
Approximately one in five testimonies within this collection were indexed using
larger clips than one minute. For these testimonies, the actual clip length can
range from one minute to nine minutes. Each clip in these testimonies usually has
» Can I search for a person if I don't know exactly how to spell his or her
The IWitness resource does not employ Soundex, so when searching for a person, you
may need to try several different spellings of the name. You can also try a portion
of the name, such as "Got" for "Gotfryd" or "Gottfried."
» What does it mean if the person's name I find has asterisk (*) after it?
An asterisk (*) indicates that the indexer was unable to verify the spelling of
this person's name from either the Pre-Interview Questionnaire or the video interview
itself, e.g. Shlomo* Weiss*.
» I see a survivor from Warsaw (Poland) is marked as born in Russia. Why is
In order to maintain consistency, the Shoah Foundation uses cataloguing guidelines
based on time periods. Some countries' borders and names changed after World War
I and again after World War II. To keep the information in the archive historically
accurate, the date of birth determines the country name catalogued for the country
Example: If a survivor states that he was born in Warsaw in 1909, the country of
birth is indexed as Russia. Poland came into existence as an independent country
only after World War I.
» How can I search for a city name if I don't know how it was spelled during
the prewar era?
City names and other geographic locations, including ghettos, camps, administrative
units (such as states or provinces), countries, etc., may be searched for using
preferred terms or variant spellings. For example, today the prewar city Lwów
is known as L'viv. Either spelling may be used to find the city name for your search,
as well as several other variants. You may need to try several different spellings
to find the appropriate term.
» What does it mean if there is a "(u)" in front of a keyword?
A "(u)" in front of a keyword means "unverified," i.e. that the existence of that
place (city, ghetto, camp) or resistance group could not be verified by the USC
Shoah Foundation's research staff using the sources at hand.
» What does it mean if a specific location has (generic) after it?
The word "(generic)" appearing after a city, ghetto, or camp name indicates that
more than one known location with the same name exists. When the indexer or researcher
was unable to verify the specific location referenced in the testimony, a generic
term was used. For example, the keyword Auschwitz (Poland : Concentration Camp)
(generic) was used when it was unclear whether the interviewee was referring to
the concentration camp Auschwitz I, the death camp Auschwitz II (Birkenau), or the
labor camp Auschwitz III (Monowitz).
» Is there a list of all the keywords used in all of the testimonies?
Yes, a master list of keywords used to index full archive of 52,000 testimonies
can be downloaded here: http://sfi.usc.edu/download/SFI_Thesaurus.pdf.
It includes all the experiential keywords but not the geographic keywords.
» What are the technical requirements to use IWitness?
Please download technical requirements here
» Can I use IWitness on my iPad or other mobile device?
Unfortunately, IWitness is not yet available for use on mobile platforms; we are planning on this for the future.
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