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Online Holocaust curriculum lets students view survivors' testimonies

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While filming "Schindler's List," Hollywood heavyweight Steven Spielberg had an idea that would eventually become the USC Shoah Foundation Institute. It is an effort to capture on camera the testimonies of as many Holocaust survivors as possible, in order to preserve their stories forever and prevent atrocities like the Holocaust from ever happening again.

Recently, the Shoah Foundation announced at the United Nations a program called "iWitness" that is bringing hundreds of those survivor videos online and into schools as part of a curriculum.

"It would be very simple to say, 'We have 50,000 Holocaust survivor testimonies at the Shoah Foundation, let's stick them on YouTube and let people just watch,' but actually you need a bit more context than that when you're learning so you can go through a step-by-step process," says Stephen Smith of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute. "So we've created all sorts of lessons around that so that students can learn in a much more contextualized and personal way."

To further immerse students in the subject matter, iWitness allows them to create all sorts of projects, like editing together their own montage of powerful survivor soundbites.

From Holocaust survivors to students, many seem to agree while books are a great way to learn, not much compares to hearing firsthand of an event from the people who lived it.

"When you read it, you go, 'Oh, that's kind of bad.' But then when you actually see someone who went through it and you see the anguish and you hear their experience almost like a one-on-one talk, it's a lot more moving," says 12th grader Trent Williams.

"I don't expect it'll influence everybody here, but if it will influence few people, these few people are the leaders and a few people can inspire other thousands of people," says Roman Kent, a Holocaust survivor.

Teachers, parents or students inspired to bring this program into their classrooms should visit iwitness.usc.edu for more information.

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