I headed to Yale earlier this afternoon. My friend Frank Clifford works there. You’ll never find his office by accident. It’s down hidden stairs then through narrow hallways in the basement of Sterling Library.
It’s worth the trip. If there’s sainted work in the world that’s what Frank’s doing. He is digitizing videos from the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies.
The survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust are diminishing in number. Each year their recollections become more important, but each year moves them farther away from the original experience. This gives special urgency to the effort to collect as many testimonies as possible – now.
At one point Frank put a video clip on his computer’s screen. A Belgian woman began to speak. She was attractive, probably in her fifties when the interview had taken place 30 or so years ago. As the camera locked in she told a chilling tale of her childhood.
The Gestapo had come to her town. As a Jew she and her family were their target.
I told Frank to stop the clip as she described the last time she’d seen her father. It was too sad, too emotionally taxing. It was impossible not to be touched deeply.
Frank is transferring analog video cassettes to a variety of digital formats simultaneously. The interviews are being carefully preserved as you’d expect in the research oriented atmosphere that is Yale. It’s all cataloged and documented in excruciating detail. The videos are worthless if their stories can’t later found later.
I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy my trips on campus. This was no different. Sterling Library is exactly what you’d expect an Ivy League library to be.
I could explain, but this is one of those things better left to pictures.