In recent years, Chapman University has made serious strides in becoming one of the foremost academic centers for the study of the Holocaust. Not only does the university offer a minor in Holocaust history but, just this past November, renowned historian, author, and scholar David M. Crowe made the university’s Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education and the Sala and Aron Samueli Holocaust Memorial Library the recipients of a treasure trove of what is believed to be the most complete collection of papers and archival materials on Oskar Schindler and his wife, Emilie.
The collection comprises “letters, photographs and architectural drawings” assembled by Crowe over many years while writing the definitive biography of Schindler. Comprising 22 large boxes, the archive was professionally appraised and then shipped from the East Coast. To create a state of the art, climate-controlled environment for the archive, the Joyce and Saul Brandman Survivors Room was extensively remodeled to allow the safe, long-term storage of the delicate documents. Crowe, who has spoken at Chapman several times, decided that the university’s commitment to Holocaust education and research would make it the ideal home for his collection. Crowe said he was also influenced by the special relationship Schindler’s story has to Southern California through Schindler “list” members, Ludmila and the late Leopold Page, and the late Leon Leyson. Mila Page, now 96, and her daughter attended the dedication of the archive on November 10.
The late Leopold Page spoke at Chapman twenty years ago when the university’s program in Holocaust history was just beginning. It was in large part Page’s perseverance and determination to have the story of Oskar Schindler told, that led Thomas Keneally to write the book that would later inspire Steven Spielberg’s famous film, Schindler’s List. Crowe has said, “If it hadn’t been for Spielberg, I never would’ve written [Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account of his Life, Wartime Activities, and the True Story Behind the List]. It was a tremendous honor to have Mila Page at the dedication.”
In conjunction with the presentation and dedication of Crowe’s collection, an interfaith service of remembrance for Kristallnacht, co-sponsored by the Wallace All Faiths Chapel and the Fish Interfaith Center, was held November 10, as part of Chapman’s Resistance, Rescue, Resilience fall lecture series. “The room [to house the archives] is part of the Sala and Aron Samueli Holocaust Memorial Library which underscores the collection’s Jewish connection, but the event [was] held in the Interfaith Center in order to share the eternal and universal lessons of the Shoah with as wide an audience as possible,” said Crowe, who also delivered a lecture at the event.
Chapman became the first university in California after the University of Southern California, to purchase a perpetual license through ProQuest to the more than 50,000 testimonies that comprise The USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive. The archive also includes oral testimonies about the genocides in Armenia and Rwanda.
Dr. Marilyn Harran, Stern Chair in Holocaust History and Director of the Rodgers Center, hopes that word of the new archive will encourage survivors and World War II veterans to donate their documents to Chapman University, knowing that the documents will not only be preserved, but used by both undergraduates and graduate students in the university’s new M.A. program in War and Society. She stressed that the Center’s goal is not merely to preserve and protect the past but to “make it part of the future by inspiring teachers and students.” Once catalogued, the Oskar Schindler Archive will be open by appointment to researchers.
Perry Fein is a writer and contributing editor for Jlife magazine.