The USC Shoah Foundation has partnered with Participant and Focus Features to unveil a new initiative for university and upper-level high school educators, aimed at combatting antisemitism, and promoting education surrounding the Holocaust.
The initiative coming to USC’s IWitness education platform centers on Final Account, a 2020 documentary brought to life for Participant and Focus by the late Luke Holland over the course of 10 years, making its premiere at the Venice Film Festival last year. The doc offers up a collection of never-before-seen interviews with men and women ranging from former SS officials to civilians as they reckon, in very different ways, with their memories, perceptions and personal appraisals of their roles in the Holocaust.
The documentary raising timely questions about authority, conformity, national identity, and responsibility does not aim to retell the history of the Nazi era, but rather to depict how these people relate to this history and reflect on their own role more than 60 years later. Thus, it is a film not only about history, but also about dealing with this history today. Holland (I Was a Slave Labourer, Good Morning Mr. Hitler) also produced the pic with Oscar and BAFTA winner John Battsek (One Day in September, Searching for Sugar Man) and BAFTA nominee Riete Oord (The Leader, The Driver and the Driver’s Wife), with Andrew Ruhemann, Claire Aguilar, and Participant’s Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann serving as exec producers.
“Luke Holland was always fascinated by the detail of testimony: how and what people choose to remember and what they choose to forget,” said Final Account producers Battsek and Oord in a joint statement. “Through Luke’s forensic questioning, the power of the interviews in this film reveal what drove ordinary people to be complicit in the greatest war crime of the 20th century.”
The new program from USC Shoah, Participant and Focus will allow educators and students worldwide to engage with the film’s interviews with the last living generation of perpetrators involved with Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, opening up classrooms to new angles on historical themes like complicity, propaganda, and memory in a post-truth era. It will work to achieve the goal of creating a world in which history is remembered accurately and studied to prevent repeated human suffering and atrocity.
The program includes a robust suite of resources for educators, including classroom-ready discussions and activities with clips and content from the film and a dedicated landing page on the Institute’s IWitness website. These educational resources will provide an additional layer of historical context to help students understand the impact of Nazi education and propaganda, indoctrination, memory, and facing their own past and responsibility, as well as the peril of prejudice, antisemitism and bigotry.
“Luke wanted this film to be a powerful and memorable message for students, to be shared in classrooms as a way to fight anti-Jewish hate, to transform the stories of these Nazi perpetrators into a tool for good,” said Stephen D. Smith, PhD, Finci-Viterbi Executive Director of USC Shoah Foundation and UNESCO Chair on Genocide Education.
“Educators need resources to help their students understand the hate they see in their lives today, as well as the hatred of the past,” said Kori Street, PhD incoming Interim Executive Director and Senior Director of Programs and Operations of USC Shoah Foundation. “FINAL ACCOUNT’s personal narratives offer students insight into the long-lasting power of propaganda, misinformation and hate. Our story-focused methodology guides teachers through this difficult material to inspire their students to be curious, courageous, critical thinkers.”
“We couldn’t be more proud of this partnership,” added Participant CEO David Linde. “This program, alongside the often chilling interviews in the film, is a critical tool to not only learn this history more deeply but also understand just how relevant these poisonous ideologies remain today.”
All educational materials created as an adjunct to the film, including activities, lessons, webinars and more, are being made available for free. To download and learn more about these materials from USC Shoah Foundation, click here.
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