“Cry, My Heart, Cry!”: The Fortunoff Video Archive Songs from Testimonies Project
The sufferings of Jews under the Nazi regime were reflected in their music and musical life. Music offered women and men interned in ghettos and camps a way to express their humanity in inhuman conditions, to escape, revolt and cry for freedom. The act of singing is a human act of artistic performance that creates another world for the singer and the audience. The songs selected as part of the Fortunoff Video Archive’s Songs from Testimonies project were recalled by survivors telling their stories and singing – words and music – probably for the first time since their liberation. These songs describe and witness places, ghettos, camps, deportations, slave labor and other harsh circumstances the survivors had to struggle with. When these songs are sung – both now and then – they create moments of relief and comfort for the singers and their listeners. Similarly, these songs present a series of insights into the survivors’ experiences both during World War II and in the period preceding the war. The widely diverse compositions form a timeline that helps recreate a multidimensional image of people’s lives and the multiple identities they carried — as Jews by faith and roots, and as European citizens — Poles, Germans, Russians– by culture. These identities were shaped during the vibrant and dynamic interwar period, which is represented by several songs in the collection.
Development and History of the Fortunoff Video Archive
The Fortunoff Video Archive traces its roots back to 1979 when its predecessor organization, known as the Holocaust Survivors Film Project (HSFP), was founded in New Haven. It was the first, sustained effort of its kind to capture Holocaust testimony on video. An important breakthrough which might seem quaint now, but in 1979 using video was indeed truly innovative.