USC repository to archive testimonies of Albanian political prisoners

USC News

The USC Digital Repository is working with the Albanian Human Rights Project to catalog and preserve testimonies from survivors of atrocities committed by the Albanian government during the Cold War era.

Albania fell under Communist influence near the end of World War II with the collapse of the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan. The regime tortured and executed thousands of artists, educators, intellectuals, scholars and writers. Many were jailed as political prisoners on charges of spreading propaganda, attempting to overthrow the state and opposing the collectivization of Albania’s farms. Some were incarcerated for being Catholic or owning cassette tapes of popular music.

Dedicated to collecting, filming and preserving the memories of those who were imprisoned or interned from 1944 to 1991, the Albanian Human Rights Project has recorded 40 witness testimonies since 2008.

Accompanying the recorded statements are detailed questionnaires, which follow guidelines developed by the USC Shoah Foundation: The Institute for Visual History and Education for its interviews of World War II Holocaust survivors.

“We are very proud that the Albanian Human Rights Project chose the USC Digital Repository to preserve their invaluable testimonies,” said Sam Gustman, executive director of the repository. “USC is one of the best places in the world to bring digital collections for digitization, cataloging, access services and the sort of reliable preservation that a collection of such value requires.”

The Digital Repository is a collaborative endeavor among the USC Libraries, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute and USC’s Information Technology Services.

The repository will archive the original footage of these testimonies for at least the next 20 years.

In addition to the original 40 testimonies, the project hopes to preserve another 60 people, primarily of individuals in their 70s and 80s, before their firsthand stories are lost. The project plans to make these primary-resource testimonies accessible for scholarly study and education.