Krauss has collected over 500 hours of stories from those who lived through the genocide – from young women who lost their entire families to a man old enough to remember when money was introduced to the country. The goal is to preserve a record of history – but VOR collaborators are motivated by more than knowledge.
Antoinette (VOR records only first names, to protect individuals’ security and privacy) is the sole survivor of her family. Born in western Rwanda, her grandfather was killed in the first wave of anti-Tutsi violence, in 1959. She was attacked in 1990, during pogroms that preceded the genocide, and survived the massacres in 1994 by hiding beneath corpses. She told Krauss her story, on the condition that she could also share the bigger history of her family before the violence.
“My legacy is a rich one if you let me go back in time and start from my grandfather’s history.... [N]o one else can talk about that. The one telling stories was my dad. But they killed him and my siblings,” she says in her testimony. “I think the reason I have strength to talk is, if I die without telling my story here ... my family’s name will disappear from the root.”
Krauss might never have met Antoinette had he not needed to mend a jacket nearly a decade ago as a Yale University film student. “I walked into a tailor shop, and the guy who was supposed to repair my zipper ... pulled out a book, ‘Dachau 39.’ He said, ‘Look, I’m in this book.’ ” The tailor pointed to a picture of a young man in a German concentration camp. Krauss, who is Jewish, grew up hearing about the Holocaust, but never quite so directly as in this tailor’s shop. “He said, ‘If you want to hear my story, go to the Fortunoff Video Archives at Yale and listen to it.’ ”