Lani Silver, Historian and Activist, Speaks at Mount Union College

April 13, 2010

After 20 years of listening to, and recording, oral histories of victims of the Holocaust, Lani Silver says that she still believes most humans are good.


'I have cried nearly every day for 20 years, listening to these survivors. It is horrible hearing their stories, yet I was amazed by their resiliency and touched by my experiences with all of them. And my reward for this work, is to have this time to talk to you,' said Silver, speaking at Mount Union College on September 23.

Silver is an historian, activist and founder and director of the Bay Area Holocaust History Project. She served as Steven Spielberg's chief consultant and interview trainer for his Holocaust oral history project, the Shoah Foundation for Visual History. Silver first became interested in recording oral histories when her job as a freelance reporter for National Public Radio led her to a gathering of Holocaust survivors.

'I was listening to their stories, and when I realized no one was recording them, I started a project that was the first of its kind in the country,' said Silver. She went on to eventually interview 1,700 survivors.

Silver stressed that 150 million people have died in the last century due to murder and genocide.

'Why is everyone killing one another?' Silver asked of the audience. 'Are we not ill from the war and genocide?'

Silver is currently the director of the James Byrd Jr. Racism Oral History Project, and she has completed 1240 interviews on racism in America. She asked the students how racism affected their lives and challenged them to fight racism.

'How can we remove racism?' asked Silver. 'First we can each begin by not being racist ourselves.'

Silver went on to encourage everyone in the audience to make a difference in their lifetime in some manner.

'Make your life stand for something,' said Silver. 'Don't give up! The most successful social movements of our time have happened because of patience. I believe one person really can make a difference.'

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