The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Lani Silver


Lani Silver is a pioneer in the field of oral history. Silver founded one of the first Holocaust oral history projects in the country, the Bay Area Holocaust Oral History Project, and served as its Executive Director from l98l to l997. In her sixteen years with the project, Silver coordinated l,700 interviews with 1,400 Holocaust survivors and witnesses. Prior to her Holocaust work, Silver co-founded and taught in the Women Studies Department at San Francisco State University.

In addition, Silver has spent the past fifteen years researching and promoting two lost stories of the Holocaust. In l991, Silver, along with military historian Eric Saul, brought the story of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion to light. This was a unit of Japanese Americans who helped liberate Dachau's subcamps and the Landsberg/Kaufering Death March, and never got credit for their accomplishments.

In l994, Silver along with Eric Saul, Noby Yoshimura and Harry Fukahara discovered the story of Chiune Sugihara, who is now known as the Japanese Schindler. Sugihara, the Consul General from Japan, stationed in Kaunas, Lithuania, signed visas against the orders of Japan, thereby saving the lives of thousands of Jews fleeing Poland. After the war, Sugihara was fired from his job in the Foreign Service for "that incident in Lithuania" and lived in exile in Russia for the next two decades. Only recently has Japan officially recognized Mr. Sugihara and apologized to his family for his dismissal from the Foreign Ministry. Silver organized dozens of workshops, exhibitions and public programs around the world in an effort to bring the story of Chiune and Yukiko Sugihara to the public.

In the mid 1990's, Silver became Steven Spielberg's first consultant and interviewer trainer for the Shoah Foundation for Visual History. The foundation conducted 52,000 oral histories with Holocaust survivors.

In 2000 Silver became the director of "Silent Voices Speak: An Art Exhibition and Lecture Series on the Holocaust and Social Injustice Today". Over l0,000 people attended the exhibition and program, which made the links between the Holocaust and racism and genocide today.

Currently, Silver is the Project Director of the James Byrd Jr. Racism Oral History Project, which is a project of the Byrd Foundation for Racial Healing. In l998, James Byrd Jr. was dragged three miles through the outskirts of Jasper Texas, chained to a truck by three white supremacists. The oral history project asks people to describe the impact of racism on their lives. To date, the project has interviewed 2,500 people.

Silver has co-authored two photography books on the Sugihara's and co-edited Yukiko Sugihara's memoirs, "Visas for Life." She has written dozens of op-ed pieces for Bay Area newspapers and has produced hundred's of free-lance stories for National Public Radio and other media outlets.

In the summer of 2006, Silver and her songwriting teacher, Bill Spooner, the founder of the Tubes released three CD's about social injustice. Silver and Spooner also wrote and wrote an opera about Chiune and Yukiko Sugihara, called "Incident in Lithuania."

Silver has won over two dozen awards for community service. In 2003, Silver was one of five women to be named "Woman of the Year" by KQED, the public television and radio station in San Francisco. In 2004, Silver won the prestigious civil rights award, the Ally Achievement Award from the Center for Healing Racism in Houston.

Silver is also a speaker for the American Program Bureau where she is a recognized, national speaker about the Holocaust, racism and genocide. She has recently been elected to the Bay Area's board of the Society of Professional Journalists. Lani Silver's web site is here.

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