The National Constitution Center’s 2009 Liberty Medal was awarded to filmmaker and humanitarian Steven Spielberg for his artistic and personal commitment to the preservation of human rights. Through his award-winning films, Spielberg has presented stories of the struggle and triumph of humanity over tyranny, informing and inspiring millions to better understand the abiding call of liberty. Spielberg has also dedicated himself to gathering and archiving the testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust, ensuring future generations will never forget the tragedy of liberty lost. The public Liberty Medal ceremony took place on Thursday, October 8, 2009, at the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall in Historic Philadelphia.
Through his powerful films, including The Color Purple, Empire of the Sun, Schindler’s List, Amistad, and Saving Private Ryan, and his work on the acclaimed HBO series Band of Brothers, Spielberg has captured the stories of courageous people in this nation and abroad who have worked, fought, and sacrificed for the gift of freedom.
He established the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, after filming Schindler’s Listin 1994, to chronicle and preserve video and oral histories of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust. The collection – the largest archive of its kind in the world – now stands at 52,000 videos with 105,000 hours of testimony in 32 languages, representing 56 countries.
In 2006, the Foundation became part of the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where the testimonies are currently being digitized and made available to people across the globe. Changing the name to the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, the University has broadened the institute’s mission and made its archival content readily accessible to educators, students, researchers, and scholars on every continent.
Additionally, the Foundation now intends to collect testimony from the survivors and witnesses of other genocides. It is currently in the process of gathering personal histories from survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in partnership with the Rwandan organization IBUKA. In 1998, Spielberg was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit with Ribbon of the Federal Republic of Germany by President Roman Herzog in recognition of Schindler’s List and the Shoah Foundation.