USC Awards Holocaust Survivors With Its Highest Honor

USC Awards Holocaust Survivors With Its Highest Honor

Filmmaker Steven Spielberg speaks at the University Medallion ceremony at USC. (Sean Dube/USC)

California Insider Staff

California Insider Staff

3/27/2024

Updated: 3/27/2024

A rare honor was presented by the University of Southern California for Holocaust survivors March 25 who shared their stories with USC’s Shoah Foundation, founded by filmmaker Steven Spielberg to document such testimonies.
The University Medallion is USC’s most prestigious honor and is given to individuals who have made significant contributions to the university.
“The University Medallion is a symbol of USC’s lasting commitment to use these visual and oral histories to educate, to enlighten and to shape a future without hate,” USC President Carol Folt said.
The honor was presented by Ms. Folt during a gathering at USC’s Town & Gown ballroom.
The university said more than 260 people attended the event, including an estimated 30 Holocaust survivors and their families.
“Your testimonies are an irreplaceable record of a dark time in history that we, the world, must never forget. And we will never forget,” said Ms. Folt before presenting the honors.
The event was attended by Mr. Spielberg—the director of “Schindler’s List”—and Holocaust survivor Celina Biniaz, 92, who was saved from the Nazis by Oskar Schindler and whose story was told in Spielberg’s film.
“I am increasingly alarmed that we may be condemned to repeat history — to once again have to fight for the very right to be Jewish,” Mr. Spielberg said at the event. “In the face of brutality and persecution, we have always been a resilient and compassionate people who understand the power of empathy to combat fear.”
Holocaust survivor Celina Biniaz, 92, speaks at the ceremony. (Sean Dube/USC)

Holocaust survivor Celina Biniaz, 92, speaks at the ceremony. (Sean Dube/USC)

Mr. Spieberg founded the Shoah Foundation in 1994. It now has more than 56,000 Holocaust testimonies conducted in 65 countries and in 45 languages, according to the foundation’s website.
USC has only awarded its University Medallion on three previous occasions: to Walter Annenberg in 1994, who founded the Annenberg School for Communication; to Wallis Annenberg, who is the longest-serving trustee at the University of Southern California in 2017; and to Dana and David Dornsife in 2011 for an historic $200 million donation to the school.
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