American film director Steven Spielberg has pledged $100,000 of the profits from his epic Holocaust movie Schindler's List to a new centre of German-Jewish studies at Sussex University.
Spielberg heard about the centre from fellow film director Richard Attenborough, a pro-chancellor of the university, and immediately ordered a donation through his Righteous Persons Foundation. The foundation received all the profits of the film after Mr Spielberg refused to take what he called "blood money" made at the expense of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis.
The centre, developed two years ago as a programme of courses on German-Jewish social and political history from the Enlightenment onwards, has already raised Pounds 100,000 from a UK-based fundraising campaign, and is set to move into Sussex's Pounds 1 million library extension by 1998. The Spielberg cash will support the centre's first senior research fellow, who will oversee a German-Jewish archive comprising the oral testimony of thousands of Jews who fled Germany in the 1930s and arrived penniless on the shores of the United Kingdom. The archive, to be modelled on the renowned Yad Vashem collection in Jerusalem, will complement the Sussex-based Mass Observation archive, a unique collection documenting British attitudes during the second world war.
Edward Timms, professor of German and director of the centre, said he was "delighted" by the donation. He added that the essential theme of Schindler's List, based on Thomas Keneally's Booker Prize-winning story about a Nazi industrialist who saved 1,100 Jews from certain death in the concentration camps, paralleled the work of the centre. "Rather than just showing the general story of fascist destroying Jew, it suggested ways in which you could look at some of the interconnections," he said.
There is a pressing need for an archive. Even those refugees who came to the UK as children are close to retirement age. Professor Timms said: "The next ten years will be crucial." But he predicted that the project will be successful. "Some people were so scarred by their experience that they have kept silent about it. Yet many now realise it is time to put something down on record."