Page last updated at 08:08 GMT, Friday, 24 October 2008 09:08 UK

Douglas honoured as humanitarian

Bily Crystal, Kirk Douglas and Steven Spielberg
Billy Crystal (left) and Steven Spielberg (right) also attended

The humanitarian work of actor Kirk Douglas has been honoured by a host of stars at a dinner in Los Angeles.

Director Steven Spielberg said the 91-year-old had "saved many lives", as he spoke at the Shoah Foundation's Ambassadors for Humanity dinner.

Over the past decade, Douglas and his wife have funded the construction of 400 playgrounds in LA's schools.

Spielberg established the foundation in 1994 to collect and preserve stories from Holocaust survivors.

"Kirk Douglas, in a way, has saved many lives - not just through his art, but through his humanitarian contributions to the planet," Spielberg said.

"We're here to show how closely attuned Kirk Douglas is as a representative of our work and our vision at the Shoah Foundation."

'Ultimate dream'

Actor Billy Crystal and singer Bette Midler were also at the benefit, at the California Science Centre.

Crystal provided the comedy for the evening, calling Douglas "an inspiration".

"This is the greatest head of hair I've ever seen on a Jew in my life," he joked.

Midler, backed by a 12-piece band, toasted Douglas with a set of songs.

The Shoah Foundation's archive now includes more than 50,000 video testimonies from survivors and witnesses from 56 countries.

The director said the foundation's work supports his "ultimate dream" of making the study of the Holocaust and other genocides a prerequisite for graduating from high school.

"They can look at all these examples of genocide and it will give the world a very complete look at a sad human condition," he said.

"It's something we have to understand in order to overcome."


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