Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Carolyn S. Ellis


Compassion, Dialogue, Ethnography, Holocaust survivors, Interpersonal Communication, Personal storytelling


We live in a frantic, fractured, ever-quickening, and violent world that is at the end of the era in which we will be able to talk with survivors of the Shoah. To date, there have been approximately 100,000 recorded interviews of Holocaust survivors. The vast majority of these interviews--such as the 52,000 done for Steven Spielberg's and USC Shoah Foundation Archive--have used traditional, single-session, and "neutral" methods of oral history interviewing to "capture" and "preserve" the legalistic, historical "testimonies" of survivors. The present study responds to this situation and unique moment in time by slowing down, listening, speaking repeatedly and intimately, forming interpersonal relationships, and storytelling with three Holocaust survivors in the Tampa Bay area: Salomon Wainberg, Manuel Goldberg, and Sonia Wasserberger. I do this in order to see those I work with as experiential authorities able to help me address the classic and post-modern issues of human meaning, connection, and value in the post-Holocaust world. I first contextualize this work within extant and related research in the field of communication. Then I situate this project in the broader intersections of work on the history of the Holocaust and Holocaust survivors. This is followed by an outline of the particular collaborative oral history and ethnographic theories and methods that influence this work. These contexts lead to three chapters, the ethnographic stories of each survivor I have worked with for the past three years. Each story focuses on: a) the oral history and ethnographic significance of sharing particularities of each survivor's experience through our dialogues together; b) broader insights and explorations of the central themes (compassion, identification, and affinity) that emerged from our interviews and relationships. The final chapter concludes by reflecting on and synthesizing the values and limitations of this project. As a whole, this dissertation cultivates and exemplifies: a) a unique understanding of humane and humanistic approaches to ethnographic methods in the fields of communication and oral history; b) compassion, identification, and affinity as important lenses and motives to consider in research with individuals (in particular individual survivors of mass atrocities); c) the historical value and need to continue developing diverse approaches to scholarship that centralize personal stories, dialogue, peace, wisdom, and work that represents marginalized experiences and experiences of marginalization in a violent, oppressive world. This dissertation is offered as a token of remembrance of the Holocaust and to those who shared their stories with me.