Office of Research & Innovation - University of South Florida
Senior Vice President Mission & Vision University-Wide Administrative Oversight Internal Funding Programs Other Services Map/Location Policies & Procedures Educational Opportunities for Employees
Research News News Archive Research Newsletter 2013 Annual Report Annual Report Archive Research Park Sign
Office of the Senior Vice President Comparative Medicine CDDI Patents & Licensing Research Financial Management Research Integrity and Compliance Sponsored Research USF Research Foundation

News - USF Research & Innovation

Research & Innovation » News

"Behind the Wall": A Documentary about a Survivor's Return to Poland after Seventy Years

March 25, 2014

When: Thursday, April 3, 2014 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Where: The Oval Theater (MSC)

Description of event: In this presentation, Dr. Carolyn Ellis and Mr. Jerry Rawicki will show a 45-minute documentary they produced, which tells the story of Warsaw Ghetto survivor Jerry Rawicki's return visit to Poland in 2013, his first since he was a young boy in the Holocaust. Ethnographer Carolyn Ellis captures his thoughts and deep emotions on site in Poland as he visits the places he remembers. Working collaboratively with Dr. Ellis, Mr. Rawicki, now eighty six, discusses his thoughts and feelings about his homeland, explores the working of memory, and considers the virtue of forgiveness. Being back in Poland and speaking in his native Polish language stimulates Mr. Rawicki to recall details of his experience that had been lost and to consider his relationship to Poland and the Polish people in complex ways. A result of this experience is that Mr. Rawicki now feels he has a larger view of his history and an increasing desire to contribute in ways that might make a difference. After showing the film, Mr. Rawicki and Dr. Carolyn Ellis will discuss their five-year collaborative witnessing project on personal testimony about the Holocaust, with special attention to the trip to Poland, including visiting Treblinka where Mr. Rawicki’s mother and sister were killed.

This research into survivor testimony began at USF in 2009 when Dr. Carolyn Ellis and several of her Ph.D. students interviewed 45 Holocaust survivors living in the Tampa Bay region. The project has continued into the present, with a goal to develop collaborative, long-term, and compassionate relationships with a small number of survivors. Together, researchers and survivors converse about their lives before, during, and after the war; the ways the Holocaust influences their experiences now; how, as they approach the end of life, they remember, interpret, and respond to what happened to them during the Holocaust; and the messages and meanings they seek to pass on to future generations.

Most of the 100,000 testimonies we have from Holocaust survivors are told in a single-interview, question-and-answer format. They focus on chronicling events before and during the Holocaust, rather than on what occurred after. But memory and stories are not static – they evolve over time in different emotional and interactional contexts. The intimate, long-term conversational approach in this project adds to these testimonies by offering survivors the opportunity to tell and retell past and current stories in multiple and new ways, reflect on and analyze their meanings, and contribute to the richness and direction of stories told in jointly produced publications and documentaries. In the process, new plotlines and insights are discovered together, and survivors say this storytelling process is healing for them.

This film extends the collaborative process of these two authors, who have published four articles about Mr. Rawicki’s experiences in the Holocaust and about their work together. The film includes interviews of family members and the project director and offers a venue for taking their work to the larger public.

Target audience: USF Faculty, Staff, and Students; Community Members and University Donors; Holocaust Survivors and Families [Donors and invited guests also will attend a reception before the presentation in Room 2708, refreshments hosted by CAS Office of Development and Alumni Affairs.]

Contact: Department of Communication (813) 974-2145




3702 Spectrum Blvd, Suite 165
Tampa, FL, 33612-9445

Phone: 813.974.5570
Fax: 813.974.4962

Direct comments to