This research investigates the use of stories that are found through vicarious experience and told in a life narrative in order to communicate the meaning of the personal past. Through the interpretation of the life narratives of Holocaust survivors, we argue that stories outside of direct experience, collected stories, form the background of personal narratives. Collected stories are pieces of social interaction and context that are integrated in our presentation of the past, and self understanding, because they are personally relevant to us and congruent with the situation of telling. These stories have the potential to lose the indications that they are outside of direct experience and become indistinguishable from other stories that draw upon direct experience. Collected stories serve to situate our stories of the past and identity within a cultural horizon of sense and meaning.