Raised Jewish, Comedian Chelsea Handler Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past (VIDEO)

August 8, 2013 10:41 am 17 comments

Comedian Chelsea Handler.

Comedian Chelsea Handler’s blonde hair and blue eyes betray the fact that she descends from a long line of German lineage.

In fact, Handler’s mother was German, and in a recent episode of TLC’s “Who Do You Think You Are,” a TV show that follows celebrities as they research their heritage,  Handler discovers that her grandfather was a Nazi.

“Whether or not he agreed with Hitler, he was serving in the German army, and then he was taken as a prisoner of war to America where he stayed for several years,” the comedian revealed in an exclusive clip of the episode, according to EOnline!. “My German grandma definitely spoke about her life during the war way more than my grandfather did. He never spoke about it.”

Her story is made all the more compelling by the fact that Handler was raised as a practicing Jew, with her American father who is Jewish providing the Semitic strand.

“My father, I guess, made a deal with my mother when they had children that they were gonna be raised Jewish,” Handler says. “So I connect with my Judaism, or the Jewish side of my family, more than anything else.”

In the show Handler traces her grandfather’s path from Nazi soldier to American immigrant through documents and interviews with sources familiar with her family’s history.

Watch a trailer of the Chelsea Handler episode of “Who Do You Think You Are” below.

17 Comments

  • If one has Naziism in one’s family history, it’s reasonable to want to hide the fact if it means preserving one’s own self respect. One can hardly blame someone for hiding such a fact. And if someone has the courage to admit it, to shake loose from such an association, again, how can one be blamed for doing so? it doesn’t make them Nazis by association. Let;s keep our heads on straight in these (difficult) conversations. It isn’t fair to visit the sins of the fathers – and grandfathers – onto the children. G-d only knows what secrets every family wants to hide for good reason.

  • Every human being has the right to affirm the good and reject the evil in their heritage and ancestry. Chelsea Handler has exercised this right. There were indeed many Germans who did their military service and committed no atrocities. Even if she were the child of an SS officer, she is who she is and not chained to her past. My ancestry is Croatian. The Croats had a very poor record on Jewish issues. My task of research was made easier through the knowledge that my grandparents left Croatia in 1907. My more distant relatives came from Istria, a region that was far better than other parts of Croatia.

    Also, someone bearing my grandfather’s last name was in Jasenovac, known as the Auschwitz of the Balkans. Still, the unanswered questions are a real burdern. I would never hold it against a Jew or a gentile if they were descended from Nazis. That being said, if someone says that they are proud of a Nazi past, my feelings are entirely different.

    • Shmuel Klatzkin

      Rudi, your comments are spot on.

      Check this out and verify its truth in your own experience: Those who make people responsible for their ancestors’ sins almost always are people who do not accept responsibility for their own.

  • Basil Fletcher

    These stories are very important in assisting individuals to accept themselves. There are many who need help in removing the burdens of a past, which they played no role in creating. If a practicing Jew of German or Eastern European origin should discover that his or her was a guard at a death camp, what would it mean for him or her? Could he or she look into a mirror with pride? Only by accepting and putting down that type of burden from the past, will the individual be able to accept him or herself.

  • Ivan Gur-Arie

    The fact that her grandfather served in the German Army does not necessarily make him a Nazi. HE could have been a young boy caught up in the societal press for war, Tell me he was SS or a member of the party and then you have something, However, Some Wehrmacht soldiers did participate in the killings of innocents, IS there proof of that?

    • Kelly Siebecke

      The grandfather was SA – a Brownshirt. Not exactly “noble” service.

    • Stuart E. Hersh

      The Wehrmacht carried out killings of downed American, British and French airmen on the order of Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces (OKW). The Wehrmacht also sent US soldiers, captured in the Battle of the Bulge (December, 1944), to a concentration camp, Burga, which was part of the Buchenwald camp. Many of the GI’s died from malnutrition (400 calories per day) despite the fact that they had to dig an underground tunnel for the building of V-2 rockets. The camp was controlled by the Wehrmacht.

      At the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial, Keitel was found guilty of conspiracy to commit crimes, crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was hanged on 16 October,1946.

      The crimes committed by the Wehrmacht against Russian POWs is well-documented by historians.

  • Consulting Doc

    I saw the episode on tv. Ms. Handler discovered during a personal visit to Germany, in consultation with historians and researchers, that there was no evidence that her grandfather was a Nazi or ever joined the Party. He joined a sports organization apparently under duress and ultimately served as a low level, unenthusiastic Wehrmacht soldier in an artillery regiment. He surrendered with his comrades as soon as he could to American soldiers and was transferred to a POW camp in Iowa, where he played violin in the prisoner orchestra. Ms. Handler was relieved to discover that her grandfather was NOT a Nazi. Can we show proudly-Jewish Ms. Handler some respect and not turn her discovery on its head and not misrepresent her findings about the grandfather she loved?

    • YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE NOT HEARD THIS WOMAN GO OFF ON THE JEWS IN HER “COMEDY ACT” SHE IS NOTHING IF NOT VILE AND DISGUSTING AND DISRESPECTFUL TO JEWS.

  • He was not a Nazi in the literal sense, but a soldier, probably a conscript in the German army in WWII. Besides, it is a sin to visit the sins of the fathers upon the sons and daughters.

  • An American Jew

    I don’t want to defend someone I have never met, but in your article you refer to Chelsea Handler’s German grandfather as a “Nazi soldier”.

    I might be nitpicking, but isn’t it more accurate to refer to non-SS soldiers in the Wehrmacht as soldiers in Nazi Germany rather than “Nazi soldiers”?

    • Mr. “American Jew”,
      Do you seriously think that the millions of Germans, who voted for and deliriously and enthusiastically supported Hitler, יש”ו, and nazi policies toward the Jews for a decade, were all S.S., which was a Nazi paramilitary organization of only a few thousand???
      Nazi and S.S. are NOT the same thing: there were a few tens of millions of nazis, some in the S.A., some in the S.S., some in the GeStaPo, some just NSDAP party members, some supporters…
      Have you ever heard of the extermination units called Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommando composed of regular soldiers and even traffic police (contrary to Wikipedia’s B.S.), as very clearly DOCUMENTED, and referred by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen in his “Hitler’s Willing Executioners”?
      Have you ever read that – contrary to what some intersted parties have tried to tell – regular Wehrmacht units were involved ALL OVER in the extermination of hundreds of thousands of Jews?
      Have you ever heard of the fact, pointed out by Raul Hilberg already in 1961, that ONLY in the Reichsbahn section organizing and coordinating the trains transporting Jews to their deaths, of which they knew weight at departure and weight upon return, there were over 20,000 German working, and they were NOT S.S. and ALL KNEW EXACTLY what those trains were for and where they lead and that they ALL left full of Jews and came back empty??
      I suggest that you learn some History of the III Reich and the Shoah before coming out with such misleading statements.

      Sergio HaDaR Tezza – UCLA History Graduate

  • And this story is of what value? Why would anybody with a brain care whether she is a Jew or Nazi offspring?

    • Kowman Harsh – You may not be interested in this story, but to millions of American’s it is fascinating. Jew-Hatred is epidemic today and all stories dealing with these topics are important.

    • the fact that she felt the need to talk about it is proof that it is of importance, if it is of value to her is in itself important.
      before the second world war mixed marriages were not rare. under racist laws all over Europe caused the killing and manytimes the dislocation of many families

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.