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...

  • Sports Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    The Israel National soccer team could be facing a World Cup ban, and other soccer sanctions, unless it alleviates travel restrictions and increases field access for Palestinian players and coaches. The head of the Palestinian Football Association is pushing for international soccer’s governing body, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), to issue a ban on Israel competing internationally, claiming Israel’s restrictive travel for Palestinians is equivalent to a form of oppression. “It’s not only the athletes,” Jibril Rajoub explains. [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    JNS.org – While the national debate on “Obamacare” rages on past the recent March 31 sign-up deadline, bestselling Jewish author Dr. Joel Fuhrman says the “current disease care model of what we call ‘health care’ cannot possibly be sustained.” “There is simply not enough money available to support a system in which the lion’s share of expenditures is devoted to acute care, with virtually nothing being spent on preventive medicine, i.e. health care,” Fuhrman says in an interview. “To make [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    JNS.org – “This is how I want to be—without fear. Independent. I want to be like a bird. I want to spread my wings.” So reads part of the description beneath one of the 30 paintings on display until the end of May at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv. The collection represents the first-ever art exhibit of its kind: an exhibit created entirely by Israelis in treatment for eating disorders. Dubbed “Tears of Color,” based on one of the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    JNS.org – Rachel Ament noticed that she and her friends often shared humorous anecdotes that were typically variations on a theme: overprotective, worrying Jewish moms who smothered them with love. That included Ament’s own mother. “My mom is probably every Jewish stereotype scrunched into one,” the Washington, DC, resident tells JNS.org. “At the root of all these stereotypical, worrying, overprotective moms, is love.” A social media writer for Capital One, as well as a freelance writer, Ament decided about three years [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    Kosher Lust, by Shmuley Boteach (Gefen Publishing House, 2014). You really do want to find something positive to say about Shmuley Boteach. He is a phenomenon; very bright, an articulate bundle of energy and self-promotion. Anyone who has the chutzpah to describe himself as “America’s Rabbi” deserves ten out of ten for effort. I believe that along with most Chabad alumni, official and unofficial, he does a lot of good and is a sort of national treasure. In this world [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    JNS.org – In a throwback to the golden age of cinema, Hollywood has declared 2014 the “Year of the Bible.” From Ridley Scott’s Exodus starring Christian Bale as Moses, to Russell Crowe playing Noah, Hollywood is gambling on new innovations in technology and star power to revisit some of the most popular stories ever told. “It’s definitely a throwback to the 1950s and early ’60s,” Dr. Stephen J. Whitfield, an American Studies professor at Brandeis University, told JNS.org. Starting with The [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    Eddie Carmel, dubbed “The Jewish Giant” by American photographer Diane Arbus, is the centerpiece of a new exhibit opening April 11 at The Jewish Museum in New York. Arbus met Carmel, who was billed “The World’s Tallest Man,” at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus in 1959 but waited until 1970 to photograph him at his parents’ home in the Bronx, according to the museum. The son of immigrants from Tel Aviv, Carmel posed for Arbus with his head bowed to [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    A Passover themed cover of hit songs Let It Go and Do You Want to Build a Snowman? from Disney’s Frozen has attracted tons of media buzz and a cool 65,ooo views on YouTube within days of going online. The work of Jewish a capella group Six13, the track is aptly named Chozen. We are celebrating “our freedom, our favorite festival, our fabulous fans, and aspiring Disney princesses everywhere” the group said. The Chozen music video tells the story of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.