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July 12, 2020 12:30 pm

Actress Winona Ryder Opens Up About Her Family’s Holocaust Trauma: ‘I’m Grateful My Parents Told Me the Truth’

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Winona Ryder. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Actress Winona Ryder opened up over the weekend about the legacy of Holocaust trauma in her family, saying she sometimes slept in the doorway to her parents’ bedroom for fear the family would be taken away and killed as her father’s family had been.

Ryder, who was born Winona Horowitz, has been silent about her Jewish heritage for most of her career, but with her newfound comeback as a player in the massive hit series Stranger Things, she has begun to speak much more publicly about her identity.

In an interview with The Daily Mirror, Ryder said her childhood fears “came from overhearing stories of what happened in the camps.”

She was “terrified” of being separated from her parents, she said, because “in World War II, my mom’s father died fighting the Nazis in the Pacific and, on my father’s side, family members died in the camps.”

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“I am grateful my parents told me the truth” about the family’s Holocaust history, she said, “though they had to pick the right age to tell me because it is so horrific.”

Despite this traumatic legacy, however, Ryder was fascinated by her identity and the family history.

“I used to go to the library and look at books about [the Holocaust],” she said. “I couldn’t stop turning the pages and thought, ‘This is horrible, why am I doing this?’”

“Then I realized maybe I was looking for my family, for someone I recognized,” Ryder said.

Ryder recently made headlines when, while discussing her experiences of antisemitism in Hollywood, she related that casting directors had said she looked “too Jewish” for certain roles and actor Mel Gibson — who has a long history of antisemitic statements — had called her an “oven dodger.”

The actress is currently starring in the series The Plot Against America, in which she plays a Jewish woman in an alternate history in which a Nazi sympathizer becomes US president in the 1940s.

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