Seeing as last week was Holocaust Memorial Day and I have lots of random facts about celebrity Holocaust connections living in my head, I thought I would share some of them with you. I hope you enjoy this little mix of pop culture and history...and a bit of a reminder of how far reaching the Holocaust actually was.
1. Lisa Kudrow
Lisa Kudrow, famous for her iconic role as Phoebe in Friends, is the great-grandchild of a Holocaust victim. Her great-grandmother, who hailed from Ilya, Belarus, was killed during the Shoah along with many other members of Lisa's family. Kudrow's grandmother was raised in Ilya, but emigrated to the United States before WWII. The story can be seen in Kudrow's episode of Who Do You Think You Are, which is available to watch here.
2. Natasha Lyonne
After appearing in the coming-of-age flick American Pie, Lyonne became a recognizable face in Hollywood. She now portrays Nicky Nichols in Orange is the New Black. Both of her maternal grandparents are Hungarian survivors, her grandfather having hid in Budapest during the war. Raised in an Orthodox Jewish home, Natasha says that her "father comes from Flatbush and my mother's family comes from Auschwitz." She portrayed a Holocaust victim in the 2001 film The Grey Zone in a role based on Roza Robota, a woman who aided the Sonderkommando Uprising in Auschwitz in October 1944.
3. Mark-Paul Gosselaar
Best known for his role as teen heartthrob Zack Morris on Saved by the Bell, Mark-Paul descends from a family of Dutch-Jews. His great-grandparents, who lived in The Hague, were murdered in the Sobibor Concentration Camp.
4. Sarah Silverman
Although comedian Sarah Siverman has been criticized for making jokes about the Holocaust, her own grandmother is a survivor of the genocide.
5. Roseanne Barr
Roseanne Barr, famous for her portrayal of a working-class mother in her own sitcom Roseanne, is the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor.Roseanne was raised Jewish which was hidden from those outside her family. Growing up in Salt Lake City, her family outwardly pretended to be Mormon.
6. Natalie Portman
Famous for....well, do I really have to tell you? Natalie said of her heritage in 1997 when she portrayed Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank on Broadway: “I grew up with the Holocaust, because my grandparents lost their entire families,” Natalie told the Jewish News. She even found a similar story to Anne’s in her own family. “My grandfather's 14-year-old brother was also hidden, but one day he couldn't take it anymore and he ran outside and was shot.”
7. Dr. Ruth Westheimer
Dr. Ruth, one of the first people to bring the topic of sex to prime time TV, is a Holocaust survivor herself. Born in Germany to an Orthodox-Jewish family, she escaped to Switzerland after Kristallnacht. Her father was arrested during the event. She traveled on her own to Switzerland in 1939 and stopped receiving letters from her parents in 1941. Her parents died during the Holocaust, but there is not much information--it is possible they perished at Auschwitz. At the age of 17, she emigrated to Israel. After moving to France for a while, she made her home in America in 1956.