Dustin Hoffman's tragic family history traces back to Ukraine
The Oscar-winning actor appeared on the PBS genealogy series Finding Your Roots this week and told how he never knew the name of his paternal grandparents.
Dustin Hoffman's family's story is a movie begging to be made! #FindingYourRoots— PragmaticObotsUnite (@PragObots) March 9, 2016
Host Henry Louis Gates informed the 78-year-old how Hoffman’s grandfather Frank left Chicago around 1919 to return to what is now Ukraine to find his parents, Sam and Esther Hoffman, after learning that Jews were being killed in pogroms in Bila Tserkva.
When Frank landed there, he was arrested and executed by secret police soon thereafter, having never discovered that his parents had already been arrested as well – and that his father, Sam, was already dead.
Was already a fan of Dustin Hoffman — but after seeing his reaction to such shocking news...gotta give him props. https://t.co/9nLY9wpzQl— POWER 103.5 (@power1035) March 11, 2016
And...Dustin Hoffman makes me cry on #FindingYourRoots. It's the TiVo Full of Tears.— Micheline Maynard (@MickiMaynard) March 11, 2016
Dustin Hoffman’s great-grandmother Libba fought on, surviving five years of pogroms before eventually escaping to Argentina.
At age 62 she moved on to America, arriving in 1930 in poor health, having lost an arm and suffering from poor vision and “senility”.
When shown Libba’s Ellis Island records, detailing her physical health issues, the actor broke down into tears, with host Gates describing her as “the hero of your family tree”.
"Why did he want to erase all this?" asked a teary Hoffman, referring to why his father never told him of his family’s tragic past.
“They all survived for me to be here,” he told Gates.
I can't deal with Dustin Hoffman crying. "They survived for me to be here." Too real. #FindingYourRoots— Princess Love (@blkMYmorris) March 9, 2016
Don't watch #FindingYourRoots while on your period bc I can't stop crying.— Cali (@calidreamin08) March 10, 2016
“My father was an atheist,” Hoffman recalled in the program. “And we grew up not having a religion and my mother had a nose job to anti-Jewish herself. And I think in some way they were trying to pass.”
"People ask me today, 'What are you?' " Hoffman said. “I say, 'I'm a Jew’.”