Every family has its secrets. Chelsea Handler delved deep into her roots during the latest episode of TLC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” and uncovered her family’s connection to Nazi Germany.
According to Us Weekly, the 38-year old comedian and talk show host -- born in New Jersey to a German mother and a Jewish-American father -- dropped her comedic persona for a serious examination of her maternal grandparents, who lived in Germany during World War II.
"I'm very intrigued to find out how much participation my German grandparents had in the war," Handler said. "My mother was German, she came over to America when she was 19 for the first time. My father, I guess, made a deal with my mother when they had children that they were gonna be raised Jewish. So I connect with my Judaism, or the Jewish side of my family, more than anything else."
During the episode, Handler said she had fond memories of her grandparents. "My mother's parents came from Germany," Handler said. "My grandparents on my mother's side I grew up with my whole life. … They just had this fun sense of humor. [My grandfather] was a very, very big strong man with big strong hands."
Handler’s maternal grandfather, Karl Stoecker, served in the German army during World War II, and was eventually captured as a prisoner of war by the Americans.
"Whether or not he agreed with Hitler, he was serving in the German army," Handler said. "He was taken as a prisoner of war at some point to America, where he stayed for several years. … When he went back to Germany he was very eager to come and take his family and move them back to the United States."
Handler stated that the subject of the war was taboo with her grandfather. "My German grandmother Elizabeth definitely spoke about her life during the war way more than my grandfather did," Handler said. "He never spoke about it."
The “Chelsea Lately” host broke down while reading from a memoir written by her grandmother about life in Germany after the First World War. "I remember my grandmother totally telling us how there was no food," she said. "That must've been really hard to be a parent."
During the course of the episode, Handler discovers that her grandfather fought on the Eastern Front against the Russians until the middle of 1943, when he was transferred from 12th artillery regiment to the 242nd in the South of France. He was captured by the Americans on Aug. 16, 1944, in Saint Raphael on the French Riviera. He was imprisoned in Iowa.