Jewish actress Winona Ryder, who up until recently has been fairly quiet about her Jewish heritage, opened up about the childhood trauma and fears caused by the legacy of the Holocaust in her family.
In a recent interview with The Daily Mirror, Ryder said that her biggest childhood fear was that someone would knock on the door and drag them off to be murdered, like her father's family, who's lives were taken in the Holocaust.
“I was terrified of being separated from them. In World War II, my mum’s father died fighting the Nazis in the Pacific and, on my father’s side, family members died in the camps," Ryder told The Daily Mirror.
Although the experience was traumatizing, Ryder said that she was glad her parents told her the truth adding that, "though they had to pick the right age to tell me because it is so horrific."
Ryder, who's born name is Winona Horowitz, is Jewish through her father Michael Horowitz's side. Her father's family name was originally Tomchin, but it was changed upon his family's arrival in the United States after they emigrated from Russia.
It wasn't until recently that she began to open up about her Jewish heritage, when during an interview with The Sunday Times last month she recounted a time when she was stood at a crowded party in a group of friends, when she said that the 64-year-old Braveheart star called her an “oven dodger," an obvious reference to the Nazi extermination camps during the Holocaust.
Despite mentioning in the same interview that Gibson later apologized, not long after the quote made headlines did Gibson come out denying the claim.
"This is 100% untrue," a representative for Gibson said in a statement to Variety. "She lied about it over a decade ago, when she talked to the press, and she's lying about it now."
This isn't the only time Ryder has encountered antisemitism, however. In that same interview, Ryder revealed that she was once overlooked for a movie role because she looked "too Jewish" for the part.
“There are times when people have said, ‘Wait, you’re Jewish? But you’re so pretty!’ There was a movie that I was up for a long time ago, it was a period piece, and the studio head, who was Jewish, said I looked ‘too Jewish’ to be in a blue-blooded family," Ryder said in The Sunday Times interview.
She additionally noted why, up until now, she's been quiet on the matter.
"It’s a hard thing for me to talk about because I had family who died in the camps, so I’ve always been fascinated with that time," she said.
In her interview with The Daily Mirror, Ryder said that she used to spend a lot of time in the library doing research on the Holocaust."I couldn’t stop turning the pages and thought, ‘This is horrible, why am I doing this?,'" she said.
“Then I realized maybe I was looking for my family, for someone I recognized," she continued.
When Ryder was a little girl, she said that it was her grandmother on her father's side, who originally showed her the photos of her cousin, and other family members who died during the Holocaust. During one of these sessions, she came across a photo of Russian-Jewish cousin, who was also an actress when she was killed in the Nazi camps.
The Jewish actress mentioned that her cousin was largely her influence the role she took in the film adaption for Girl, Interrupted, written by Jewish author Susanna Kaysen, in a 1999 interview with the Jewish Journal. Ryder was a similar age to her cousin at the time she took on the role.
Now, Ryder 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. Part of the reason she's taking on the role is because Philip Roth is a favorite author and she loved his 2004 novel, Ryder told The Daily Mirror. However, she's been accused of taking up the role as a stand against US President Donald Trump.
“I’m the daughter of two writers and historians and was really lucky I got to grow up in a family that talked about stuff that wasn’t being discussed," she said in the same interview.Further coloring in her childhood background, she added, "In school, when teaching historical stuff, I’d say, ‘Well what about when this happened?’ and I literally got detention. Now I’m astonished at some of the things going on," she said.
“I never thought I’d see a swastika paraded at a march and shown on national TV. So it’s now or never. You have to take a stand, you have to! And the way to do that is by voting," she added.