In a moving episode of PBS’s “Finding Your Roots,” singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette uncovered startling revelations about her family’s past, bringing to light a hidden history steeped in tragedy and resilience. The episode revealed Morissette’s Jewish heritage, a secret closely guarded by her family for generations due to the deep-seated fears stemming from their Holocaust experiences.

Morissette, who was raised Catholic and now practices Buddhism, was left in awe upon discovering that her mother, Georgia Mary Ann Feuerstein, was born in Hungary to Holocaust survivors Imre Feuerstein and Nadinia Anna Lauscher/Gulyas. This revelation was especially significant as Morissette had only learned of her Jewish roots in her late 20s, previously unaware of the profound struggles her ancestors had faced.

The episode, hosted by Harvard University history professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., delved into the heart-wrenching history of Morissette’s great-uncles, Gyorgy and Sandor Feuerstein. Sent to work battalions, these labor camps were rife with brutality and inhumane conditions, eventually claiming the lives of Gyorgy and Sandor. The “Finding Your Roots” team discovered records at Yad Vashem and the Red Cross, shedding light on the fates of these two men, who died in Soviet slave labor camps during the Holocaust.

Morissette expressed her disbelief and sorrow upon learning about the ordeals her family endured. The revelation was not just a mere historical fact but a deeply personal connection to a past filled with suffering and loss. This episode painted a vivid picture of the pervasive and lasting impact of the Holocaust on Jewish families.

Imre Feuerstein, Morissette’s grandfather, spent years grappling with the unknown fates of his brothers. His inquiries to the Red Cross after the war reflected a desperate hope for their survival. The episode also revealed the hardships the family faced under Soviet rule, leading them to flee to Canada, where Morissette eventually grew up.

In a touching moment, Morissette, while reading a news clipping about a car crash that tragically killed her grandfather Imre when she was just three months old, was moved to tears.

The episode also traced Morissette’s Jewish lineage back over two centuries, connecting her to the town of Drohobycz, once part of the Austrian empire, now in modern-day Ukraine. This discovery of her roots brought a sense of belonging and connection to a community that Morissette had always admired.

Alanis Morissette’s experience on “Finding Your Roots” is a poignant reminder of the complex tapestry of human history and the importance of understanding and embracing our ancestral past. Her journey of discovery is a powerful testament to the enduring strength of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable adversity.

Image Source:

  • Alanis Morissette: flickr