Growing up Jewish in Nazi Germany, Ingelore Herz Honigstein had to overcome a additional hurdle: her deafness. Stigmatized by her condition, she spent her formative years alone, unhappy and unable to express herself. In the HBO2 documentary INGELORE, she tells an unlikely story of survival in the face of daunting odds, recounting her remarkable journey.
Ingelore was born deaf in 1924 to Jewish parents in Kuppenheim, Germany. Embarrassed over their mute child, her parents made no attempt at communication. She said her first word at age six, when a foster father taught her the rudiments of language. Ingelore’s new world opened up further when she attended a school for the deaf, where she felt optimistic about her future – until the Nazis rose to power.
She returned to her parents in Kuppernheim after a brutal rape by two Nazi cadets on the streets of Berlin, only to find they had been granted visas to leave Germany, while she had not. Pleading with an unfeeling officer at the American consulate, Ingelore finally received a visa after a miraculous incident. Once in America, there were more shattering revelations, but she endured by drawing on a spirit greater than any hardship she faced.
Produced and directed by Frank Stiefel, Ingelore’s son, the film mixes on-camera images of his mother, whose dialogue alternates between speech and sign language – subtitles enabling both deaf and hearing audiences to experience the film – with archival footage and evocative reenactments (filmed on location in Germany and the U.S.) of key moments in Ingelore’s life. In providing a video memoir of his mother for future generations of the family, Stiefel has crafted a visually rich documentary that has visceral impact for all audiences. The film closes with a poignant Seder recently attended by Ingelore and her family, and some parting words from the matriarch about her long journey and appreciation of her many blessings.
A successful TV commercial producer, Frank Stiefel also produced such documentaries as “Two Roads to the Taupo 1000,” “Two Roads to Baja,” “A Stoner’s Life” and “Two Weddings.” INGELORE marks his first directorial effort.