Tangled Roots

Struggling with a legacy of war
Year Released
Film Length(s)
66 mins
Remote video URL


Decades after the end of World War II, Germans and Jews still struggle with the difficult legacies of war. Filmmaker Heidi Schmidt Emberling confronts her German father and Jewish mother about the devastating secrets and painful silence about the past as she struggles to reconcile her dual identity as both a German and a Jew.

Featured review

Heidi Schmidt Emberling's exploration of identity and the power of labels in her documentary, Tangled Roots, will be of interest to anyone willing to tackle the tough issues of history's legacies, repair and reconciliation, and the power of family ties. Her memories, her pictures and the voices of her German-Christian and American-Jewish family members provide a unique entry point for the most important questions people can ask about who they are and how they see 'the other.'
Jack Weinstein
Director, SF Bay Area, Facing History and Ourselves


Through intimate interviews with both her Jewish relatives in America and her German Lutheran relatives abroad, she discovers a rich family tapestry spanning three continents, shaped by war, courage, prejudice, and fear. Tangled Roots gives a personal voice to a rarely-heard minority, a generation of German children branded forever by their parent's actions during the war. The film also gives an original voice to the countless Jewish friends and family changed forever by the horrors of the Holocaust. Because there are few films that explore the lives of the first generation of Germans to grow up in the aftermath of World War II in Germany, Tangled Roots becomes a critical work in the ongoing dialogue between the Jewish and German communities.


Tangled Roots is both an intimate portrayal of a singular story and a window into two larger themes, namely, the hybridity of Jewish existence and post-WWII relations between Jews and Germans. The film pivots around the painful effort to break the silence and tabooization Germans imposed on themselves after the war, as well as the equally painful effort to overcome the demonization of Germany and Germans that infuses much of post-Holocaust American Judaism with a sense of difference. It is really a courageous act of charting territory that has far too long been left uncharted.
Michael Zank
Asst. Professor of Religion, Boston University
This is an outstanding film, attempting to bring the filmmaker's dual identity into a unity. There is compassion and respect in the search, and yet the questions raised are most probing. It is an excellent springboard for discussion.
Rabbi Gerald Raiskin
Peninsula Temple Sholom
Tangled Roots is a moving film about bi-cultural identity and the challenge of integrating a legacy of historical trauma...a useful contribution to the post-Holocaust German/Jewish dialogue.
Armand Volkas
Psychotherapist, Director, Healing The Wounds of History

Awards and Screenings

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
Boston Jewish Film Festival
Berlin Women's Film Festival

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