Frank Stiefel’s documentary focuses on his mother, Ingelore Herz Honigstein, who was born to a Jewish family in Kuppenheim, Germany, in 1924. Initially rejected by her parents because she was deaf, Ingelore learned to speak via a foster parent who was a professional speech therapist. An education at a school for deaf children opened her horizons, but by 1938 she was expelled due to Nazi anti-Semitic policies. She was able to transfer to a school for Jewish deaf children in Berlin, but one evening she was raped by two soldiers who discovered her stranded on a street after a curfew.
Ingelore and her family then managed to gain visas to America – although the American consulate was initially unsympathetic about granting refuge to a deaf person – but in her new homeland she faced a new problem when she discovered she was impregnated by one of her rapists.
Ingelore narrates her story in a studio setting, and she recounts her odyssey with uncommon eloquence via both sign language and speech. She also makes an emotional journey to her German hometown, where she visits the location of a family hardware store that was confiscated by the Nazis.
Stiefel’s production, which was broadcast on HBO last year, is both heartbreaking for the pain that Ingelore endured and invigorating for her resilient display of indefatigable spirit. Ingelore’s story truly deserves to be heard and admired.