'Ingelore' Film tells local woman's story

Florida Sun-Sentinel

October 28, 2009


Ingelore Herz Honigstein is the subject of a film being shown at the Ft. Lauderdale Film Festival on November 1. As a young girl, Herz Honigstein and her parents fled Nazi Germany for freedom. (Janeris Marte, FPG / October 22, 2009)

Ingelore Honigstein never told her children about her childhood in Nazi Germany. Then Honigstein, who is deaf, went to a seminar on the deaf experience in the Holocaust where she told her story.

"I was talking to the [back] wall," Honigstein, 84, said last week at her home in Margate. "Over 500 people there. Suddenly, I cry. My chest, I felt better after I spoke." Honigstein said she looked up and people were crying too.

A woman in the audience had a son who was studying history at a university in California and he invited Honigstein to speak to the class. That was where Hongistein's son Frank Stiefel, a filmmaker in Los Angeles, heard his mother's story for the first time.

"I said, 'This is a film,'" Stiefel said in a phone conversation from his home in Santa Monica.

And that is how the 40-minute film "Ingelore," which will have its Florida premiere on Nov. 1 at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, was made.

Scenes in which Honigstein tells her story aloud, in sign language and in subtitles were filmed in Stiefel's studio in January 2008. "I wanted the film to work for a deaf audience as well as [for] a hearing audience," Stiefel said.

In April of last year Honigstein, Stiefel and his brother Lester went to Germany, where scenes with Honigstein in present-day Berlin and in her home town of Kuppenheim
were filmed. It was the first time Honigstein returned to Germany since she left almost 70 years earlier.

"Being in Kuppenheim was sort of this rush of emotions, both positive and negative," Stiefel said. "One of the things that was joyous for her was to share that part of her life with her sons."

Stiefel said he saw no displays of anger. "I think that's actually what the film was about. That she had become free of that sense of victimization."

The remainder of the movie was "shot in bits and pieces over the rest of the year," Stiefel said.

Honigstein's story is touching at times, shocking at others. But its closing scenes are uplifting. Honigstein talks about her feelings of joy when she and her parents arrive in New York City in 1940.

And the final scene of Honigstein with her sons and their families in Stiefel's home gives the film a happy, optimistic ending.

"I came to America, I feel different," she says. "I'm not afraid anymore. My life has changed."

Ingelore Honigstein and Frank Stiefel will be at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival for the Nov. 1 showing of "Ingelore" at the Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE Sixth St., in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The film is part of a 70-minute triple feature that will start at 12:10 p.m. For tickets, call 954-525-3456 or go to www.FLIFF.com