Mandy Patinkin is a deeply Jewish actor. He has played many roles that lean into his heritage, from Yentl’s Avigdor to Saul Berenson in Homeland.

And yet, as someone whose profession, an actor, is to imagine, he told Henry Louis Gates in an upcoming episode of the geneaology show Finding Your Roots that one aspect of Jewish history — the Holocaust — is something “he has never been able to get a hold of.”

And yet, in the episode, which is part of the current, seventh season of the PBS series, Patinkin is brought face to face with his own family’s unthinkable loss. Until that moment, Patinkin was unaware he lost any relatives in the Holocaust — and that realization absolutely devastates him. It’s a raw, emotional moment that we so rarely get to see — on TV or IRL: a man overwhelmed by the absolute tragedy and trauma of this terrible genocide, and his family’s intimate connection to it.

“You know, I went there,” the actor and Yiddish crooner, 68, tells Gates, referring to Treblinka, the Nazi extermination camp in Poland where he discovers his relatives were killed.

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