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Family patriarch and Holocaust survivor Symcha Zweifler wants to sell his delicatessen empire when suddenly he is confronted with his past in Frankfurt’s red light district just after WWII—an acid test for the whole family as long-suppressed conflicts resurface.

Who, if not Symchas’s grandson Samuel, should carry on his grandfather’s life’s work? But Samuel’s British Caribbean girlfriend, Saba, has other plans. Things get worse when Samuel and Saba are expecting a son. Samuel’s sister Dana, who has found her anchor in religion and has traveled all the way from Israel to celebrate the circumcision of the newborn in Frankfurt, is confronted with old conflicts and repressed secrets in her hometown. She does everything in her power to take over her grandfather’s business. The youngest sibling, Leon, is clearly the loser in the return of his two older siblings. When he invites the family to his first exhibition, in which he shows his provocative family portraits, a scandal ensues.

Mimi, the mother of the three, always walks a fine line between caring and manipulation. How far will she go to bring her children closer to her again? Her husband, Jackie, a psychiatrist, is in the middle of a belated midlife crisis, including an affair with his patient. He is tired of always being the family punching bag. The grandparents, Symcha and Lilka Zweifler, are the undisputed rulers of the family. But their strength and lifespan are slowly beginning to fade.

A tragic-comic search for the meaning of life begins, culminating in decisions that will change the lives of everyone involved.

 

David Hadda, CEO of Turbokultur and showrunner of The Zweiflers:

”Our aim was simply to tell the story of a Jewish family living in Germany without having to explain ourselves. The more specific our characters, the more universal our story becomes. We have achieved this by creating our show as thoughtfully and authentically as possible at all levels of production.”

Sebastian Krekeler, Director Drama, ZDF Studios:

“It’s only once in a while that you come across a family drama with such distinctive characters, wonderfully portrayed by a great international cast. Nuanced with emotional family and cultural conflicts, The Zweiflers is a tragicomedy that many people will relate to regardless of their religion and background.”





Characters

  • Aaron Altaras

    Known for the Emmy-award-winning Netflix series Unorthodox and the Disney+/Star drama Deutsches Haus.

     

    „Samuel is under enormous pressure, whether from his family, his girlfriend or the newborn baby. The role is very close to me. His life and the decisions he faces also reflect my own experiences. It is simply very difficult to make the right decisions. The ‚Zweiflers‘, especially Samuel, are not only of great importance to me, but hopefully also to the audience. They embody aspects of life that many people can identify with. ​ If you know each other and talk to each other, it’s much easier not to hate each other.“

  • Saffron Coomber

    Known for Three Little Birds and Small Axe.

     

    „The series is of particular importance to me because it deals intensively with the topic of identity. Whether it is Saba’s black identity or Samuel’s Jewish identity, ‚The Zweiflers‘ dives deep into the aspects that can connect people and what it means to be oppressed. The focus is on finding humor and community, although ultimately it can also be this particular search that creates distance between people. Saba and Samuel fight over which parts of their identity and culture are more meaningful or important. Of course, each individual has their own unique perspective on this. As a British woman of mixed heritage, this is a central aspect of my life. It was a pleasure to be able to explore these themes in front of the camera.“

  • Eleanor Reissa

    Known for The Walking Dead and The Plot Against America.

     

    „For me, participating in ‚The Zweifler‘ is exactly what the Yiddish word ‚bashert‘ describes: being predestined. The role of Lilka Zweifler, the matriarch of this special family, feels like I’ve been preparing for it my whole life. My own parents experienced the Holocaust, just like Lilka. My father, like Lilka, survived the hell of Auschwitz, fought the devil and won. He survived long enough to have me and was the only survivor of his transport to return to Stuttgart. Lilka epitomizes this resilience and strength by returning alive. The irony is that I now also have a German passport and am a German citizen – a fact I am very happy about. Another Yiddish saying goes: ‚If you manage to stay alive, anything is possible‘ – I am Lilka Zweifler.“

  • Mike Burstyn

    Winner of two ‘Israeli Oscars’ and the first Israeli to perform on Broadway.

     

    „When I was offered the role of Symcha Zweifler, I didn’t hesitate for a second to take it. Growing up surrounded by Holocaust survivors, my parents were well-known in Yiddish theater, and together we traveled all over the world.​

    I had the privilege of meeting all the actors and actresses who had been on the theater stages in Poland before the war and had survived the horror of the Holocaust. I knew them, their way of speaking, laughing and crying. When I read the script, I immediately recognized myself in the character of Symcha. I didn’t have to think about it, the story of the Zweiflers is a universal family story that I can relate to from personal experience.“

  • Sunnyi Melles

    Known for Kaiser Karl and  Triangle of Sadness.

     

    „Every day on set, David Hadda and I dived deep into the essence of​ ‚Mimi Zweifler‘ – this mother who demanded everything from me​ and often reflected the complexities of our own lives.​

    What a lucky break David gifted this role to me. And what a joy that my own daughter follows in my footsteps portraying ‚Debbie Zweifler‘. Even my own parents remind me of the Zweifler family. They fled Hungary during the people uprising in October 1956. I grew up with my mother in Switzerland. Neither of us had passports for 15 years. No identity. I​ was brought up in Swiss German and French, because my mother​ found it difficult to speak Hungarian away from home.​ But I inherited my mother’s sense of humor, for which I am​ grateful to her. It helps always and everywhere, especially in the saddest​ moments of life.“

  • Mark Ivanir

    Known for Heart of Stone and Schindler’s List.

     

    „When I first spoke to producer David Hadda about the role of Jackie, the character was conceived very differently than later on in the series. Jackie was originally supposed to be a German Jew who was born in Germany and spoke accent-free German – something I neither am nor can do. But in the course of our conversations, Jackie changed into someone who was born in Russia and left the country at a very young age, which is more in line with my own biography. I myself lost my father at the age of 19, and even today I still have a certain form of communication with him. It has nothing to do with witchcraft or crystal balls. When I stand by his grave, I tell him the latest news from my life. Before making difficult decisions, I sometimes ask myself what he would think or if he could give me a sign. I talked to David Hadda about this idea, and a week later he sent me the cemetery scene in its current form, which is one of my favorite scenes. It was an extraordinary experience to develop and shoot this scene.“

  • Deleila Piasko

    Known for Agent Hamilton and The Shadow.

     

    „The first association with Judaism is usually the Holocaust, but for me it has always been a culture. A culture that I grew up in, that is an integral part of my identity. Filled with traditions, attending synagogue, Shabbat, Passover, different chants and of course the sarcastic humor. That was my world. I am grateful to be part of a series that authentically portrays this culture without falling into stereotypes or approaching the topic too anxiously. Apart from the cultural aspect, the series tells the story of a family consisting of three generations and their different perspectives on topics such as identity, origin, gender roles and transgenerational trauma. It always fascinates me to observe who we become when we are with our family. Who is this unfiltered, hypersensitive part of ourselves? I find this both amusing and touching to follow. I am also interested in the question of whether we can really free ourselves from the role we play in our family. This complex family dynamic feels very familiar to me.“

  • Leo Altaras

    Known for The Glory of Life and Life Is Too Long.

     

    „When I first read the character description of Leon Zweifler last year, my decision was immediately clear – very unusual for me, as I’m usually very careful when choosing my roles. But here it just felt right. I found many parallels to my own life in Leon. A boy from a Jewish family, an artist who feels misunderstood by his surroundings – or even by the world in general. It was a natural process to identify with Leon and play him. The shoot was very personal because Leon and I are very similar. Leon Zweifler is an extremely sensitive person who has to assert himself in a toxic environment – something I also experienced in my own family. It’s no exaggeration to say that there’s a part of me in him and vice versa.“

  • Ute Lemper

    Award-winning singer and actress known for Smoke Wrings and Bogus.

     

    „What interested me most about the series was the question of how and why a Holocaust survivor wanted to live in Germany, how he could return to a life, an everyday life, surrounded by the perpetrators. How could he justify this decision to his family, his children and grandchildren? How could this family live in a voluntarily imposed ghetto in the middle of non-Jewish, sometimes still strongly anti-Semitic people in Frankfurt and at the same time defend their rights, their faith and their religion? I have lived in New York for decades and am surrounded by stories of Jewish immigrants. First, second, third, fourth generation – my children grew up with third generation Holocaust survivors, and all of these stories touch me deeply. They tell of how these people survived and built a new life in a foreign country where everyone has a different background, culture and religion. All of this is reflected in my role as ‚Tammi‘. I embody the antagonist, so to speak, the rebel who didn’t want to get stuck in the old world in Frankfurt. ‚Tammi‘ left this world to follow her career and her passion as an artist, but also to make a life for herself without dogma and traditions, without exclusivity or boundaries – that really is my own story.“

Credits

Format
6×45’

Produced by
Turbokultur

Year of Production
2023

Original Language
German, English, Yiddish

Broadcaster
ARD Degeto Film/HR

Writer
David Hadda, Sarah Hadda, Juri Sternburg

Director
Anja Marquardt, Clara Zöe My-Linh von Arnim



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