Update on FINDING YOUR ROOTS, Season 3, Episode 10
In July 2016, WETA, the producing station for FINDING YOUR ROOTS, received new information regarding episode 10 of the series’ third season, featuring Dustin Hoffman, which first aired in March 2016.
Following up on this information, the FINDING YOUR ROOTS production team re-examined the materials originally used to shape the program while also conducting additional research, which led to the discovery that the segment featuring Mr. Hoffman included errors based on the misinterpretation of documents from the Ukraine. New details about what has been learned regarding the family history of Mr. Hoffman can be found below.
As a result, the episode has been withdrawn from further broadcast while we evaluate how to address the new information. This series’ website has been updated and this new information will be noted in the series companion book, which will be published in 2017.
Dyllan McGee, Executive Producer
Dalton Delan, Executive Vice President and Chief Programming Officer, WETA
Based on a translation we received from our team of researchers of a March 1921 news article in Vesti (News) of Kamenets-Podol’skii District Revolutionary Committee and Kamenets Bureau of Communist (Bolshevik) Party of Ukraine, the series references Dustin Hoffman’s great-grandmother Liba Hofman (a.k.a. Libba Hoffman) bribing an employee of the Cheka (secret police) and being sentenced to five years in a concentration camp—with a probation period. We have learned through additional research that in this case, “probation” was an imprecise translation and that “uslovno na 5 let” is better translated to mean that Liba Hoffman received a “conditional” sentence. A sentence would have been imposed only if she was convicted of another crime. We are unaware of any evidence to suggest that she was convicted of another crime, so it is likely that she was not actually sent to a concentration camp. Additionally, we learned that the “concentration camp” to which Liba Hofman could have been sent in Soviet Ukraine in 1921 was more akin to a penal colony designed for the use of forced labor.
The episode confused the identity of Dustin Hoffman’s grandfather Frank Hoffman’s father, Sam (as Frank named him on his 1920 U.S. passport application), with that of his likely stepfather, Moshko Golkhman. The confusion arose from the fact that Dustin’s grandmother Liba appears to have married two men with very similar last names (Golkhman and Gofman, both of which are commonly anglicized to Hoffman). We recently obtained a December 1883 birth record listing Frank Hoffman’s father not as Moshko but as Nesanel Khaim-Simhov Gofman. Nesanel was very likely shortened to San, the name connecting Frank to his father in the 1897 census, and “Sam” in his U.S. passport application.