‘Happy Days’ Icon Henry Winkler Told Story of How His Father Escaped Nazi Germany to Start Life in the US

by Keeli Parkey

Before “Happy Days” star Henry Winkler was even born, his parents took a daring journey. It’s a journey that most likely saved their lives.

The now 75-year-old television icon’s parents, who were Jewish, fled Nazi Germany to come to the United States of America. Winkler shared this story during an interview with Old Goats.

According to the “Happy Days” actor, Winkler’s father, Harry Irving Winkler, decided to leave Nazi Germany with some very valuable items. Knowing that he and his wife would probably be searched as they left the country, Harry wisely hid these valuables.

“Before he escaped, my father took the family jewelry and covered all of it in chocolate so it looked like pieces of chocolate,” the “Happy Days” icon said.

It’s almost impossible for most of us to imagine the fear and anxiety Winkler’s parents must have felt as they approached the German border that day in 1939. Fortunately for them – and for their future children – they crossed safely. Winkler’s father’s plan had worked. He and his wife, Ilse Anna Maria, would not have to suffer the horrors of the Holocaust.

“When he got to the checkpoint leaving Germany, he told the Nazis that he was taking nothing of value out of Germany. And thank God they did not check the box of chocolates under his arm,” Winkler also shared.

‘Happy Days’ Star Henry Winkler’s Parents Settled in New York City

Like many other families at the time, Harry Irving Winkler and Ilse Anna Maria Winkler decided to settle in New York City. And once again, they made another wise decision. This decision helped them financially.

“He then pawned the jewelry in New York City, and was able to start their new life — with a company he brought from Germany that imported and exported lumber,” Henry Winkler also said.

Later, Winkler’s father made enough money that he was able to return the valuable family pieces to his family. Winkler’s parents even gave him a very special item.

“He was able to buy the jewelry back, and my parents gave me my great grandfather’s pocket watch that came out of Germany encased in chocolate,” the “Happy Days” star also shared.

As to whether there is any chocolate left on that pocket watch, the answer is no.

“There is no chocolate on it. I’ve licked it clean,” Henry Winkler added.

Winker’s parents lived to see him become a successful television star. Interestingly, they were against his plan to become a television actor. “At first, my father and mother didn’t want me to go on television …” he shared.

He also shared that he decided to be a “different” type of parent than his parents were to him. “There was a sense that I didn’t exist outside of their being my parents. They wanted me to be their image. So I made the decision that I would be a completely different parent. And that I would just listen to anything that the three children had to say,” Winkler added.

The Winkler family continues to grow. Earlier in October, the “Happy Days” star announced the birth of his sixth grandchild.