Henry Winkler wasn't 'acknowledged as a human being' by his parents: 'I embarrassed them...'

Henry Winkler opens up about his relationship with his parents credit:Bang Showbiz
Henry Winkler opens up about his relationship with his parents credit:Bang Showbiz

Henry Winkler wasn't "acknowledged as a human being" by his parents.

The 78-year-old actor is the son of late German Jews Harry and Ilse Winkler - who fled Berlin at the start of World War II in 1939 to start a business in the United States - and even though he "understands" that they had been through a difficult time, claimed that they paid little attention to him and only saw him as a chance to boost their status.

Speaking on the 'How to Fail' podcast, he told host Elizabeth Day: "I had a sense of how to be in the house, how to be out of the house just in order to flourish as a human being.

"My parents did not see me, they did not acknowledge me as a human being and that is so detrimental to a human being living a full life.

"They went through a trauma, I understand that, they came to another land, learned a new language, and started another business. I respect that.

"As human beings, I don't know if it was their Germanness, I don't know if it was their generation but they literally saw me as an extension to making them grander. I had to do well.

"If I didn't do well, I embarrassed them. That is a tragedy, it is one of the no-nos of being a parent.

"You have to see the child in front you, hear the child in front of you. If the child is having a problem, it is your job to make sure that you don't let that child's self-image plummet to the bottom of the open."

The Emmy Award-winning star achieved global fame when he starred as Fonzie on the classic sitcom 'Happy Days' in the 1970s but recalled not being allowed to watch television when he was growing up and would have to be "careful" about switching the set on when he was alone because his parents would check the box to see if it was hot when they returned.

He said: "I was not allowed to watch television; when they went out on a Saturday night if I sat at my desk I was gonna get it.

"So I had to watch television carefully and turn it off at the right time because they would feel it. If it was warm, because there were tubes at that time, it wasn't all transistorised, it was not all modern thin on-the-wall televisions, it was...

"What I never understood was, I would leave my bedroom joyful, I would wake up happy. Then I would walk into a maelstrom of...I don't why they were yelling or what they were yelling and I used music to bring my brain back to normal so I wasn't shaking. As I say it now in 2024, I so deeply resent it."