Journalist Karen A. Frenkel wanted to understand her family history and legacy, but she knew little about her parents’ lives before and during WWII. This is her detective story and it identifies major steps in family history research. Unlike many Holocaust accounts, Family Treasures is not only a survivor story but an intergenerational sleuthing adventure in which Karen uses digital and real-world genealogical tools to uncover family mysteries. With Karen’s family as a model, our documentary series describes the cultural life of Polish Jews before the war, their resistance to fascism and their complex fates that include altruism, serendipity, and the reasons for their silence. Ultimately, Karen solves some mysteries, honors her parents and lost relatives, and ensures that memories of a vanished culture will endure. 

Karen’s genealogical detective work shows why filling in the blanks of lives lost is important not only to her, but to the history of the Jewish people and society as a whole. Family Treasures does not dwell on the horror and sorrow of the Holocaust, but on how increased understanding and insight can lead to empathy for the persecuted. Family Treasures highlights the plights of Holocaust refugees, which are still pertinent to the displacement of 100 million refugees today. Our film is broadly topical because it shows the consequences of the trauma of war on displaced people.

Family Treasures will be released as an 75-minute documentary feature and as a unique format of five short segments. In both, Karen’s research steps reveal how a journalist investigates a family saga, creating a model for others.


“Family Treasures Lost and Found” is a Women Make Movies Production Assistance Program Project. Established in 1972, Women Make Movies is a 501(c)3 nonprofit media arts organization registered with the New York Charities Bureau of New York State. As the fiscal sponsor, WMM accepts donations or grants on behalf of the filmmaker and then takes the responsibility of administering the funds received in support of the development and completion of the film.