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In Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated, the grandfather of Alex (Boris) kills himself in the movie because he was guilt ridden at having denounced his Jewish heritage and having raised his family as non-Jews. Boris, who is now very anti-Semitic, was secretly a Jew, and had hidden his past from his family. In the movie, Alex never seems to get the full story of his grandfather's past life. Alex and Jonathan figure out that Boris is connected in some way to the Jews of Trachimbrod, but the full truth is never revealed to the audience.

The movie sets up the image that Boris somehow got spared death from a Nazi firing squad. Boris fakes his death and lays amongst the dead until the Nazi's leave. Boris comes to, removes his coat with the Star of David pinned onto it, and tosses it on top of the other dead Jews as he runs away. Lista, Augustine's sister, was moving through the dead and was collecting keepsakes from the dead in order to remember who they were. Lista had witnessed Boris' awakening and departure. Lista watched as Boris tossed his coat on the pile of the dead. What was interesting (and confusing) was some sort of private conversation between Boris and Lista that occurs when the two are reunited with Jonathan and Alex. It's like the movie doesn't seem to explain anything. If there is some sort of "Illumination" here, the audience is left in the dark about what really happened. The movie seems to focus more on Jonathan's search for a woman who saved his grandfather instead of the "true" story that is unfolding with Boris.

Have not read it, but the movie seems to be drastically different from the book in many ways, as is usually the case. After doing some online research, the book appears to explain further that Boris had been confronted by a Nazi general during the war. The general had asked Boris to point out any Jews. Some other townsfolk had been shot for failing to answer this same question. Boris and a close friend (Herschel) were standing together during this confrontation. Boris saves himself and the lives of his wife and child by fingering Herschel as a Jew, and thus (by omission) denies that he himself was also a Jew. This betrayal resulted in the death of Herschel.

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Q: Why did grandfather kill himself in Everything Is Illuminated?
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