Monday, December 15, 2008

Apples Over the Fence [2]: The Truth Will Out

It has been a bit over a year since I posted my doubts about the Herman Rosenblatt story about having a young girl throw him apples over the fence when he was in a Buchenwald sub-camp. I expressed strong reservations when I first heard it.

Never has anything I posted received as many comments. The number stands at 105 at the moment. I find that remarkable.

Well it looks like the book and the 15 million dollar movie will be out soon.

But that is not the only thing that will soon be out. Some serious historians as well as other historical sleuths have done some pretty serious research on this story. There are also survivors who are very upset about this story. They just don't believe it.

Based on what I have seen thus far, I would say that this story is not exactly a shining example of verisimilitude.

The folks behind these productions [movie and book] will go after the critics with a vengeance. One of them did so to me. He essentially accused me of slander and told me that I really don't know much about the Holocaust and that he knows more....

Seems to me that it is his way of trying to silence the critics.

My prediction is that he won't be able to do so this time. There is just too much evidence to the contrary.

Another really unfortunate circumstance.

30 comments:

MJ said...

Deborah, as someone who knows Herman and Roma Rosenblat, I find it very hard to believe the story is entirely fabricated. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, even Herman disavows some of the more bizarre statements that have circulated in the e-mail versions. But do you have evidence that the entire story is untrue?

Deborah Lipstadt said...

I have now read the research in a preliminary form. When it appears in public people can make up their minds. What i have seen thus far is pretty compelling....

dan said...

The book will be published by Berkley Books in NYC and by HarperCollins in Australia and by Thorsons Element in the UK. That is true. Pub date is Feb. 2

RE: "Well it looks like the book and the US$15 million movie will be out soon."

BUT the movie is at this point just an idea on a website. The producers are still raising money, and still setting up the cast, and the movie, if it does get off the ground, will not be made or released for a long long time. Not now. Movies in Hollywood takes 5-10 years to develop and finance, and this movie is just an idea on paper. Just go look at their website. Most likely, there will never be a movie of Herman's book. But the book itself, the memoir, yes, it is already edited and at the printing shop now and most likely already warehoused at Penguin books warehouse in New Jersey. It's going to be a great read!

MJ, I am sure you know Herman and Roma well, and I am sure they are good, honest, loving people, salt of the Earth. Nobody has said the book is "entirely fabricated". The critics who are looking into this and other observers just feel that SOME PARTS of it are embellished, perhaps even fabricated, yes, but not the entire book. That is why nobody is calling it a hoax. It is not a hoax. Just some parts, maybe, what do I know, only God know, were fabricated. These things happen. Publishers take risks, take chances. We won't know the real truth behind this book until someone does an expose about the book, pro and con. And then people can judge where does truth lie. I suspect Dr Lipstadt knows what she is talking about here. We should listen to her. But no, "the entire story" is NOT untrue? Just some of it, maybe? Again, I have not read it, so I don't know. God knows, and God will tell when He's good and ready. Which parts were "embellished" and how much of the book has been "creatively" written? Only the editors know, they who have read it. But come Febuary 2, we can all read it and see for ourselves. I think all concerned agree that we should look at this calmly and judiciously. Jewdiciously. Step by step. But thanks to Dr Lipstadt for making this blog accessible to all who want to chime in. I am hoping the book is entirely true. Even 99 percent true. Writers do have some leeway these days and poetic license is part of memoir writing these days. Think James Frey, Ishamel Beahm the Misha with Wolves writer, and other books about the Holocaust that later turned out to be, how shall we say, fabricated in parts. Let's see. One does have to wonder, though, if dear Oprah is aware of this brouhaha that is brewing here?

MJ said...

Dan, I may be misreading your tone, but perhaps you misread my post; I don't think sarcasm is called for in response. I very much appreciate the work Deborah has done and continues to do to combat Holocaust denial in every way possible. The question I asked is an honest question, and not intended to challenge Deborah or to end discussion of this subject. When the results of the on the story research appear, I will be eager to read them.

A number of commentators on this blog have suggested ways in which the story may have become embellished, without implicating the Rosenblats in any kind of intentional deception. When the research is made public, as Deborah says, we will all be able to make up our minds.

dan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Deborah Lipstadt said...

I have decided to post no more comments on this issue unless they are substantive, i.e. having to do with facts. In fact, I think the best thing to do is to simply wait until those doing the research post their own findings.

AncestralManor said...

The appeal of the Rosenblat story has been characterized by Oprah as "the single greatest love story in 22 years we have ever told ... " and echoed by many fans.

So even when the documentation compilation is completed for exactly where Herman and Roma actually were for which time periods during the Holocaust, there is also growing documentation of a different story for the Rosenblat's life together in the US.

One central piece is the Rosenblat description of their whirlwind romance.

In every version of the story as Herman and Roma tell it, they met in 1957 and were married six months later. There has been a great deal of publicity and public celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary during 2008 for a marriage on June 1, 1958.

Yet, in June 1988 both Herman and Roma Rosenblat signed an affidavit in Florida asserting that they were married June 1, 1959. It was notarized by Roma's younger brother and attorney, Harvey Delano Rogers (originally immigrating to the US as Delano-Henryk Radzicki with Roma, their mother Rozalia nee Zalctreger, father Bernard and Roma's younger sister Mila).

Other documents in US public records have additional zig zags from the story that Herman and Roma tell.

The media does seem to have upped the ante, often times in a really frenetic way of dramatizing the story - time and again, but most particularly in the audio and video segments listed on the movie press link.
http://www.atlanticoverseaspictures.com/press.htm

Times have changed. If the media will not do it's own homework, someone else will. The truth does matter.

Sharon Sergeant

Deborah Lipstadt said...

Sharon
I have posted your comment because it contains factual information but i am not sure if the date of their marriage etc. is really relevant to the issue. The issue is the Holocaust experience he says he had. Leave the rest of the man's life alone. This man is a Holocaust survivor. He's not a complete fraud like the wolf woman you helped expose. Don't mesh the two cases.

AncestralManor said...

If the publisher decides that the Holocaust portion of the story is "close enough" and never looks at the mirror image of inaccuracies in the US part of the story, then the horse is out of the barn at a whole new level.

It's a mixed message to say that the Holocaust portions must be critiqued but it doesn't matter what else is innacurate, even if it is central to the romance non-fiction premise of the book.

Damage control for all parties would be that Herman's biography, now with details that do not stand up to scrutiny in both the Holocaust and the US public records, not be published.


Sharon Sergeant

hockey hound said...

"Nobody has said the book is "entirely fabricated". The critics who are looking into this and other observers just feel that SOME PARTS of it are embellished, perhaps even fabricated, yes, but not the entire book."

Hey, Dan, why don't you leave the Rosenblats alone. You don't seem the least bit intersted in finding a denouement to their complicated story but rather you do seem to relish in portraying them as liars.

I'm getting pretty tired of your sarcasm. "Jewdiciously"? What the hell does that mean? That sounds plain anti-Semitic to me. Why don't you take your twisted obsession with the Rosenblats to some anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi website where you'll find the flavour of correspondence I think you're really looking for. Leave the Rosenblats (and Prof. Lipstadt's blog) alone. Enough already.

dan said...

Dear Hockeyhound in Canada,

RE: "Hey, Dan, why don't you leave the Rosenblats alone? You don't seem the least bit intersted in finding a denouement to their complicated story, but rather you do seem to relish in portraying them as liars."

Hockeyhound, good advice, but you misjudge me. Actually, after talking personally by phone with the movie producer invovled with the Rosenblats story and the screenwriter as well, I have completely changed my opinion of all this...and I now believe that Herman's memoir and the movie will be an important addition to the culture, and that the story is in essence completely true and authentic! Speaking to the people involved on the book and movie, including the children's book publisher of "Angel Girl", based on Herman's story, I have changed my mind completely, and I now support Herman and Roma completely and I apologize for my earlier sarcasm and negativism. I kept digging until I found the truth. I did. I am now awaiting publication of the book and the movie with open arms. Really.

I still respect Dr Lipstadt's blog here and her ideas presented above, and while I now disagree, the nice thing about living in free countries is that we can agee to disagree and still be friends, and now I look forward to reading new posts here in the future, both pro and con. Although I will not post here anymore.

dan said...

The respected magazine "The New Republic" has a new article by reporter Gabriel Sherman about the Rosenblat book, a balanced report showing both sides of the controversy. It's online now at tnr.com, the magazine's website. It might help you to make up your mind, one way or the other.

Deborah Lipstadt said...

Lest people spend time looking for it, let me note that Dan's information about the New Republic is not correct. There is, as of right now, no such article -- balanced or otherwise -- on the New Republic site.

dan said...

I jumped the gun, I guess. I did hear from sources at the New Republic that an article by one of their reporters was scheduled to go up soon, but I guess it has been postponed for a few days or maybe even cancelled. Sorry for the false alarm there. I was told it was coming online, but you know how editors work: deadlines and late night schedules and website glitches. Perhaps the article was killed? Such things do happen in magazine newsrooms. Balanced or not, I don't know, not having seen the article or read it yet, but I think it will have a big impact one way or the other.

hockey hound said...

Prof. Lipstadt had only to post Dan's comment to expose him to the ridicule he deserves since his pitiful excuses are a measure of his disrespect for the weight of truth.

Dan doesn't bind himself servant to the same level of veracity he demands of the Rosenblats.

This is a guy who has, continuously, wryly excoriated the Rosenblats for the doubts others have expressed (deserved or not) about their story(which become for us, in the last analysis, also a recognition of their suffering). And here he is, caught red-handed aggrandizing upon an article he has, by his own admission, neither seen nor read.

Dan's veiled excoriations of the Rosenblats, and now his attempts at exculpating himself from blame, match perfectly the pith of the Yiddish proverb, "A liar never believes anyone else."

dan said...

HockeyHound,

You really do love me, don't you? Whatever. But before you get all hot under the collar again, why don't you read Prof. Lipstadt's new blog post above on Tuesday, December 23, 2008, titled:
"Apples over the Fence: The New Republic Covers the Story" in which she reports: "Gabriel Sherman's article on the Apples Over the Fence story is now up on the New Republic website."

So I got a little ahead of the curve? HockeyHound, please try to be more reasonable in 2009. Friends, okay? I forgive you your unkind words, since you didn't know what you were talking about. Now you do. Peace out, sir.

FAIIRPLAY said...

It appears from the New Republic report that Herman may be guilty of 'Gilding the Lily'. But surely Dan is guilty of doing the same thing when he contacts movie producers, screenwriters, book editors and writers etc [one described as 'my sources on the New Republic!]. I'm curious to learn Dan, how do you introduce yourself to these people and, how do you portray your role in this affair, or explain your reason for making these enquiries?

Getting back to the New Republic article I was dismayed to read for the first time that Hermans story was written to win a modern romance newspaper contest - based on how readers met their partners [he won it] that Hermans brother says he was not told by Herman about the girl at the fence story ever, and that Herman refused to meet the highly respected Ben Helfgott a fellow survivor who wanted to raise this topic with him. Ben Helfgott [UK] is famous worlwide for being the only camp survivor to have taken part in an Olympic games meeting. Prior to this I was curious as to why the alleged German farmer who hid this family [or lone child] was not named and put forward for an Righteous Person Award? With regards to Herman and Roma all that needs to be said 'Is there but for the grace of God go I'[and us all]

dan said...

Hi Fairplay,

Fair question: "I'm curious to learn, Dan, how do you introduce yourself to these people, and, how do you portray your role in this affair, or explain your reason for making these inquiries?"

I just introduce myself as ''an independent blogger with no connection to any group or any academic institute'' -- just a curious passerby -- and I say ''this story is very interesting to me'' and ''I want to know the truth'', and of course, now I tell them ''I think the story is true, and I support the book being published.''

Some people were interested when I contacted them, some weren't. Most were. I think everyone is interested in this story now. And there's more to come, "according to my sources".

Actually, Fairplay, I have no "sources", I am just a guy on the Internet passing by, and I am just someone who finds this story very interesting. And now I am closer to the truth than ever before, but still, there is so much we don't know.

Maybe when the book comes out in February, readers can make their own decision. I am looking forward to reading the book when it comes out, too.

Don't mind me. I am nobody.

drumshadower said...

As a professional storyteller, journalist and former historical archivist, I have much respect for history and accurate history. But having mingled with so many authors, lecturers and teachers of various experience and degrees, I've also arrived at a healthy understanding that not all human history exists in the facts as they are known to have been recorded. If anything there are amazing stories and "facts" that have gone entirely missed or overlooked by historians, antiquarians and others for a variety of reasons. Ms Lipstadt in the case of this couple and their love story seems to be suffering from her position's institutional arrogance. Is she so vain and pompus that she thinks she has ownership over some portion of other individual's memories? Even if she can dispute certain facts, could she not have offered them up in a more conscientious and dare we say, "loving" way? Moreover, is this really the point of the couple's book and love story? To be some absolute record of the holocaust? I think not. Don't get me wrong. I have friends who can't watch a movie without picking out the inconsistencies with props from scene to scene and this is humorous as much as its annoying. Ms. Lipstadt is entitled to be one of those funny, critical people of course. Yet I feel this is akin to someone reading Romeo & Juliet and instead of allowing one's self to be affected by the story's art or essence, they instead go ranting about how the poison mentioned couldn't have induced the described affect. Maybe so, but that person has missed the point entirely. Or perhaps its just their own way of processing. So Ms. Lipstadt in my view is just one of those quirky critics reaching for some kind of control over something she can't truly control. Mostly she should just be ashamed that she's trying to tell actual witnesses to their own lives what they do and don't remember about their own life. Again, if you have some constructive facts to plug in? Do so but do so with a respect to those who were there and wrote something for the world to know about the Holocaust, love, struggle, survival, incredible meetings, journeys and more. Their story is an honor to receive and not some attempt to con the world or pull the wool over anyone's eyes. Its about a great love. Its a Dr. Zhivago but one where they guy gets the girl and love triumphs over oppression. I'm not sure what irritates me more; people who say the Holocaust never happened or those who want to say it only happened one way.

Mark said...

Publisher Cancels Holocaust Memoir

By Motoko Rich, NY Times

Angel at the Fence“Angel at the Fence,” a memoir by Herman Rosenblat, was canceled by its publisher after Holocaust scholars disputed its story.

Berkley Books, a unit of Penguin Books, has canceled the planned February publication of “Angel at the Fence,” a memoir by Herman Rosenblat, a man who said he met his wife while a prisoner at a concentration camp during the Holocaust.

In Mr. Rosenblat’s story, he said he met his wife Roma Radzicki while he was a teenage prisoner at a sub-camp of the Buchenwald camp in Germany. He wrote in “Angel at the Fence” that she was living on a nearby farm disguised as a Christian and would sneak him apples at the camp’s fence, and that they reunited in Coney Island more than a decade later.

Several Holocaust scholars attacked the story in the blogosphere and in a recent article in The New Republic, noting among other things that it would have been impossible for the pair to meet at a fence because of the camp’s layout.

In a statement Saturday evening, Berkley Books, which had earlier defended the book, said it decided to cancel publication “after receiving new information from Herman Rosenblat’s agent, Andrea Hurst.” Craig Burke, director of publicity at Berkley, declined to elaborate. Berkeley said it was demanding that Mr. Rosenblat and Ms. Hurst return all money received so far.

Ms. Hurst said in a statement on Sunday: “It is with heavy heart that I share what I learned today from my client, Herman Rosenblat, about his book, ‘Angel at the Fence.’ Herman revealed to me that part of his memoir was not true. He’d invented the crux of this amazing love story–about the girl at the fence who threw him an apple–which drew my attention when I read it in a major magazine [Guideposts] two years ago. All of the story about Herman in the concentration camps and the love and survival of him and his brothers, he states is true. I understand why Berkley has chosen to withdraw publication of this book. Like millions of others who read this story or saw Herman and Roma on Oprah, I never for a moment questioned the authenticity of the widely circulated story. I know that everyone who has worked so hard with Herman this past year is as stunned and disappointed as I am that this story of hope has such a sad ending.”

Through Ms. Hurst, Mr. Rosenblat also released a statement Sunday: “To all who supported and believed in me and this story, I am sorry for all I have caused to you and every one else in the world.”

He added: “Why did I do that and write the story with the girl and the apple, because I wanted to bring happiness to people, to remind them not to hate, but to love and tolerate all people. I brought good feelings to a lot of people and I brought hope to many. My motivation was to make good in this world.”

Early Sunday morning, Atlantic Overseas Pictures, which is making a movie based on Mr. Rosenblat’s story, said it would proceed with production and “portray the fictional elements of the love story.” Atlantic said that Mr. Rosenblat had “agreed to donate all monies from the film to Holocaust survivor charities as a condition to moving forward.”

MsG said...

I felt I had to comment, in particular with regards to "drumshadower". As a member of the American Indian community, we've dealt with these same kinds of hoaxes as well, where a piece of literature presented as factual is not. (e.g. "The Education of Little Tree" or everything by Lynn Andrews, which the Library of Congress reclassified as fiction)

A writer of non-fiction is responsible for the "facts" they present, and readers are responsible for examining those "facts" for accuracy. If they're not accurate, it naturally throws the rest of the work into question, as well as the writer's motives for prevarication (putting it kindly)
We are the keepers of history, and for maintaining the accuracy of both written and oral histories. Revisionism in any form is a slippery slope, no matter how well meaning it may be, and it does not serve the community, whoever they may be, in the long run.

Criticizing "factual" works such as this is not at all the same as criticizing a work of fiction such as "Romeo and Juliet", and we don't do it for fun or kicks. We do it so that the true facts of history are maintained, without omission, embellishment, or sugarcoating. Not maintaining our accurate understanding of history leaves us open to the repetition of horrors such as the Holocaust; no matter what the source of revisionism, it musn't be allowed.

hockey hound said...

"Not maintaining our accurate understanding of history leaves us open to the repetition of horrors such as the Holocaust; no matter what the source of revisionism, it musn't be allowed."

Easy, there. I'm quite sure Mr. Rosenblat understands history a whole lot better than many of us here. I bet he has a real good take on Martin Luther's brand of Christianity too. I'm also quite sure his book in no way revised the non-fictional aspects of the Holocaust. He embellished his personal experience; he didn't revise the much broader, actual horrors of Nazi Gemany's (and those nationals of other countries who assisted them in their slaughter) attempted genocide of European Jewry.

I think Mr. Rosenblat's story [fiction] does not deserve the term "revisionism" at all. That appellation is a bit over the mark, in my opinion.

Just remember this before we judge Mr. Rosenblat too harshly: pray that we'll never have to walk a mile in his shoes. So much castigation of him at this point I believe serves only to obfuscate the measure of his suffering as a Jewish victim of the Holocaust. He made a mistake. Now let's leave him alone. I'm done commenting on this issue out of my respect for him and his family.

"To go beyond is just as wrong as to fall short." -Confucius

Joann said...

An extensive archive of records collected from the camps is located in the research repository of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC and can be viewed by any visitor to the museum. Page after page of documents remain to corroborate Holocaust survivor testimonies and wordlessly mark the innumerable horrors from which there were no survivors.

Joann said...

An extensive archival record collected from the camps is located in the research repository of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and can be examined by any visitor to the museum. Page after page of documents remain, corroborating individual survivor testimonies and wordlessly marking the innumerable horrors from which there were no survivors.

dan said...

I am creting a national write-in campaign and grassroots effort to ask Oprah to invite Herman on her show in future to apologzie, ask forgiveness, explain why he did and how and ... to move on with his life quietly and out of the spotlight. When I get the blog up and going, I will send info and link to you here. I have already been in touch with Oprah's producers and there is a good chance this might happen. Oprah will not attack Herman on air the way she did with James Frey after his deceptions were uncovered. In this case, she will allow Herman to answer to the public, explain himself, apologize and ask forgiveness, from Oprah and the public, for his literary faux pas.

FAIIRPLAY said...

I'm certain Herman knew full well what he was doing, which now means that when he said 'that he was scheduled to be sent at 10.00am to the gas chambers', then this is what he said. He was also reported to have said 'that he was working in the gas chamber in Buchenwald', which was the remark that got the alarm bells ringing [there was no gas chamber in Buchenwald] I traced him as saying he worked in the crematoriam and wondered privately what job could a boy of 12 do in such a building? Hermans guilty of misleading us all and in the process diminishing peoples understanding of Jews, their honourable background and beliefs. Indirectly he gave racists an own goal on the international stage. His [stupid] acts are being heavily reported on TV, radio and in the press.

Meanwhile Dan said: [Quote] I am creAting a national write-in campaign and grassroots effort to ask Oprah to invite Herman on her show in future to apologzie, ask forgiveness, explain why he did and how and ... to move on with his life quietly and out of the spotlight [sic!!] Dan: I sent a post to this blog about my reading between the lines of you which was not published, I'm certain you can guess why?

dan said...

Faiirplay, anyone may post comments on that blog site and no one will be censored. I have no idea why the comment u posted does not appear. Maybe you pushed wrong buttons or the computer misfired. Try again. I never censor people. All opinions weclome. -- Dan

I am looking forward to what you have to say about the Oprah campaign pro or con. All POV are welcome. I have no agenda, no axe to grind.

and just to show you i am fair and honest, i will post this comment below on the blog right now, go look:

RE:

Meanwhile Dan said: [Quote] I am creAting a national write-in campaign and grassroots effort to ask Oprah to invite Herman on her show in future to apologzie, ask forgiveness, explain why he did and how and ... to move on with his life quietly and out of the spotlight [sic!!] Dan: I sent a post to this blog about my reading between the lines of you which was not published, I'm certain you can guess why?

Mimi said...

Having read with interest the various comments posted by Dan in his efforts to find the truth in the story - as well as the people who criticized him for doing so, it occurred to me - isn't the basis of the blogosphere that people of all walks of life try to get to the bottom of the news in the best way that they can, unfiltered by the biases and limitations of the MSM and the rest of us are free to judge the results based on our own best abilities? (Yes, I know that was a ridiculously run-on sentence, oh well.) So it seems to me that this is exactly what Dan did, to the benefit of all of us, as, in fact, the story he so strived to investigate did, in fact, turn out to be untrue. So we owe him (and the others who did so) a vote of thanks for continuing one of the most valuable purposes of the blogosphere. And if it was done so clumsily, then go back to the mainstream media where the 'facts' are reported in a smooth and professional manner - until they are shown to be biased, incomplete and untrue. So, thanks Dan, you aren't (in your words) a 'nobody', but rather a valued member of the truth seeking blogosphere. And who am I to say so? Well, just a 'nobody' too. If that matters.

dan said...

Mimi, thank you for that. You are the first and only person who has taken the time to say thanks.

I thank you for understanding what this nobody was trying to do: take down two books based on lies. It took me 10 weeks of 24/7 Internet doggedness, yes, and with the support of many people on this very blog, who fed me "tips" and "quotes" that blew the lid off this Pandora Box of a story...

And you are right, Mimi, this was an Internet, citizen journalists, blogging 101 crash course in "uncovering the truth". It would never have found success without the blogosphere. And my trusty email account at Gmail, which I sometimes refer to as Gefilte [Fish] Mail.

Thanks, Mimi. You said it right. It was not me, it was us, the blogosphere, who nailed this story.

And the Ph.D. historians and forensics expert who did the deep mining. They are the real heroes of this sad story.

Oh, yeh, and Gabriel Sherman over at the New Republic, Angel Gabriel I call him, he really blew the lid off the Pandora Box of this cockamamie story. Bravo, Gabe, for your fine, penetrating reportage.

And one never forgets the very existence of Professor Lipstadt's blog here, because it was this blog that served as Searching for Truth Central and played a pivotal role in bringing us all together.

Hear hear!

-- Danny Bloom, in far away Taiwan, go figure!

Ms Lindsay said...

I'd like to thank you for bringing this issue to the world's attention. I'm a middle school teacher-librarian in Victoria, BC. One of my grade 8 English colleagues and I began teaching a unit on the Holocaust last year. We saw the picture book at a book display in November and enthusiastically bought a copy to include in our unit coming up this spring. Now we are going to use it as a teaching tool regarding critical thinking and Holocaust deniers. So perhaps something good can come out of this, after all. Please don't stop being a good crap detector!