Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Apples over the Fence [3]: The New Republic Covers the Story

[Link fixed 3:38 p.m.]

Gabriel Sherman's article on the Apples Over the Fence story is now up on the New Republic website.

Since I am quoted in the article, I want to reiterate two points:

1) I am upset by this incident because it gives fodder to the deniers. It helps cast unreasonable doubt on other trustworthy memoirs and recollections.

2) More importantly, even if we had never heard of deniers and they did not exist, it would be wrong. The Holocaust beggars the imagination. It is beyond belief in many respects. The facts -- as Joe Friday would say "just the facts, just the facts" -- are bad enough. One need not embellish them in any way.

Finally, as I said to Sherman, I find this all very sad. A Holocaust survivor who went through terrible experiences and lost many members of his family has overshadowed the truth of what happened with a questionable tale.

10 comments:

susie said...

I was emailed that story a while back and it made me so angry because it seemed so ridiculous and impossible, so I'm glad that a legitimate historian is calling it as such.

I feel like it romanticizes the Holocaust, or something like, "It was such a horrible time, but see what wonderful, romantic stories can come out of it!"

I was in church a while back and the teacher was giving a lesson on forgiveness. She used the most horrible story to illustrate the power of forgiveness, I tried to raise my hand and refute it then, but she didn't call on me. I think you can find it in Christian books (I asked for the source), it's about a survivor of Auschwitz who, when the liberators came, found so many people ill and dying, but there was this one man who looked relatively healthy and content. When they asked him what his role was, he certainly must not have been Jewish to look that good, he explained, something along the lines of, "No, I am Jewish, and I came to Auschwitz in 1941, after I saw my family gunned down by the Nazis. I forgave their murderers, and have forgiven these people, that's why I've been able to make it through this horrible camp."

Ugh, doesn't that just make you cringe in all its inaccuracies and disrespect to survivors and victims?

Sorry, I just had to share it. Thanks.

Emilia said...

This kind of comment on a blog at jossip in New York is a sad commentary on all this, the man comments: "David Irving must be laughing up his sleeve [at all this]."

I think that is what you bloggers here were trying to avoid, by exposing this made up story. The second New Republic article online now, part 2, is even more damning of Mr Rosenblatt. It's a sad denoument to all this. Will the book be recalled even before publication, or will it be released anyways, and the publisher hopes all the publicity will help generate sales?

hockey hound said...

It is a sad denouement; sad especially because Mr. Rosenblatt and his family will suffer even more because of it.

I do not blame Mr. Rosenblatt. I blame the Holocaust and mankind's penchant for cruelty.

Mr. Rosenblatt has suffered enough. He doesn't owe the world a thing, in my opinion. After all he's been through, after all he's suffered, and now the same world (and it is become the same world again: history is repeating itself) who turned their face away from European Jewry's near extirmination at the hands of the Nazis excoriates Mr. Rosenblatt because he embellished the story of his suffering. So what. Who said he was perfect? Must Holocaust victims now be perfect? What are we going to ask of them next?

'Who can say, "I have cleansed my heart. I have purified myself from my sin."' -Proverbs 20:9

Sharon from WI said...

Must Holocaust victims now be perfect? What are we going to ask of them next?

Hockey Hound,

Of course Holocaust survivors shouldn't have to be perfect. I am certain many will tell you they aren't.

Many--like Mr. Rosenblat's brothers and fellow survivors in that camp--also will say that people shouldn't lie about their experiences either. (The truth is compelling enough.)

TraceCub said...

I think the story in of itself could have done well if portrayed as a novel - much in the same way the TNR articles point out "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" was handled (re: fiction).

I do not expect anyone to be "perfect." But I do expect fiction and non-fiction to have the proper classifications.

Sharon from WI said...

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas as a novel has a premise that is nonsense. And the movie by the same name is even worse.

hockey hound said...

"But I do expect fiction and non-fiction to have the proper classifications."

I'm sure you speak for all of us here, TraceCub. My point is that I'm now concerned about the insalubrious criticisms now being hurled at Mr. and Mrs. Rosenblatt. It's not like they're deserving of all the cruel euphoria the media is creating with their excoriation of Mr. Rosenblatt's "fiction". It's not like he wrote that the Holocaust didn't happen. He simply embellished his experiences as a victim of the Holocaust. When all is said and done, Mr. Rosenblatt is still a survivor and a victim of the Holocaust. The public and the media should now show him, at least, that much respect and leave him alone. I hope someone starts a fund to assist Mr. Rosenblatt in paying back the publisher who demanded the return of their downpayment on the story [fiction].

Sharon from WI said...

Hockey Hound: I hope someone starts a fund to assist Mr. Rosenblatt in paying back the publisher who demanded the return of their downpayment on the story [fiction].

As far as I'm concerned, he can use the proceedes from the children's book Angel Girl to reimburse Berkely Books.

Jane Daniel said...

Misha Defonseca and Herman Rosenblat: Two Holocaust hoaxters exploit the same fertile territory


Another literary hoax bites the dust. Herman Rosenblat has admitted that his sensational memoire, “Angel at the Fence,” is a fake.

Just last February, another sensational Holocaust hoax was exposed and its author confessed. The parallels between the two are striking.

In her book, “Misha A Memoire of the Holocaust Years,” published abroad under the title, “Survival with Wolves,” Misha Defonseca tells how she walked across war-torn Europe searching for her parents who were arrested by the Nazis and living, at times, with wolves.

In his book, "Angel at the Fence," Herman Rosenblat tells how he found true love when he was reunited with a little girl who had thrown apples to him over the concentration camp wall.

Both are incredible, uplifting stories set against the terrifying backdrop of the Holocaust. And both are inventions of their authors’ imaginations.

Other similarities stand out:

Misha Defonseca fooled her publisher, Mt Ivy Press, and a movie producer.

Herman Rosenblat fooled his publisher, Berkeley Books (a division of Penguin) and a movie producer.

Misha Defonseca only began telling her amazing “true” story years later when she and her husband, Maurice, hit financial difficulties.

Herman Rosenblat only began telling his amazing “true” story years later
when he and his wife, Roma, hit financial difficulties.

The hoaxters’ spouses were complicit in the scams. Maurice Defonseca supported his wife’s story. Roma Rosenblat supported her husband’s story.

The Defonsecas were invited to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

The Rosenblats appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

People who questioned Misha Defonseca’s story were called jealous, anti-Semitic and deniers.

People who questioned Herman Rosenblat’s story were called jealous, anti-Semitic and deniers.

Misha Defonseca’s “true” story was made into a French feature film,
“Survivre avec les loups.”

Herman Rosenblat sold the movie rights to his “true” story, “Angel at the Fence” and production was to begin in March, 2009.

Misha Defonseca was cornered by the press (Le Soir) and forced to confess.

Herman Rosenblat was cornered by the press (The New Republic) and forced to confess.

When confronted with evidence that her story was false, Misha Defonseca said that her memories were affected by wartime trauma and that she had recounted the truth as she remembered it.

When confronted with evidence that his story was false, Herman Rosenblat said that his memories were affected by wartime trauma and that he had recounted the truth as he remembered it.

Misha Defonseca’s French publisher, Bernard Fixot, defended her by saying her real life was even more touching than the story she told in her book.

Herman Rosenblat’s movie producer defended him by saying his real life was even more touching than the story he told in his book.


Concocting a literary hoax is dangerous business; truth has a way of seeking the light. Most hoaxes fall apart when the work achieves its author’s desired goal: success and fame. Think of Clifford Irving’s scam “authorized
biography” of Howard Hughs which landed its author in jail, Benjamin
Wilkomirski’s Holocaust memoire “Fragments” which was exposed as false soon after it won the National Jewish Book Award, James Frey’s confessional tale that was endorsed by Oprah and then collapsed, and Margaret Seltzer’s fake misery lit autobiography that caused a sensation and then was debunked. All these hoaxes melted in the spotlight of fame.

Amazingly, unlike the others, Misha Defonseca’s story survived for 20 years in the spotlight, becoming an international bestseller and a feature film.

Moreover, she is unique in profiting immensely from it, suing her publisher for failing to make the book a bestseller in the U.S. and winning a $33 million verdict that still stands, even after she confessed.

I was her publisher and I can attest to how persuasive these fabricators can be. Misha exploited the Jewish community wherever she went (even learning Hebrew and being Bat Mitzvahed in order to wangle paid speaking engagements, loans that were never repaid and free food and "donations" from Jewish charities.) She bamboozled the judge and jury who opened their hearts and trust to her without a moment's skepticism. She conned the millions who accepted her story as the truth and read her book or viewed the movie.

If you want to know how someone can behave so outrageously and get away with it for so long, read my new book, "Bestseller!" by Jane Daniel, now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

COMING SOON: Watch for more on the Defonseca scam on YouTube.

Also see: BESTSELLERthebook.blogspot.com

Emilia said...

Now the acrid lawsuits are beginning. SIGH.....it has come to this......

RE:

Lawyers Prepare for Rosenblat Feud

When Berkley Books announced it was canceling the Feb. 3 release of Herman Rosenblat's Holocaust memoir, Angel at the Fence, the publisher said it would demand that Rosenblat and his agent Andrea Hurst repay the entire advance.

In the days since Berkley yanked Rosenblat's book, Hurst has consulted lawyers to "protect her interests," while a lawyer for film producer Harris Salomon told me tonight that their side is considering a fight against publisher's decision to pull the book.

On Dec. 28, Hurst told the New York Times that the book was sold for "less than $50,000." Agents usually take 15 percent of any book sale, so Hurst would have pocketed less than $7,500 for the deal. She hasn't yet returned any money. "I am seeking legal advice to protect my interests," she emailed me later that evening. Recouping the advance will be tricky for Berkley, because a "bulk of the money received so far" was paid out to ghost-writer Susanna Margolis, Hurst said. One source said that Herman so far was paid only $4,000 for the memoir. Hurst hasn't been contacted yet by Berkley's legal department. "I have received nothing from Berkley yet. I am sure I will hear soon," she emailed.

Hurst also claims that she was misled by Herman. "The more I learn about this story the more unbelievable it becomes. That a family would hide this lie and his daughter even went to the Oprah show with him," she wrote me. "In the end though, it is Herman that continued to tell the story, whatever his reasons were. All I ever wanted to do was help bring a hope filled story to the world. After I read his story in Guideposts I was very touched. At the end Herman said his dream was to have a book someday. I wanted to help him make his dream come true. From a dream to a nightmare, it is still unbelievable to me."

Early on the morning of Dec. 30, Hurst emailed that she isn't planning to fight Berkley at this time. "I have NO intention of fighting Berkley in any way and I [don't] have legal representation at this time."

Harris Salomon is also weighing his legal options. This evening, I spoke with SaraLynn Mandel, a lawyer from Thousand Oaks, CA, who says she is now representing Salomon. "There's a feeling that [Berkley is] interfering with the book being published, and the movie getting made. It appears they are not publishing the book. Do they have that right? Have they appropriately looked at the information, and made a decision based on the information?" she said by phone.

Mandel, a partner with the Pasadena firm Mandel & Adriano, told me she had no connection to Salomon until yesterday. She was outraged that Berkley had canceled Herman's memoir, and got in touch with Salomon to offer her legal services. "I believe there could be not just a defense, but also an offensive position here," Mandel said. "I don't think the whole thing has been appropriately handled by the publisher. I don't think the publisher had taken the time to calmly look at this and see what they wanted to do. There was a knee jerk reaction."

Mandel says Harris could argue that the negative reaction to Rosenblat's story following Berkley's announcement has damaged his ability to make his movie based on Rosenblat's life. "I believe there is the potential for some claims if they've damaged the ability for Harris to make the movie," she said, citing tortious interference as one possible case to pursue.


Rosenblat hasn't commented on his fabricated memoir, beyond the statement released on Dec. 27. Mandel says she spoke with Rosenblat today and his family has instructed him not to talk to the media. Mandel, who is not representing Rosenblat, said he has been considering releasing an additional statement via YouTube, but no decisions have been made yet.

--Gabriel Sherman, the guy who broke the story in the national media