Saturday, March 1, 2008

Holocaust Hoax: More on Hiding with Wolves: A Lawyer and his Client Sink to New Lows

This is probably my final post on this topic... or so I hope.

In the morning's Boston Globe David Mehegan has a follow-up story to the "Hiding with Wolves" Holocaust hoax. What jumped out at me in the article was the glee with which the lawyer for the co-author, who joined in the suit against the publisher, reported that he was about to sell the publisher's house.

Let me recap: Misha Defonseca, a Belgian hoaxer, created a far-fetched tale about her Holocaust experience. The publisher linked her up with a co-author, Vera Lee. Eventually the two authors sued the publisher, Jane Daniel, for failing to promote the book.

Holocaust historians tried to warn Daniel away from this project. They said it made no sense. And it didn't. She went ahead anyway.

Well the authors won an obscenely large settlement. Daniel, who does not have the money to pay them, is about to lose her house as part of the settlement.

Now that the book has been exposed as a hoax, one would think that they would not get their money.

Well think again. Lee's lawyer, whose name I should mention because someone who behaves in this manner should be mentioned, Frank Frisoli of Cambridge, Mass., seems almost jubilant.

As Mehegan writes:
Lee says she doesn't want Daniel to lose her house, but Frisoli has picked up the scent of final victory.

"She's a very unhappy camper," he said of Daniel. "And when I find a buyer for that house, she is out."

Vera Lee seems to want to have it both ways. She claims she does not want Daniel to lose her house. But the lawyer thinks otherwise.

Well last time I check lawyers work for clients. If Lee does not want Daniel to lose her house then she should call off the wolf... oops... her lawyer.

These folks deserve each other. Holocaust survivors deserve far far better.


Unknown said...

« Well the authors won an obscenely large settlement »

It is difficult to be conclusive on this matter without knowing all the figures. How much will the seemingly ruined publisher receive from the French film's receipts ?

Monique de Wael's lawyer, Nathalie Uyttendaele says "Mme Daniel a organisé son insolvabilité. A cause des frais de procédures et de l’absence totale de royalties, Misha a tout perdu, sa maison et ses animaux recueillis dans son parc."(1) (translation : Mrs Daniel organized her insolvency. Because of court expenses, and the total absence of royalties, Misha lost everything, her house and her pets which she had been caring for in her park)


Deborah Lipstadt said...

Bottom line: the woman made up a story. She claimed to be a Holocaust survivor. Posing as a survivor, won a multi-million settlement against the publisher.

She has caused pain to survivors and joy to deniers.

She gets no sympathy from me.

Jane Daniel said...

I am the "seemingly ruined publisher" referenced in an earlier post. For the record: I never earned a penny from the book. Never took a salary. In fact, I loaned the company money to pay the legal fees generated by the suit brought by Misha and her co-author and eventually was wiped out financially. Misha's royalties were frozen by the court as a consequence of a motion filed by Frank Frisoli, Vera Lee's lawyer, to freeze the publisher's earnings. At the time I published the book, many in the Jewish community in the Boston area enthusiastically supported Misha. She had been speaking to Jewish groups about her "Holocaust experiences" for several years before I met her, according to Slate Magazine. Hindsight is always 20/20. I still believe it is a beautiful story with an uplifting message. One can love the story, as millions have done, while condemning the deceptive intent of the teller of the story. I am writing a book about the whole affair. Many questions will be answered when it is published.

AncestralManor said...

I am the researcher that cut through the smoke screen that the Defonsecas employed in this hoax - more than 17 years after it began, long before Daniel and the 1997 US book became the scapegoats. I suspected that that scapegoat tactic was a red flag, but spent considerable time with a personal friend, as well as Belgian contacts who were real hidden children - slogging through the story for what was likely versus unlikely versus improbable. It was not an easy process. I learned that you cannot disassemble a hoax - you have to build the truth. We had to discard the middle of the story, focus on the beginning and the end where there were particulars that we could research (albiet changed in the various versions of the story across translations and over time) - aided by experts in historical photo analysis to create a visual time line that kept us on track in this moving target of a story. We ignored the internal recipe of gratuitous historical Holocaust and wolf allegories to focus on what kinds of clues did we have about who this person really was, what was her real age and who was her real family. The first thing that became apparent was that the removal of the photos and the name changes were tied together. Our research in Belgium proved that to be true. It was a sequential fraud. So there under the guise of "the real story" in the Defonsecas native French language, completely under their control, Valle was substituted for De Wael, and the identifying pictures were removed.

Unknown said...

And I am the blogger who has been covering this case since the photos and documents that led to Defonseca's confession were released. One thing that is certain is that this story has certainly demonstrated the power of the internet to try to find justice where there was injustice. By putting her story on a blog for all the world to see, Jane Daniel attracted the attention of people such as Sharon Sergeant, the genealogist, and Serge Aroles, the feral-child expert, who were so instrumental in bringing the truth to light.

Before the era of blogs and the internet a story such as this could well have gone unnoticed before the world but things are different now. Many may disagree about who should have done what but the bottomline is that hucksters and scam artists like Misha Defonseca are going to stand a much higher chance of being exposed when the whole world is there as an audience.

Unknown said...

A comment by Vera Lee can be found on :

Deborah Lipstadt said...

Thanks for pointing us to this statement by Vera Lee. Sounds like the publisher gave her a real wack... She may be the innocent in this whole affair.... Other than, of course, the people who will doubt the truth now because of incidents such as these.

Unknown said...

I admit I did not know Jane when all of this was going on and have never met Vera Lee but I've worked with Jane as a writer for several years now and I laughed out loud when I read the part where Vera wrote that Jane's writing was too "flowery". Jane is the most anti-adjective writer I've ever met. For years she and I have squabbled over my use of adjectives.

If you read Jane's blog you'll fin letters written BY Misha complaining about Vera's sporadic behavior. Now, I realize that taking Misha's word for anything is foolish but I think Ms. Lee's version of events may be a bit warped in her own favor. Which is to be expected, I suppose.