Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Apples Over the Fence [10]: Meet the Sleuths Who Helped Expose the Fraud

Misha Defonseca was not saved by wolves, nor was Herman Rosenblat saved by love apples.

Their successes at defrauding the public with their stories of Holocaust survival have been derailed by Identifinders forensic genealogists Sharon Sergeant and Colleen Fitzpatrick. They worked with distinguished members of the Jewish community to expose Herman Rosenblat's fraudulent Holocaust memoire. The result was a careful reconstruction of the true story.

In a world built on information technology, the key to Identifinders'
success was using team building and technology to derive meaningful information from those facts.

Even though there had been an outcry from Holocaust survivors that Herman's story was historically inaccurate and defied their own experiences in the camps, the publisher Berkley Penguin Press initially defended the work based on the idea that no one can argue with someone else's memory. In spite of its subjective nature, however, memory can be tested to see if it is anchored in reality.
Herman's experiences during his life in the camps did not occur in a vacuum. By the time that Herman Rosenblat publicly admitted that his love story Angel at the Fence was a fabrication, he was doing damage control.

By building the context based on what could be documented, we separated fact from fiction. We created a timeline for both Herman's family the Rosenblats and Roma's paternal and maternal families the Radzickis (changed to Rogers) and the Zalctregers.

Aside from his historical inaccuracies, Identifinders found for example that Herman's chronology was not as he stated. Clues from people who had been in the camps with Herman led us to Dr. Ken Waltzer, Professor of Jewish Studies at Michigan State University. Dr.
Waltzer is an expert on the youth who survived Buchenwald and provided Herman's actual history in that camp as opposed to what Herman represented. Waltzer also expanded the team to assemble objective proof that the circumstances at Schlieben did not support Herman's story.

Identifinders meanwhile focused on obtaining evidence on the location of Roma Radzicki Rosenblat's extended family during the Holocaust. The inconsistencies of Roma's part of the story were just as significant but not as prominent.

Most of the Radzickis and the Zalctregers perished in the Holocaust.
But a few of Roma's immediate family survived and emigrated first to Israel, then to the United States. Identifinders traced her remaining extended family to the present day. The clues from the surviving relatives converged on the fact that Roma was nowhere near Schlieben.

None of this would have been possible had Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, Professor at Emory University, not raised a red flag last year on her blog about the truth of Herman's story. Danny Bloom, an author of children's books in Taiwan, read Dr. Lipstadt's comments and took up the challenge after Angel Girl, the children's version, came out in September. He was instrumental in convincing the media that the story needed attention. He also contacted Identifinders knowing we had exposed Misha Defonseca. Peter Kubichek, a concentration camp survivor and author, provided coherent background information that was valuable in understanding how concentration camp survivors viewed Herman's story.

This is just one example of how Forensic Genealogy has become an interdisciplinary approach for discovering the truth behind frauds, as well as for locating DNA references, finding missing persons, determining identity, and provenance.

— Colleen Fitzpatrick


Chris Founder said...

This is a wonderful article. Well it is unfortantly very sad and shows how foolish people ruin our history.

The first time I saw the movie preview, I said "that is impossible".

Anyhow I wanted to thank you for posting this article that is all.

Like you wrote:
The optimum way of teaching about the Holocaust and presenting its history is, to quote Detective Joe Friday from the old TV show, "Dragnet," "just the facts, just the facts."

...Sums it up perfectly


Malcolm R. Campbell said...

The dedication of those tracking down, researching and bring this hoax to light is both fascinating and commendable.

Thanks for sharing the story.



I just want to say: my hat's off to Sharon and Colleen, who very early in my quiet media research, pointed me in the right direction again and again. And Peter Kubicek, a very wise and patient man.

SaraLynn said...

When did Oprah and Berkley books discover the "truth?" Was it only after Herman "confessed" last weekend, or could it have been more than a year ago? Dr. Lipstadt's blog article questioning the veracity of Mr. Rosenblat's story was on the internet in December, 2007, one month after the Rosenblats appeared on Oprah. Why did Berkley pull the book now? Why did Oprah not investigate and/or announce concerns before or even yet? Despite the questions raised by "scholars," the media does nothing but let Herman float until he is rendered asunder by the media once these facts are "proven?" by his "confession."
Shame on you media, shame on you Oprah.


SarahLynn, above, comment No. 3, raises good questoions. Let me try to answer them from my POV.

Question: "When did Oprah and Berkley books discover the "truth?" Was it only after Herman "confessed" last weekend, or could it have been more than a year ago?:

Answerbloom: They did not want to "know" the truth until the truth outed them. They might have had minor doubts, but they drove right past them, "my way or the highway"! They did not know the truth of all this last year. They just woke up last week. Why? See below.

Question: "Why did Berkley pull the book now?"

Answerbloom: They had no choice. The man confessed he lied.

Question: "Why did Oprah not investigate and/or announce concerns before or even yet?:

Answerblooom: Oprah had them on her show as a result of the New York Post contest winning entry about how they met. No need to investigate a sweet newspaper contest winner. Oprah did not have them on as authors of any book, or in connection with any upcoming book or movie. They were just a sweet NYC couple who won a newspaper writing contest. That's all. Oprah did not have to vet such a minor thing. It was a sweet show.

Question: "Despite the questions raised by "scholars," the media [did] nothing but let Herman float until he [was] rendered asunder by the media once these facts [were] "proven?" by his "confession."

Answerbloom: The media did nothing because the media was part of the problem. They will write just about anything. Reporters hardly ever question sweet elderly conteste winners with hardball questions, like did you REALLY meet on a blind date, and did you really meet once before in Israel eight years before that blind date? No, not one newspaper reported dared ask that simple question. Until I came along... *and then they didn't even listen to me, for two whole months they did not listen or return my emails or phone calls, nada, go away Mr Pest, Mr Badgerer, Mr Cajoler, My Know It All... until ace reporter Gabriel Sherman was enlisted by Mr Pest to tell the story to the world. And Mr Sherman, not Herman, did! Twice. In two hardhitting exposes. And that is when the media finally stood up and paid attention.

The media has attention deficit disorder bigtime to the max. This was as much a media lapse story as a historians search for truth story.

Question: "Shame on you media, shame on you Oprah."

Answerbloom: For the media, yes, shame in them. They had their doubts about the backstory, I know for a fact that some reporters and editors covering this story last year, before the big expose broke in the New Republic, I know for a fact that some reporters who had interviewed the Roseblats personally had their own private suspicions about the entire backstory, especially the blind date part, but their editors in the newsrooms over-rode their suspicicons and said "You can't write bad things about an elderly couple like that. It would be churlish to do so. Until you find the smoking gun, we must go with the story they keep parroting to the media. We need proof. Until then, that's how it is."

Conclusion: But then a loosely connected team of experts, historians, forensic mavens, bloggers and nobodies -- a team that had never convened a meeting in real time or real space but just communicated through emails and phone calls -- then this team enlisted the support of an ace investigative reporter at the New Republic who came on board with a fresh perspective and delved deep into the matter. What he came up with is now part of a new kind of cultural history.

As for Oprah, no shame on her! She is just Oprah and she will always be Oprah. Long live Oprah! She is America writ large! She means well, and she has learned a big lesson from all this. Let's not castigate her anymore.

The media silence on all this, for more than ten years, and especially in October and November of 2008 when they had specific and credible "news tips" in their hands from top historians and experts (passed into their hands by a distant nobody tipster in Taiwan, of all places), the media let us down, let the public down. For the media, there was no "story" here. Even the great august New York Times turned me down. I have them the same tips I gave Mr Sherman one month before I contacted him. And I like the New York Times. That is why I went to them. And they did nothing.

Go figure this one out. I can't.


I am moving on now to other things, but before I do one last comment here and then I am done:

Oprah, Take Down That Wall (of Holocaust lies)!

In the aftermath of revelations that Herman
Rosenblat had concocted a "memoir" about the Holocaust that has now
been shown to be a fabricated story, with the book "Angel at the
Fence" canceled before publication, I am now working on a project as a
followup to the book cancellation.

I want Oprah Winfrey in Chicago to take down Rosenblat's false backstory from
her current website. Although she has now issued a public disclaimer
that the story was
false and that she was lied to, she has left the story up on her
website. I am challenging her to take it down, in the name of honesty
and integrity.

Mr Rosenblat confessed in late December to the admittedly made-up
Holocaust story. Yet the backstory, with photos of
Herman and his wife Roma, remains up on her website, with a disclaimer,
of course, but with no explanation about why she is leaving the false
backstory up on her site.

I am creating a national write-in campaign with a grassroots effort
to ask Oprah to take down the entire Herman Roseblat story frm her
website, photos and all. I hope she will do this soon.

I have already been in touch with Oprah's producers, and there is a
good chance this might happen. But the final
decision rests with Oprah.

I want to give the
public a chance to write a letter to Oprah, which her producers in
Chicago will read online at my Internat campaign website, and they can
make their voices
heard about asking Oprah to take down Rosenblat's entire backstory
from her website -- now!

What on Earth is she waiting for? The story is an admitted lie, a huge
fabrication, a massive embellishment.

Now that the fabrication of his Holocaust memoir has been exposed by
the media and his book canceled, I feel it is time for Oprah to delete
all refernces to Herman Rosenblat on her website.

Oprah recently said on her TV show that she did want
to invite Mr Rosenblat on her show one more time in order to give him
a chance to explain himself to the public, but that Rosenblat's family
and lawyer insisted that Herman not appear in public anymore after the
hoax was exposed in the national media.