Thursday, January 1, 2009

Apples Over the Fence [13]: Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto Historian, Said it Best

During this less than pleasant Apples Over the Fence/ Angel at the Fence controversy, I have often said that there is no reason to aggrandize or exaggerate anything about the Holocaust.

Last night I happened to come across a quote which I have cited a number of times on this blog. It comes from Emanuel
Ringelblum, the great Warsaw ghetto historian who created the Oyneg Shabbes archives. [You can read about it and about Sam Kassow's wonderful book on the topic here.]

During the war he wrote regarding the material to be collected in the archive:
We wanted the simplest most unadorned account possible of what happened in each shtetl and what happened to each Jew [and in this war each Jew is like a world in itself.] Any superfluous work any literary exaggeration grated and repelled....It is unnecessary to add an extra sentence.
That is what all those involved in this escapade should have remembered.


SaraLynn said...

Dr. Lipstadt:
I applaud your dedication to fighting Holocaust denial and trivialization. As a Jew and a child of a survivor of the Holocaust, I am deeply concerned that it is never forgotten and that we do what we can so that it never happens again.
I take issue simply with your dismissal of Herman Rosenblat as a liar and his story as a hoax, when you have not read or heard the entire story. Excerpts of his manuscript that was to be published by Berkley Books, are available on the internet. Herman did not focus the telling of his story on apples and meeting Roma in the camp. The media did that.
Herman in the telling of his story relates being torn from his mother's arms as she screamed that she didn't love him and he was a pest, so that he would go willingly with his brothers and not be shot. He details the sacrifices his brothers made in the camp for his survival. He describes horrific events of the camp. These are equally, if not more powerful images, than that of apples thrown over the fence. Indeed, apples were thrown to a boy somewhere by Roma, who was taken in by a family and hidden from the Nazis.
Who is to say how much of a memoir must be factually, verifiably "true." Are you, or the media or Oprah the arbiters? I have asked the media that has contacted me (reporters from the NY Times and others)what percentage of a "memoir" must be shown to be true. One answered "100%," but that will never be the case. Most admitted they did not know. Do you?
Oprah and Berkley books had to have known, or should have known that there were challenges to the accuracy of parts of Herman's story. Dr. Waltzer had been stating this publicly for years. Your blog of December, 2008 made these assertions. Pardon me but it "beggars the imagination" that Oprah and Berkley books, among many others in the media, didn't know there were potential problems with representing this as a "TRUE STORY." Simply changing their promotion to "based on a true story," would have protected them, as well as poor Herman. Do you have any issue with characterizing Herman's story as "based on a true story?"
I leave you for the moment with the following, submitted by a blogger recently:
"I'm reminded of the epigraph Elena Bonner, widow of Andrei Sakharov, wrote in one of her memoirs of the Stalin era: "Did this really happen?" "I don't know." "Is it true?" "Yes".
SaraLynn Mandel

AncestralManor said...


You raise good questions.

The answers to such questions are often anchored in time line analysis and critical thinking.

In the Rosenblat case reconciling your understandable hope that at least Herman's emotional and artistic intent is anchored in reality is another part of the puzzle.

Herman's actual manuscript, even after the ghost writer's work and editing, does contain many details that he attributes to his life beyond the "apple over the fence" story theme.

However, there is also a question about who actually authored what portions of the story that extend beyond the "apple over the fence" mantra - now known to be false.

In 1996, Sir Martin Gilbert published the book "The Boys: Triumph Over Adversity" where Herman's now deceased older brothers Isidor and Samuel are noted several times, as well as many of the survivors who have spoken out against what Herman has done.

Gilbert specifically references a January 1995 manuscript by
Samuel Rosenblat "My Life in Another Time."

Detailed analysis of Herman's story beyond the known fraud may include serious questions about whether Herman has also plaguerized the work of his deceased brother Sam.

Sharon Sergeant

Deborah Lipstadt said...

A number of people have contacted me to ask if you work for Atlantic Overseas Pictures?

Jeremy Graeme said...

SaraLynn, I am curious as well.

Do you work for these IP lawyers based out of Pasadena, CA?

I ask because it would be fair to disclose if you are indeed an attorney and if you are indeed focused or affiliated with one.

If you are, and you are also representing Atlantic Overseas Pictures, I could see how this could be a violation of ethics, and suggest you come clean about who you are and the stake you have in this.

Jeremy Graeme said...

Actually, I'll go one further.

Clearly has her name listed, Deborah.

I would, if I were you, contact the california board of professional responsibility on this one.

Deborah Lipstadt said...

Whoa. All I want is for people to be honest about who they are... especially on a matter such as this.

Jeremy Graeme said...

I agree, Deborah.

But if she is representing a company in a professional context as an agent/lawyer, in many states (if she is indeed a lawyer) ,she's required to disclose that.

Officers of the court are held to a far higher standard than us mere mortals. I'm just requesting that she disclose her bias in this whole situation upfront.

SaraLynn said...

Hello Deborah
I just returned to your blog and saw your question. I have been inundated and would have thought you would simply contact me directly if you wanted to know who I was and who I represent. I am a patent, trademark and copyright attorney and I am providing those services to AOP.
I have been very clear about my concerns about the lynching of Herman Rosenblat, and after initially expressing these thoughts to various members of the press, I did "meet" Mr. Salomon. I am now representing him with respect to contractual and IP matters.
Mr. Salomon is the only person to publicly stand up for Herman. Many are asking for compassion for a Holocaust survivor. That is my message. As for the decision of Mr. Salomon to proceed with the movie, it is my understanding that he believes there is a message of hope that is conveyed in the story told by Herman Rosenblat, a Holocaust survivor, regardless of factual inaccuracies. Mr. Salomon and other have received many outpourings of support from the public. It is the artistic expression of Herman's story and its message that Harris wishes to see brought to the public. The movie will be based on Herman Rosenblat's story-no more, no less.
Like many movies.
Does the fact that you worked with Mr. Weltzer and Sharon Sergeant to attack Herman's credibility make your opinions of Mr. Rosenblat's "crimes" suspect?Maybe.
I tried to engage you in respectful discourse on your blog. In response I have received threats. I take these threats seriously. Your publishing of posts containing threats is sad. Are you that insecure in your beliefs that you enlist "support" from extremists? You have lent your blog to the bullying that is rampant in this controversy.
I too have a family, and I am a child of a Holocaust survivor. And by the way, I am not being paid for voicing my opinions on the Rosenblat story, and this is not part of my legal services for Mr. Salomon.
SaraLynn Mandel

SaraLynn said...

Mr. Henry
You obviously have an axe to grind against attorneys. My opinions on Herman Rosenblat are simply my opinions as a child of a survivor, a Jewish person, and an independent thinker. They are not legal opinions. I have made absolutely no secret of my representation of Mr. Salomon on intellectual property matters. I saw no reason to state this on my blog comments, because I was not speaking on behalf of my client, Mr. Salomon, or AOP. I was speaking from the heart.
Be careful what you threaten-this is a public forum. You are a bully and nothing more.
SaraLynn Mandel

Hapalochlaena said...


If a message of hope is based on a lie, then that hope is false. Why would you want to offer a false hope to the public?

If a memoir contains a deliberate lie then the rest of it becomes suspect. You don't think that the deniers are going to be all over this like white on rice?

You are asking for compassion for someone who, if I remember correctly, created that lie over a decade ago; who ignored advice from family, friends and fellow-survivors to put a stop to it; who publicized that lie again and again in several venues including a high-rating television show; who then tried to cement that lie not just in a book purporting to be a true memoir but in a movie? No, I don't think Mr Rosenblat should get a pass.

Mr Rosenblat should perhaps have sold his book as fiction, or at least indicated that there were fictional elements in it. But he didn't, and in so doing lied to his agent, his publisher and his intended audience. Penguin Berkley was right to have withdrawn the book, but they do share some of the blame for not having the book vetted properly.

You say that "The movie will be based on Herman Rosenblat's story-no more, no less. Like many movies." Well, yes. There is also the undisputed fact that where movies generally involve a great deal of artistic license there is usually a disclaimer: "based on xxx event" or "based on xxx book". Unfortunately, the planned-but-cancelled book that is the basis of the film has no such disclaimer, right? So what you're going to end up with is an acknowledged lie (the movie) on top of an unacknowledged lie (the book). I can't wait to not see the approaching trainwreck.

You attack the integrity of a person who has had their career and livelihood put on the line for speaking the truth, on their own blog. You attack her for speaking the truth, and defending the truth. How shameful of you.

You work for a person who tried to silence Prof. Kenneth Waltzer by threatening his career and livelihood (how else would you interpret that complaint to his superiors?), and who suggests (in an intemperate and almost illiterate email!) that he is a greater expert on the Holocaust than Prof. Lipstadt, who has studied it for much of her working life.

As far as your own affiliation with AOP is concerned: you may not have been legally required to reveal it here, but you should have done it as a courtesy to your host, so she'd be prepared for any attempts on your part to draw her into any forthcoming litigation.

You know what? Mr Henry is not a bully, but you are at best an opportunist.

1. I am not Jewish, American, employed in the publishing industry, or a lawyer.
2. I was drawn to this blog by a news item about the latest literary hoax.
3. I was one of those who privately asked questions about your identity.

Deborah Lipstadt said...

A short response to your email, partially to set the record straight.

How could I contact you directly [I assume you mean at the phone number on the AOP press release/web post] when i did not know if that indeed was you?

Regarding my "working with Ken and Sharon." I never "worked with anyone" on this issue. I did read Ken's essay on the matter and offered some editorial suggestions. This is SOP for scholars.

I never did any work with Sharon. In fact, I doubt that we had direct email contact.

I never worked on this issue. I expressed my doubts as an historian and as someone who has worked a great deal in this field.