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December 24, 2008 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Coming February 3, 2009.... It's time for the next big wintertime memoir scandal.... ...and Oprah is not going to be amused.

The New Republic--with the help of some prominent Holocaust historians--is raising serious questions about the veracity of (two-time Oprah's guest) Herman Rosenblat's forthcoming memoir, Angel at the Fence: The True Story of a Love That Survived.

Rosenblat has been telling his story for ten years now, and it was published as a children's book earlier in 2008. A $25 million dollar movie adaptation is already on the table, and the producer is already threatening legal action...against The New Republic.

Snopes gave the story an "undetermined" rating as of this October.
posted by availablelight (52 comments total)

 
First link popped up annoying javascript redirects to AntiSpyware crap.
posted by odinsdream at 7:47 AM on December 24, 2008


Wow, sounds like a little tall tale that sort of metastasized when he discovered it could make him money.
posted by delmoi at 7:50 AM on December 24, 2008



First link popped up annoying javascript redirects to AntiSpyware crap.


[I didn't have this problem in Firefox]
posted by availablelight at 7:51 AM on December 24, 2008


First link popped up annoying javascript redirects to AntiSpyware crap.

Same thing happened to me ... redirected to a blank page (and an NIS warning noted the event).
posted by ericb at 7:52 AM on December 24, 2008


Holocaust deniers get an early Christmas present.
posted by DU at 7:52 AM on December 24, 2008


...and if it helps (I don't know much about this stuff) here's a link to the "print all" version of the article instead:
http://www.tnr.com/story_print.html?id=f458c2c8-0d4f-4dc7-8cba-15e465c2201a
posted by availablelight at 7:53 AM on December 24, 2008


Not going there again. Spyware indicator sez some strange BS is happening.
posted by doctorschlock at 8:12 AM on December 24, 2008


First link popped up annoying javascript redirects to AntiSpyware crap.

Me too, in IE.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 8:15 AM on December 24, 2008


Memoirs are a cowardly form. Fiction for writers who are unable to write compelling fiction. The only ones I've ever found interesting are the posthumous "memoirs" compiled from private journals and diaries.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:19 AM on December 24, 2008


First link popped up annoying javascript redirects to AntiSpyware crap.

[I didn't have this problem in Firefox]


I did have this problem in Firefox, on OS 10.4.11.
posted by limeonaire at 8:20 AM on December 24, 2008


[OK, OK, noted, and mods contacted, since I'm not seeing the problem from my computer and don't know how to fix and can't edit the FPP myself.]
posted by availablelight at 8:21 AM on December 24, 2008


Here's the text-only Google cache of the first page. The Javascript popup wasn't there, and the subsequent two pages of the article didn't have it, either.
posted by limeonaire at 8:28 AM on December 24, 2008


Wait a second. Didn't this film already get made? The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas?
posted by mapalm at 8:34 AM on December 24, 2008


Didn't this film already get made? The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas?
"...[Harris] Salomon [, the producer of Flower of the Fence, who remains close friends with Herman] told me that I should go see The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a new film that, like Herman's tale, tells the story of a young boy at a concentration camp who befriends a German boy on the other side of the fence. I pointed out to Salomon that The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is based on a novel."
posted by ericb at 8:41 AM on December 24, 2008


Excerpts from Gabriel Sherman's 12/25/08 article in The New Republic:

An interesting look at the official "fact checking" of the early manuscript:

"Michael Berenbaum, the former director of the United States Holocaust Research Institute at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, was asked by Salomon to vet the manuscript of Angel at the Fence. When I asked Berenbaum about his fact-checking methods, he said that he had read a copy of the manuscript over the course of an airplane flight, and that he did not conduct any interviews or historical research. He said his fact-checking involved assessing the narrative's tone and general context, drawing on his extensive experience with survivor stories. When I asked Berenbaum if it would be possible for Roma to throw Herman apples over the fence day after day for seven months, he said he had no independent way to check the story. "I wasn't there, I can't vouch for it. But I don't find it incredible," Berenbaum said. "I see it as his memory. And with that comes some of the [problems] of memory, but I'm tolerant of those," he said."

Prof. Deborah Lipstadt's response:

"Lipstadt, who wrote the 1993 book, Denying the Holocaust, is troubled by the possibility that Herman's love story is fabricated, because she believes it could be co-opted by the Holocaust denial movement. 'If you make up things about parts, you cast doubts on everything else," Lipstadt told me. "When you think of the survivors who meticulously tell their story and are so desperate for people to believe, then if they're making stories up about this, how do you know if Anne Frank is true? How do you know Elie Wiesel is true?'"

Lipstadt's other major concern:

The battle over Angel at the Fence is part of a larger struggle for control over the Holocaust narrative. Scholars like Waltzer and Lipstadt are disturbed by the media blitz pushing Herman's story to the masses. "My hair is standing on edge," Lipstadt told me. "He has instrumentalized the Holocaust. This is the worst possible thing you can do on so many levels." To them, selling the Holocaust as Hollywood kitsch sanitizes its horrors. "It makes it nice," Lipstadt says. "I just wait to hear in the movie for the violins."

Rosenblat first went public with his story for a newspaper's Valentine's Day "most romantic story" contest--and it was eventually published in "Chicken Soup for the Couple's Soul."
posted by availablelight at 8:41 AM on December 24, 2008


Waltzer says that he has also been consulting with specialists in the field of memoirs and literature

Love to know what exactly that entails.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:41 AM on December 24, 2008


TNR has been having irregular problems lately with this bogus spyware "ad" for "Antivirus 360" a.k.a. Antivirus 2009, which affects Windows systems by downloading/installing malware. Removal instructions are here.

Which is too bad, since it looks like this story could snowball into the next James Frey (or at least make up for their publishing Stephen Glass's fabrications).
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:42 AM on December 24, 2008


I love it, a link that forces an anti spyware java scanner that is actually spyware. Nice....
posted by gigbutt at 8:43 AM on December 24, 2008


In the MetaTalk thread, concerns about "holocaust denial talk on xmas eve" were listed as part of the reason this post was originally deleted. As a Jew, I always thought that Easter was supposed to be the biggest time of the year for blood libels, holocaust denial, and other anti-Semtism. Now they're adding a second season? Oy.

In particular I'm a Jew who had a quarter of his extended family wiped out by the Nazis and is named after someone they killed. And I definitely think that any moral opprobrium should be reserved for those who seek to monetize the holocaust by selling false stories, if that is indeed what they are doing. None is due to those who probe the veracity of these stories, especially when they spend the rest of their lives fighting holocaust denial more generally.
posted by grouse at 10:08 AM on December 24, 2008 [10 favorites]


Deborah Lipstadt, on the danger of "playing into the hands of Holocaust deniers":

"Correcting mistakes does not, in any way, lessen the Germans’ crimes. The Germans’ actions were horrendous enough that there is no need to support myths in lieu of facts or to fear the facts. "
posted by availablelight at 10:19 AM on December 24, 2008


This has nothing to do with Holocaust denial.
It's just the latest in a series of fails by the book publishing industry. It's like that movie Catch-22:

Author: I like to write books!
INDUSTRY: People only buy memoirs, what have you been up to?
Author: Well this and that, but, writing is inherently kinda made up, you know?
INDUSTRY: It has to be the truth.
Author: OK, but that might be boring...
INDUSTRY: And it has to be unbelievable and uncommon as well.
Author: :-/
INDUSTRY: Anyone ever touch you or anything? Ever been in a Turkish prison?
-later-
Author: OK here is my, um, memoir.
INDUSTRY: GREAT. We didn't read it but here are a million little dollars and a book tour
Press: orly?
Internet: shopped/fake!
Press: Bloood. Give us bloooood...
INDUSTRY: How horrible, you'll never work in this bizness again!
Oprah: I'm shocked.
Public: Wat is a buk?

-fin-
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:31 AM on December 24, 2008 [13 favorites]


I'm kinda annoyed by the whole thing, by which I mean everyone involved. So this guy stretches some truths, so some other guys figure out how to make a buck, and a third set of guys get all 'but he couldn't be near a fence because that camp used the 97-15b enclosure system and everyone knows that only level 32 wizards can approach a 97-15b enclosure system...'
posted by elwoodwiles at 10:50 AM on December 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


When I asked Berenbaum about his fact-checking methods, he said that he had read a copy of the manuscript over the course of an airplane flight, and that he did not conduct any interviews or historical research. He said his fact-checking involved assessing the narrative's tone and general context

That's what they call "fact checking" these days? What bullshit.

I'm kinda annoyed by the whole thing, by which I mean everyone involved. So this guy stretches some truths, so some other guys figure out how to make a buck, and a third set of guys get all 'but he couldn't be near a fence because that camp used the 97-15b enclosure system and everyone knows that only level 32 wizards can approach a 97-15b enclosure system...'


Seriously? You're just as annoyed by the people who call bullshit on the liars as on the liars? I guess you're part of the reason they don't bother to fact-check.
posted by languagehat at 11:13 AM on December 24, 2008 [5 favorites]


a third set of guys get all 'but he couldn't be near a fence because that camp used the 97-15b enclosure system and everyone knows that only level 32 wizards can approach a 97-15b enclosure system...'

Historians examining specious claims about the Holocaust=Geeks nitpicking RPG Rules. Glad that's cleared up.
posted by Benjy at 11:22 AM on December 24, 2008


You're just as annoyed by the people who call bullshit on the liars as on the liars?

Well, in this case, yes. It's just some guy's story. It's a sweet little story and it probably isn't true. What annoys me is the zeal involved. Every time a little old man tells me a tale I don't feel the need to go out and break it down, besides, maybe the story is true. Maybe they did manage to keep this a secret. I just don't see the meaning in proving or disproving any of this.

Other stories would merit more scrutiny, but this is an old man's recollection of falling in love. It's an important personal tale, but perhaps not an important historical one.

But I suppose you can blame me for the publishing industry's poor vetting practices - I don't tend to read memoirs, nor do I tend to take them as gospel when I do.
posted by elwoodwiles at 11:58 AM on December 24, 2008


Perhaps you don't understand that Holocaust deniers use cute little fake stories like this to deny the Holocaust.
posted by languagehat at 12:11 PM on December 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Elwood, the meaning in it is here:

"My hair is standing on edge," Lipstadt told me. "He has instrumentalized the Holocaust. This is the worst possible thing you can do on so many levels." To them, selling the Holocaust as Hollywood kitsch sanitizes its horrors. "It makes it nice," Lipstadt says. "I just wait to hear in the movie for the violins."


Also, because publicly shaming lying liars is a good thing.
posted by the bricabrac man at 12:12 PM on December 24, 2008



The book publishing industry doesn't fact check anything ever, typically. I think that's due in part to how it arose as a "gentlemen's industry" run at low salaries by rich people who could afford to work for nearly nothing and who trusted each other. Newspapers don't fact check often either-- only major magazines do and some weeklies like the Village Voice and some sections of the New York Times.

If an author wants to fact check a book, she has to do it herself or pay someone to do it-- and given that the advance that they get has to cover salary plus all research expenses, there's little incentive for them to do pay someone, even though that's obviously optimal. But we would like to eat, too!

I have written five books and I double check everything to the extent it is possible to do oneself because my reputation for honesty, integrity and accuracy is obviously critical to my future employability. (yeah, I know cynics don't believe this-- but there are people who do try!). Also, I totally, overwhelmingly hate being wrong about anything so this quality is probably protective even more so (though it does not always do wonders for my social life).

Ever since James Frey, the Oprah show has become rather obsessive about fact-checking-- I can tell you this from personal experience because my co-author is going to be on in January and the show very, very carefully vetted the story featured on the program, to the point of obsession about details that didn't seem relevant. I was kind of surprised to read about this as a result-- but it seems that this story may have been on the show before the book and before Frey, from what I can tell.

Memory can be very strange-- false memories definitely do exist and it is quite possible, particularly for older people, to believe things about their past that are not accurate. Each time you recall a memory, you alter it slightly (thus says neuroscience research)-- for example, your mood determines what aspects will be emphasized. Repeatedly telling a story can thus cement in place altered versions.

Severe trauma-- as would certainly happen in the Holocaust-- also alters memory profoundly. This does not mean that we cannot believe survivors-- but it does mean that time sequences and particular details can be off, sometimes severely so.

What this means is that this guy could completely believe he is telling the truth and yet be wrong about what seem like critical details. The story could be emotionally true and factually false.

And that is very different from Frey, who started writing his story as fiction, knew the things he wrote about were untrue and exaggerated to sell.

This guy could also be just like Frey in such exaggeration, of course-- but it is really impossible to know. We do know the guy is an actual Holocaust survivor, however.

To me that means he should have the benefit of the doubt, unlike Frey who used stereotypes about addiction and blatant falsehoods to tell a story that reinforced the worst aspects of our addiction myths.
posted by Maias at 12:42 PM on December 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


That's what they call "fact checking" these days? What bullshit.

Fact checking in magazines and fact checking in the book publishing industry are worlds apart. The rigorousness of the New Yorker exemplifies the former. The latter is typically little more than a read-through for potential libel. When the topic is controversial, there might be a little bit more, though never approaching the in-house scrutiny a magazine article receives - unless it's a Kitty Kelley-level lawsuit magnet. Despite the time it takes for a book to be written and published, the editorial process has yet to factor in real fact checking, and publishing culture is such that editors implicitly trust authors in the final analysis. This results in such worst-case scenarios as the reputable Thomas Dunne blundering into publishing the Holocaust-denying David Irving. The common reader is at the mercy of a given book editor's bullshit detector.
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:46 PM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


The book publishing industry doesn't fact check anything ever, typically.

Well, that's sad. As a copyeditor, I routinely fact-check the books I edit (a query from the one I'm working on now: "Author: Czechoslovakia ceased to exist at the end of 1992; if you are discussing a subsequent period, please change to “the Czech Republic” and/or “Slovakia.”). I didn't realize that was so unusual.
posted by languagehat at 2:13 PM on December 24, 2008


Although, now that I think about it, of course I wouldn't be able to fact-check something like the claim under discussion.
posted by languagehat at 2:14 PM on December 24, 2008


Nthing Doktor Zed but adding that since William Shawn's demise, the vaunted New Yorker's fact-checking has markedly declined.

Publishers dodge the Herculean task of fact-checking through the indemnity clauses in their authors' contracts. In this example, see, in particular, (9): "all statements of fact in the work are true and based upon deliberative research..."

This allows them to publish the bloviating autobiographies of former presidents, athletes, and frequently-rehabilitated celebrities.
posted by terranova at 2:18 PM on December 24, 2008


Here's a little jargon question I have. What does "He has instrumentalized the Holocaust"^ mean? Instrumentalizing seems to be a bad thing, but when I look up the word, it doesn't seem to mean anything relevant.

Clearly there is some jargon meaning here that's absent from the dictionary definition. Anybody? Is this some particular Theory?
posted by MythMaker at 2:39 PM on December 24, 2008


That sounds like the most ridiculous story ever. It makes the Concentration Camps sound like summer camp, with maybe a picket fence to separate prisoners from the outside world. I find it kind of hard to believe that many people actually believed it.
posted by kanewai at 2:51 PM on December 24, 2008


Here's a little jargon question I have. What does "He has instrumentalized the Holocaust"^ mean? Instrumentalizing seems to be a bad thing


Perhaps "to exploit, use as a means to a private end, as a tool."

Here it is, used in Breaking the Magic Spell by Jack David Zipes, a book about /cough/ folk and fairy tales:

"The development of a culture industry which could instrumentalize products of the fantasy for increased production and profit... began to assume firm contours in the nineteenth century." (p. 17, final graf)
posted by terranova at 3:17 PM on December 24, 2008


That sounds like the most ridiculous story ever. It makes the Concentration Camps sound like summer camp, with maybe a picket fence to separate prisoners from the outside world.

With an apple tossed over the fence every day for seven months!
posted by ericb at 4:11 PM on December 24, 2008


A commenter on the TNR piece said something like, I had no idea apple season in Poland lasted seven months. (To be fair, the author said it wasn't always apples).
posted by Maias at 4:47 PM on December 24, 2008


Another thing that bugged me about this story, was this quote from Salomon:
"If anybody writes a memoir, there's no way to know whether these things happened the way the individual wrote. You either believe, or don't believe."
No way to verify? How about the people who were in the camp with the author, every day, and said they never heard him mention this girl? That there's no record of her family anywhere near the area? That they could not possibly approach the fence at all, let alone hang out at the fence, or receive produce?

It's the kind of treacley little story that really wouldn't bother me, even if I learned it was entirely made up, except for the part about it taking place in a concentration camp. I don't even really care that much about it being fuel for Holocaust deniers because, let's face it, these are not exactly guys regarded with any amount of great credibility. Cashing in on the Holocaust with an invented story just sounds like an incredibly icky thing to do.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:00 PM on December 24, 2008


I hate this kind of jargony-ness. Thanks, terranova, that looks like a good guess as to a definition, but what about this:

The term “instrumentalization” refers to the doctrine that ideas are instruments of action and that their usefulness determines their truth.^

That has nothing to do with its use here.

This has to be somebody's "Theory" - is it feminist? Marxist? Deconstructivism? It's essentially a made-up word used in this context, where did it come from? It's not in dictionaries, although it shows up in Google.
posted by MythMaker at 9:36 PM on December 24, 2008


Why would you keep a story like this secret for forty years, and not even mention it to your friends?
posted by P.o.B. at 2:59 AM on December 25, 2008


No way to verify? How about the people who were in the camp with the author, every day, and said they never heard him mention this girl? That there's no record of her family anywhere near the area? That they could not possibly approach the fence at all, let alone hang out at the fence, or receive produce?

Think about the costs involved in fact checking every single claim in a memoir about a period some seventy years ago, and on another country. It really isn't feasible. The economics just don't stack up. It would cost more to fact check such a book than you'd be paying in authors advances.

Outside of the USA, I'm pretty confident that most journalism doesn't get fact checked to that degree. Ultimately, you have to rely on the notion that the people you're hiring are professionals, who are doing their jobs in a professional manner, and the likelihood that if they are making it up out of whole cloth, chances are that they *will* get caught eventually. Someone else who knows the issue well will read it and expose it.

Mind you, for many attention whores, that's not enough of a disincentive. And I'm pretty sure the publisher doesn't take the royalties back when they catch you lying, so if money is your goal, people will go for it.


This guy could also be just like Frey in such exaggeration, of course-- but it is really impossible to know. We do know the guy is an actual Holocaust survivor, however.

To me that means he should have the benefit of the doubt, unlike Frey who used stereotypes about addiction and blatant falsehoods to tell a story that reinforced the worst aspects of our addiction myths.


I don't buy it.

By your reasoning, the fact that Frey was an actual addict should give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to dissembling and lying about the experience of addiction.

I'm pretty sure that all those holocaust survivors who didn't go about monitizing their experiences of the holocaust and falsifying certain aspects in order to ensure maximum marketability would disagree with your view here. Why should they have their experiences cheapened and called into question, simply because this guy wants to make a few bucks/get himself on Oprah?

That (use of the term 'instrumentalize') has nothing to do with its use here.


This reads to me as having an almost identical meaning to the one terranova proposes. The root concept seems to be that ideas, facts, experiences, narratives, etc. are evaluated on the basis of their instrumental utility rather than some other value like truth, coherence, etc. The -ize suffix is just another example of that lazy modern tendency to create neologisms a la monetize, etc.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:32 AM on December 26, 2008


Think about the costs involved in fact checking every single claim in a memoir about a period some seventy years ago, and on another country. It really isn't feasible. The economics just don't stack up. It would cost more to fact check such a book than you'd be paying in authors advances.

I suppose that's fair enough, but the article does talk about how when someone did check the facts, found inconsistencies (if not outright fabrications) and contacted the publisher, he received no response. In fact, that same person is being sued by the people with the movie rights.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:19 AM on December 26, 2008


"This is my personal story as I remember it," Herman Rosenblat, 79, said in a statement issued Thursday through Berkley Books, which will release his "Angel at the Fence" in February.

Berkley added its own comments, noting that a leading Holocaust expert, Michael Berenbaum, had found the story's "general outline" credible, but also saying that "any memoir based on the memories of a survivor is verifiable only by him or her alone."
posted by availablelight at 3:11 PM on December 26, 2008


Publication of disputed Holocaust memoir canceled
posted by terranova at 8:51 PM on December 27, 2008


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.”
posted by orthogonality at 12:22 PM on December 28, 2008


Michael Berenbaum, the former director of the United States Holocaust Research Institute at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, was asked by Salomon to vet the manuscript of Angel at the Fence. When I asked Berenbaum about his fact-checking methods, he said that he had read a copy of the manuscript over the course of an airplane flight, and that he did not conduct any interviews or historical research. He said his fact-checking involved assessing the narrative's tone and general context, drawing on his extensive experience with survivor stories.

From terranova's linked AP article:
“Among the fooled, at least the partially fooled, was Berenbaum, former director of the United States Holocaust Research Institute at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Berenbaum had been asked to read the manuscript by film producer Harris Salomon, who still plans an adaptation of the book.

Berenbaum's tentative support - ‘Crazier things have happened,’ he told The Associated Press last fall - was cited by the publisher as it initially defended the book. Berenbaum now says he saw factual errors, including Rosenblat's description of Theresienstadt, the camp from which he was eventually liberated, but didn't think of challenging the love story.

‘There's a limit to what I can verify, because I was not there,’ he says. ‘I can verify the general historical narrative, but in my research I rely upon the survivors to present the specifics of their existence with integrity. When they don't, they destroy so much and they ruin so much, and that's terrible.’

‘I was burned,’ he added. ‘And I have to read books more skeptically because I was burned.’”
posted by ericb at 1:06 PM on December 28, 2008


My motivation was to make good in this world.

Way it goes. Write the truth and you only bring misery, and the lies of art are too complex to be comforting. We want the world to really contain the holocaust and an impossible love story, but it doesn't, not in the way we desire. The only choice is to lie--the best memoirists are just better at not getting caught.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:13 PM on December 28, 2008


The only choice is to lie

Or to call it a novel instead of a memoir.

Which is another sad aspect of this story - his story clearly had resonance. Marketed as fiction, it could have been great.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:33 PM on December 28, 2008


Why did I do that and write the story with the girl and the apple, because I wanted to bring happiness to people

The Rosenblat's unembellished memoir, although not strikingly, Oprah-approvingly unique, could have provided some small degree of hope for life after the Lager, if it could have found a publisher. I blame maudlin fictional fare such as Life Is Beautiful and the above-mentioned The Boy in Striped Pajamas for sentimentally inflating Holocaust narratives as a subject. If you really want to bring some measure of happiness to the world, it's better to stick to corny telethon entertainments and permanently shelve The Day the Clown Cried (previously). It's a sad comment on contemporary culture when Jerry Lewis is a model of restraint.

Incidentally, Rosenblat's editor, Natalee Rosenstein, is best known as mystery writer Lilian Jackson ("The Cat Who...") Braun's. I'm unable to determine if she's ever acquired a Holocaust memoir or history before.
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:54 AM on December 29, 2008


Haha.. I'm loving this so much. At least we're getting a LITTLE better at spotting this bullshit before release. It's a good thing, because I'm about to finish my holocaust memoir as well. I was about -40 years unborn at the time, so it wasn't really that bad. I played with my Wii for most of the time and hid my medicines inside my mattress, like Paul in Stephen King's Misery. Then, I escaped on a mine car and blasted off in my rocket ship, hovering in space for what seemed like an eternity until I woke up in 1980 and was born. Dr. Phil has showed great interest in my story, and Penguin Classics is set to publish in 2040, for the hundredth anniversary of my incredible Escape from the Holocaust™
posted by ChickenringNYC at 10:06 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


In between the publication of the New Republic's investigative article and Berkeley's cancellation of Angel at the Fence,TNR published Gabriel Sherman's follow-up piece that includes interviews with people who were with Rosenblat in the camps. Tragically, it seems that Rosenblat fell out with his brothers over this fabrication, even after they'd managed to endure Buchenwald together. Underneath this hoax, there's a moving story to be told, but as another survivor, who knew the couple after the war, observes: "The one thing you need to know about survivors is that everybody is competing with everyone else. The unfortunate thing, is everyone wants a better story. And he wanted to have the best story."

Elsewhere in the followup, a professor sums up why I find this debacle so dispiriting:
"A love story set in a concentration camp as a way of teaching about the Holocaust actually inverts the reality of the Holocaust, denies it in its own way," [Michigan State University professor Kenneth] Waltzer wrote [Sherman] in an e-mail. "The reality of being in a concentration camp was that ... [n]ormal impulses like those of young lovers were disrupted, collapsed. The idea that two people in the circumstances described--a prisoner in a camp, in a group of brothers, the primary source of loyalty, and a girl in hiding under false identity with a family group, her primary source of loyalty--would put all up for grabs by meeting daily in the open at a guarded electrified fence means that the writer didn't really understand, and the publishers and moviemaker didn't really understand either. And this is why all this is so important. There is denial of the Holocaust, this isn't that, but there is also denial of the substance or reality of the Holocaust--and this is definitely that."
I suppose I prefer my Holocaust denial to be comparatively straightforward, e.g. Mr. Death.
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:16 PM on December 29, 2008


AP is reporting that a children's book based on the story has been pulled.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:40 AM on December 30, 2008


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