Remember, Oprah’s past debacle related to promoting a supposed memoir that turned out to instead be fiction? Well, it has happened once again.
“Berkley Books is canceling publication of Angel at the Fence after receiving new information from Herman Rosenblat’s agent, Andrea Hurst,” the publisher said in a statement. “Berkley will demand that the author and the agent return all money that they have received for this work.”
A couple of days earlier, Berkley had offered a qualified defense of the book, saying it was a work of memory, a story whose truth was known only to the author.
Rosenblat, 79, a resident of the Miami area, was virtually unknown to the general public until the 1990s when he began speaking of how he came to know his wife, Roma Radzicky. According to Rosenblat and his wife, he was a prisoner at a sub-camp of Buchenwald in Nazi Germany and she a young Jewish girl whose family was pretending to be Christian and lived nearby.
For months, they would meet on opposite sides of a barbed-wire fence, where she would sneak him apples and bread. Rosenblat was then transferred to another camp and the two lost touch, until the 1950s, when they were reunited by accident — on a blind date — in New York. They soon married and earlier this year celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
The Rosenblats were interviewed twice over the years by Winfrey, who has called their romance “the single greatest love story … we’ve ever told on the air.” They have inspired a children’s book and a feature film adaptation is scheduled to begin next year.
Unlike such fake Holocaust memoirists as Misha Defonseca (“Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years”) and Benjamin Wilkomirski (“Fragments”), Rosenblat is indeed a survivor and records prove that he was at the Buchenwald camp.
But scholars doubted his story, noting that the layout of the sub-camp made such an encounter at the fence virtually unthinkable (They would have met right by an SS barracks). A recent article in The New Republic quoted friends and family members who were outraged by Rosenblat, so much so that one of his brothers stopped speaking to him.
The cancellation is sure to outrage survivors and scholars, who have worried that Rosenblat would encourage Holocaust deniers, and likely revive the debate over why publishers don’t fact check books. Even after such fabrications as James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces,” another Winfrey favorite, publishers have said that with more than 100,000 books coming out each year, fact-checking is too time-consuming and too expensive.
The New Republic (TNR) actually exposed the hoax and has done the seminal reporting about this entire saga. And, Gabriel Sherman just wrote the following after talking with Harris Salomon, who is producing the $25 million film adaptation of Herman Rosenblat’s story
“It’s unfortunate he told a lie,” Salomon told me. “The man is tragically flawed, but his story had value.” Until this evening, Salomon had been a wholehearted defender of Herman’s story. But he said he spoke to Herman and learned that his story is a fake. Salomon said he had no knowledge of Herman’s fabrication, and is angry that Herman lied to him, to his agent, Andrea Hurst, and to the publisher. “Obviously, this is a surprise to me. Obviously, I am extremely angry. He let me down professionally and personally. We get used to dealing with people of all stripes in this business. This is the business and the society we live in today, that allows people to lie, but also feeds off people lying and asking for forgiveness.”
Salomon said he thinks there is only one way for Herman to bring closure to his story. He asked Herman to go back on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” with his wife, Roma, and tell his true story and explain why he invented his tale. He said Herman has agreed to appear on “Oprah” if her producers will have him. “The Oprah Winfrey Show” could not be reached for comment tonight.
“This is the one thing I want Herman to do,” Salomon said. “I told Herman I want him to go back on the ‘Oprah Winfrey Show’ and apologize to Oprah. Apologize to me, to Andrea Hurst, his agent, to Penguin, the American people, and the memory of his mother and father and all the people who died in the Holocaust.”
You can learn more about the sad progression of this tale by reading the (TNR) articles below:
- The Greatest Love Story Ever Sold (Is the author of a new Oprah-touted love story the next James Frey?)
- Wartime Lies (An upcoming Holocaust memoir is contradicted by scholars, witnesses, and members of the writer’s family. But its publisher is still defending it).
The following (TNR) articles from Gabriel Sherman show how folks are trying to move forward on all of this (yet Oprah’s reaction is noticeably absent):
- Ken Waltzer on Canceled Memoir: “Where Were the Culture Makers?”
- Agent: Rosenblat Told Me that Love Story is Fake
- Movie Based on Canceled Memoir Will Go Forward (though script may change…)
It is mighty interesting that Oprah’s people have not yet come out with a statement. Of course, many of us dog folks may instead be caught up with her dog-themed show today.
I have had friends growing up who were the children of holocaust survivors, and sadly they all showed some of the wounds passed down by their parents. Such unspeakable evil is not easily erased and the troubled habits and day-to-day functioning of these survivors has not permeated the literature. Or, at least, I have not sought it out, even though as a psychologist, it is easy to understand the ramifications.
Thus, the first article below is probably the most telling of this entire saga. It comes from the author’s son and shows how behaviors adapted in childhood (by both his mom & dad who were only 9 & 12 years of age when the story was said to originate) remained. It also gives more credence to the fact that the subsequent trauma from a shooting & robbery incident helped in forming the basis for construction of the contrived tale.
I am not as much disappointed in the Rosenblats’ as I am with the media who are continually looking for the next best story to bring folks to their door.
Again, it is quite telling that Oprah’s people have not yet come out with a statement. And, the fallout continues as Lerner Books is now pulling Angel Girl, the children’s book version of the story.
The publisher of Herman Rosenblat’s children’s book, Angel Girl, has now pulled the book from stores and is offering refunds for people who had bought it. In September, Minneapolis-based Lerner Books released Angel Girl, a kids’ book written by popular author Laurie Friedman. The book was based on the story of Roma throwing young Herman apples over the fence of a concentration camp. Friedman told Publishers Weekly:
“I, like many others, am disappointed and upset to now learn of Herman’s fabrications.” Adam Lerner, president and publisher of Lerner Publishing Group, said, “We have been misled by the Rosenblats, who gave us and our author what we believed to be an authentic and moving account of their lives.”