Ut oh, Oprah’s done it again – Updated 3x

Oprah endorsed, Angel At The Fence

Oprah endorsed, Angel At The Fence

Remember, Oprah’s past debacle related to promoting a supposed memoir that turned out to instead be fiction? Well, it has happened once again.

It relates to a Holocaust memoir written by Herman Rosenblat, who says he married the young girl who had daily tossed him apples over the fence when he was a boy in a concentration camp.

Here is the latest from the AP.

“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.

Herman and Roma Rosenblat

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:

UPDATE
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):

UPDATE 2
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.

UPDATE 3
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.”

Advertisement

5 thoughts on “Ut oh, Oprah’s done it again – Updated 3x

  1. For Immediate Release

    12/28/2008

    For Information Contact:
    Atlantic Overseas Pictures

    (New York/London) — Like most followers of the deeply moving Holocaust story
    of Herman and Roma Rosenblat, Atlantic Overseas Pictures is deeply troubled
    by the allegations that parts of the love story may be fictionalized . AOP
    and its producers, Harris Salomon and Abi Sirokh, where shocked when the
    revelations were revealed in recent news reports covering Mr. Rosenblat’s
    forthcoming book.

    Whereas the Penguin Publsihing book “Angel at the Fence” was a non fiction
    account of Rosenblat’s life, the feature film, The Flower of the Fence” was
    always a lose and fictionalized adaptation of his story. Therefore, AOP its
    principals and partners believe the integrity and the beauty of the story
    remains as a work of fiction. Its veracity as a story of hope and love
    during a time of immense suffering remains a story of inspiration as a
    fictional account of mans life and fantasy.

    AOP may rewrite elements of the script to reflect recent revelations about
    Herman and Roma Rosenblat and why they apparently fabricated elements of
    their wartime love story. The motion picture will portray the fictional
    elements of the love story that captivated people globally while at the same
    time show the Holocaust in an historically accurate and truthful manner.

    Mr. Rosenblat has agreed to donate all monies from the film to Holocaust
    survivor charities as a condition to moving forward.

    AOP deeply believes the message of the “Flower of the Fence” is ironically
    more poignant in light of the recent revelations of the messenger Herman
    Rosenblat. As a work of fiction, the story retains its power to grip
    audiences worldwide and tell a story of inspiration that transcends the
    present controversy.

  2. http://www.rushprnews.com/2008/10/15/an-oprah-moment-truth-and-consequences/

    Actually, an earlier news article on October 15 broke the news on this alleged fabrication. Apparently nobody read it.

    An ‘Oprah Moment?’: Truth and Consequences!
    October 15, 2008

    “Angel Girl” creates a media stir with touching backstory of how Herman and Roma Rosenblat first “met” in wartime Germany — but some observers question accuracy of elderly couples “memories”

    MIAMI, FLORIDA (RUSHPRNEWS) 10/15/08

    — It’s just a 24-page children’s book written by popular kids author Laurie Friedman, but the story behind the book’s genesis is causing a stir among grown-ups nationwide. You probably have read the Associated Press news wire story by ace AP reporter Matt Sedensky that hit the newspapers recently and exploded on the blogosphere with touching blog posts and commentaries from coast to coast.

    Boy meets girl in wartime Germany, girl throws apples across a guarded security fence to boy, boy and girl move to different countries after the war, never see each other again …. until they go on blind date in New York in 1958 and “realize” they knew each other “back then”.

    He proposes on the spot, she accepts, they marry, raise a family, move to Florida, go on Oprah Winfrey show, get two book contracts and a movie deal. Life can’t be more wonderfull that this, right?

    But now, in the wake of the AP story’s huge reader response and with some critical reviews of the children’s book on amazon.com’s website, some questions have arisen over the “truth” of “Angle Girl” — the children’s book about Herman and Roma Rosenblat that Laurie Friedman published this year. It is important to note here that the Rosenblat did not write the book, a third party wrote it, and she based her text on independent research she did and on long conversations she had with the elderly couple face to face. Herman’s now 80, Roma a few years younger. Wonderful people, sweet smiles, salt of the Earth.

    In fact, the book’s cover notes that the book is “based on a true story”. The key word here is “based”. The book does not say it is a true story, only that it is based on a true story. So the children’s book works nicely and is a touching, wonderfull read. Friedman has a gift for words, and she tells the story in a way that both children and adults can understand.

    But what some observers want to know is this: did the “events the Rosenblats describe to Friedman and the AP reporter and Oprah really take place as they say they did? Michael Berenbaum, a Holocaust historian in Los Angeles, told the AP reporter that he had read the children’s book and “I see no reason to question it”.

    But even AP story seems to question the backstory: “It all seems too remarkable to be believed,” the AP reporter wrote. “[But] Rosenblat insists it is all true.”

    Let’s cut to the chase now. One amateur book reviewer on amazon’s book website writes: “The publicity relating to this book and the proposed movie has raised several questions about inconsistencies between the story and the known facts of the Holocaust. Recognizing that the Rosenblats were children, he was 12, she was 9, they said, living during unbelievably horrific times, it is possible that their understanding at the time and their interpretation in later life do not accurately reflect what truly happened.”

    One reviewer who liked the children’s book by Ms Friedman wrote on the amazon site: “This is a touching story with a miraculous ending. The idea that this is a true story really seems remarkable. I have read other comments that question whether it is a true story or not. I’ll be very disappointed if I ever learn that it is not.”

    And that is the crux of the matter here. If the backstory that the Rosenblats have been telling the media for years — they first went on the Oprah Show in 1996 — turns out to be sort of made-up due to faulty memories or other circumstances beyond anyone’s control, the authenticity of their story will be called into doubt.

    And if a movie
    is ever made about the Rosenblat’s lives based on the children’s book or Herman’s own autobiography, which is due to be published in 2009 by a major book company in New York (with 350 pages inside it), then the entire project might be at risk and some enterprising investigative reporter for a major newspaper like the New York Times might undo the magic that the Rosenblats so far have created.
    When RushPRnews contacted the publishing company that released “Angel Girl” in 2008, a quick and polite reply was forthcoming by email:
    “Thank you for your e-mails regarding our book. That picture book you write about is based on the true story that Herman and Roma Rosenblat told Laurie Friedman. Ms. Friedman spent months researching the story and discussing the details with the Rosenblats. Herman and Roma are two senior adults recalling a memory that occurred during very dark and difficult times in their pasts. That picture book is based on Ms. Friedman’s interpretation of that story and due to the nature of a picture book there are obviously details left out and the text has been aimed at a younger reading level.”

    The email added: “Just as it says on the cover of the book, it ‘is “based on a true story.” The quotes from the book are not necessarily the exact lines that Herman spoke to Roma. I believe that after much research done by both Laurie Friedman and the publisher of the book that they did their best and have no reason to doubt that the story Herman and Roma told the author is true.”

    Attempts to reach Laurie Friedman and Michael Berenbaum for this story were not successful, although the children’s book company did reply, as noted above.

    The AP story can have the last word here: “It all seems too remarkable to be believed. Rosenblat insists it is all true.”

    Truth and consequences? You decide.

  3. This hoax is a tragedy. The Rosenblats have hurt Jews all over and given support to those who deny the holocaust. I don’t understand why Atlantic Pictures is still proceeding to make a film based on a lie. I also don’t understand how Oprah could have publicized this story, especially after James Frey and given that many bloggers like Deborah Lipstadt said in 2007 that the Rosenblat’s story couldn’t be true.
    There are so many other worthwhile projects based on genuine love stories from the Holocaust. My favorite is the one about Dina Gottliebova Babbitt – the beautiful young art student who painted Snow White and the Seven Dwarves on the children’s barracks at Auschwitz. This painting became the reason Dina and her Mother survived Auschwitz. After the end of the war, Dina applied for an art job in Paris. Unbeknownst to Dina, her interviewer was the lead animator on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. They fell in love and got married. Now that’s a romantic love story! I also admire Dina for her tremendous courage to paint the mural in the first place. Painting the mural for the children caused her to be taken to Dr. Mengele, the Angel of Death. She thought she was going to be gassed, but bravely she stood up to Mengele and he made her his portrait painter, saving herself and her mother from the gas chamber.

    Also, Dina’s story has been verified as true. Some of the paintings she did for Mengele in Auschwitz survived the war and are at the Auschwitz Birkenau Museum. The story of her painting the mural of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on the children’s barrack has been corroborated by many other Auschwitz prisoners, and of course her love and marriage to the animator of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs the Disney movie after the war in Paris is also documented.

    Why wasn’t the Rosenblatt’s story checked out before it was published and picked up to have the movie made?? I would like to see true and wonderful stories like Dina’s be publicized, not these hoax tales that destroy credibility and trust.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s