Monday, December 29, 2008

Fiction V. Memoir--It's not rocket science!

Once again, an author has been outed as fabricating his memoir just as it goes to press. Herman Rosenblat's ANGEL AT THE FENCE: The True Story of a Love That Survived, it turns out, ain't none of that--not true, no one at the fence, and it hasn't survived--at least, not as a book. Rosenblat even has to return his $50,000 advance!

Seems that the touching tale of a girl who through apples over the fence of a concentration camp, and years later met the grown man she had helped save from starvation, and married him, sigh, oh sigh, was a complete fabrication. Rosenblat is a concentration camp survivor--no one doubts that--and sadly, because he lied, all that he has to say that may be of value is now doubted.

The movie is still a go. Since when has Hollywood ever cared whether a story is historically accurate? Seriously, different rules do apply, and the producers say they were planning to fictionalize it anyway. (IOW, the fiction they paid for was not fiction enough for them.)

Here's the New Republic expose of Rosenblat's book, the Times UK shorter online story, the Snopes version (which quotes the book extensively), and some interesting comments on Deborah Lipstadt's website. I include Prof. Lipstadt because she is the author and historian who stood up to David Irving and other Holocaust deniers. She calls ANGEL AT THE FENCE "not exactly a shining example of verisimilitude." Hee hee.

Deborah Lipstadt's book (History on Trial) reminded me of a real-life QB-VII--the Leon Uris novel about a trial over the Holocaust.

  • Lipstadt=nonfiction.
  • Uris' QB-VII=fiction.
  • Rosenblat's story=fiction.

Fiction means it's a novelized, emotion-packed, well-paced drama that didn't really happen. Why do we all have such trouble with that concept? Has TV and movies spoiled us for finding drama in the mundane, real events of life?

One other point--the New Republic piece (by Gabriel Sherman) points out that Rosenblat's faux love story appeared in Chicken Soup for the Couple's Soul. Now that just sucks. If we can't trust the Chicken Soup books, what can we trust?

Mr. Rosenblat, you lived through the Holocaust. You have horrifying and--no doubt--amazing tales to share, if your wish was to be heard. Why on earth did you have to piss away your reputation and honor by lying?

The book's website has been erased, thank you for visiting.


dan said...

Asking Oprah to invite Herman Rosenblat on her show one more time to apologize for his literary fabrication, explain why he did it, ask forgiveness

I am creating a national write-in campaign here with a grassroots effort to ask Oprah to invite Herman on her show in future to apologzie, ask forgiveness, explain why he did and how and ... to move on with his life quietly and out of the spotlight.

I have already been in touch with Oprah's producers and there is a good chance this might happen. Oprah will not attack Herman on air the way she did with James Frey after his deceptions were uncovered. In this case, she will allow Herman to answer to the public, explain himself, apologize and ask forgiveness, from Oprah and the public, for his literary faux pas.

PLEASE leave your comments below. You may frame them as a letter to Oprah, which her producers in Chicago will read online here, and you can make your voice heard about asking Oprah to invite Herman on her show one last time to explain himself, to apologize to Oprah and the public, to ask forgiveness and to move on with this life from the point onward. We believe that he is a good man, and that he just made a wrong decision by sticking with his made-up story for so long. Now that the fabrication has been exposed by the media and his book cancelled, it is time for Oprah to invite him on her show and let him explain himself to her and to the public. I think there will be a teaching moment here for everyone, for Oprah too, for Herman, too, and for the viewing public.

I am in touch with Oprah's producers by email and phone now, and am waiting word on what they will do with this suggestion. There is no group sponsoring this write in campaign, just one lone blogger following his heart.

Devin said...

The Rosenblat story is so sad. Why is Atlantic Pictures making a film based on a lie? Why didn't Oprah check the story out before publicizing it, especially after James Frey and given that many bloggers like Deborah Lipstadt said in 2007 that the Rosenblat's story couldn't be true.
Genuine love stories from the Holocaust do exist. 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 to cheer them up. 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. It's such a romantic love story. Another reason I love Dina's story is the tremendous courage she had 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.

Dina's story is also verified to be 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.

Vix said...

Thanks to both of you for stopping by. Dan, good luck with your write-in campaign. Devin, thanks for that fascinating story about Dina Gottliebova Babbitt--I had never heard it before!
Apparently Dina is involved in a lawsuit, trying to get some of her own paintings back from the Auschwitz Museum. Stan Lee and other luminaries of the comics world support her--I found her illustrated life story at