Saturday, December 27, 2008

No Angel at the Fence

It looks like Oprah's been had again although it remains to be seen whether she will ask the author of Angel at the Fence t0 appear on her show so that she can publicly humiliate him in the style in which she destroyed James Frey.

Oprah has been pushing Herman Rosenblat's supposed true story of first meeting his wife at the fence of the Nazi concentration camp in which he was imprisoned as a boy. He claims that she, from the other side of the fence, helped him survive the ordeal by tossing food to him over the fence. Apparently no one much wondered how such a thing would have been possible until recently. Rosenblat and Berkley Books defended the validity of the book just yesterday (from the New York Times):
In the book, “Angel at the Fence,” Herman Rosenblat writes that he met his future wife, Roma Radzicki, at right with Mr. Rosenblat, while he was a prisoner at Schlieben in Germany and she lived nearby, and would sneak him food at the camp’s fence. But in a recent article in The New Republic, several scholars challenged details of the story, noting among other things that the camp’s layout would have made exchanges at the fence impossible. In a statement reported by The A.P., Mr. Rosenblat said: “I was a young child at the time my family was caught up in the Holocaust, and I saw things through a young child’s eyes. But I know and remember what I saw.”
This afternoon, Yahoo News has the latest:
The publisher of a disputed Holocaust memoir is canceling publication of the book. Berkley Books issued a statement Saturday saying it is canceling publication of "Angel at the Fence" after receiving new information from the agent of author Herman Rosenblat.
Berkley says it will demand that Rosenblat and his agent return all money that they have received for the work.
So another book scam has been blown apart, another publisher is embarrassed, and all for nothing. Herman Rosenblat suffered greatly during World War II and I find it very sad to see something like this happen to him at this stage of his life. I suspect that his heart is in the right place and that he might very well have come to believe the story he tells in Angel at the Fence. Memory can be a trickster, especially in the midst of all the trauma that Rosenblat experienced as a child. What a shame - for everyone involved.


  1. Sam

    When you write: "So another book scam has been blown apart, another publisher is embarrassed, and all for nothing. Herman Rosenblat suffered greatly during World War II and I find it very sad to see something like this happen to him at this stage of his life. I suspect that his heart is in the right place and that he might very well have come to believe the story he tells in Angel at the Fence. Memory can be a trickster, especially in the midst of all the trauma that Rosenblat experienced as a child."

    No, he admitted he made it all up, the love story, the blind date, the apples over the fence, the girl....he admitted today that he lied and he is sorry. His memorywas not to blame, some quirk in his personality maybe: the need for attention, what?

    And you said " What a shame - for everyone involved."

    Yes, true.

  2. Dan, the more I think about the situation, the more I have to question the role of his wife. Surely, she knew the truth about the book - and she apparently either remained silent or she lied right along with the man. That's the most shameful part of this whole scam, IMO.

    If the guy is now admitting that he lied, maybe he does deserve a reaming out at the hands of Ms. Winfrey.

    The whole story is disturbing because of the way that it fits into the recent trend of scam memoirs. What in hell is wrong with these people? How do they ever imagine that they will get away with this kind of thing - it's not that easy anymore.

  3. Sam

    Good points. but go easy on the old man and his old wife....i think there are some psychological problems involved here, his wife was on antidepressant drugs, meds, and he had some psychological needs for attention I think. This was not about money or fame or scamming or hoaxing....i think the old man got caught up in a huge fib that then got out of control, and he knew he was fibbing, but he could not stop, but it wasn't really scamming or trying to get money, he is 80 already.....i believe this will come out later, cannot tell you now, but i know some private info,,,,,,he was not nuts, nor his wife nuts...but these were both people with low education, i mean they didn;t go to school during the Holocaust and they are survivors, so let them be. They erred. Of cousre, the wife knew the fib, too. They both are guilty, big time...but the other culprits here are the publishers who should have vetted the story better, people are so willing to let stories get through without checking them.......that is they big question here. WHY did the book publisher allow this to happen? I mean, I read about this backstory in the newspapers in October and in one second i said to my wife, ThIS IS A second....WHY? because of the blind date crap. No way does a blind date turn out to deliver a girl who saved the man's life in the holocaust be true. that was a Hollywood ending and i smelled it in one second. But thousands of bloggers fell for the feel good story with Oprah's blessings, and the publishers, well educated people, they fell for it. WHY? our culture is in decline that is why...

  4. Dan, what you say rings true. I do sympathize with the man and that's why I went as easy on him as I did at first. This story of his, though, seems to go back a long way and he had plenty of chances to tell the truth or let the whole thing drop. I'm curious as to what might ultimately be revealed about the motives and causes...or problems involved.

    And I totally agree that the publisher and editor involved completely failed in their jobs...perhaps that's where the bulk of the greed really is, in fact.

    I suppose this bugs me so much because I am fed up, like you, with the way American culture (world culture, actually) has dumbed itself down in the last two decades. This kind of thing fits right into a world of celebrity worship, overall greed, and laziness and general shallowness. I don't trust the media anymore to tell me the truth and seeing the same thing creep into the world of publishing makes me sick.

  5. Sam
    Good discussion, you and mere here. Trust me, u will see later in N Y TIMES story coming soon, Herman has and had psychological problems, his wife is on meds. They are sick, sad, tired people. They had a hard life. But the main reason for the fib and book was major emotional problems. So we should go easy on them both. They weren't out for money or fame, they were out for making sense of their lives. They did it the wrong way, they now realize.

    And this:

    Someone asked, earlier, “Why don’t publishers fact check more?” Here’s my two cents: Because our modern post-modern society is easily gullible. It was not just the history of the Holocaust that set this book to being ”discovered” by researchers and forensic experts as a hoax, it was also the BLIND DATE part of the backstory, which Oprah believed 100 percent and which most of you people here at the blog probably did too.

    When the media reported in October that Herman met Roma on a blind date in 1958, it was an Oct. 12 AP story from Miami by Matt Sedensky, and on that blind date, they allegedly realized that they had known each other in the camps, in 1944, when she had allegedly thrown apples over a fence to a thin young teenage boy……THAT was the lie that gave it away to me on first reading the AP story in October. I saw through the “lie” in one second! Blind dates do not happen that way, trust me.

    Yet, hundreds, millions, of people read that same AP story and said wow and blogged all over about how magical this story was, the blind date especially. Why are people so gullible? Why is Oprah so gullible? Why are Christians and Jews so gullible, and don’t get me started on our friends in foreign lands who follow Shinto or Buddhist or Moslem or Hindu or Taoism beliefs! They are just as gullible, even more!

    I will tell you why: we live in a false society, full of false lies. The first lie is that there is a God. In fact, there is NO God. Do some fact checking on that!

    Second falsehood in our society, believed by 80 percent of Americans, is that Jesus is the son of this non-existant God and the alleged savior of mankind. He is not. Jesus was never any son of any god. He was just a Jewish teacher who preached goodness 2000 years ago or so and also some weird ideas. He is one in a long line of false messiahs. Get over it, already!

    Third false idea we live by is there is a heavn to go to after death. There is no heaven. We live and we die, that’s all there is. DNA genepools to the max. So you see, this is why people fell for the Herman - Oprah blind date story, they are brainwashed to believe anything they read. We are a sick society. Wake up.

  6. No one knows all, but those that were there.
    And even these, know in part.

  7. Hey There Emma told me at jossip: "I am
    not sure why he deserves forgivness, He carried on the lie for so many years. He went on television and lied about this before. He was a Holocaust survivor. Why did he need to embellish a story that was already so compelling?"

    Sam, this was RE my new grassroots Internet campaign to ask Oprah to invite Herman on the show in future to apologize and ask forgivesness and move on with his life.

    See press release here and feel free to blog on the idea, pro or con. -- Dan

    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

  8. How awful that the Rosenblats lied about their story and that the publishers and movie makers fell for it. Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which was a great book and now movie, never pretended to be true. The Rosenblats, like Madoff, are harming the good Jewish name and it's terrible.

    I read a New York Times article about Stan Lee and Neal Adams the comic book artists supporting another TRUE Holocaust love story. There was a beautiful young artist, Dina Gottliebova Babbitt, who painted Snow White and the Seven Dwarves on the children's barracks at Auschwitz to cheer them up. Dina's art became the reason she and her Mother survived Auschwitz.

    Painting the mural for the children caused Dina to be taken in front of Dr. Mengele, the Angel of Death. She thought she was going to be gassed, but bravely she stood up to Mengele and he decided to make her his portrait painter, saving herself and her mother from the gas chamber as long as she was doing painting for him.

    Dina's story is true because some of the paintings she did for Mengele in Auschwitz survived the war and are at the Auschwitz Birkenau Museum. Also, 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 a fact.

    I wish Oprah would do a story about Dina and her art not about the Rosenblats who were pulling the wool over all our eyes.


  10. It's a shame that the story is fake and that the old couple is probably trying to make a big buck out of it. It would have been better for them if they introduced it as fiction rather an an autobiography of some sort. I for one would read the book of it is good. I am disappointed that the publication is cancelled because they lied.

  11. yuenshin, it was NOT about money, it was never about MONEY. really. the old man did for attention. kind of a narcissitic attention thing, he wanted people to love him. ANd it was never about money, he is old and is gonna die soon. Not money or fame. Old people don't go for that. He just wanted LOVe , and attention, he went about it the wrong way...

    danny bloom

  12. Sam, I had the same mix of anger and sadness, which I described on The Baltimore Sun's Read Street blog. I was angry because such trickery violated the unwritten contract between author and reader. A memoir carries a premium because readers often form an emotional bond with the author. That reaction goes much deeper than appreciating a writing style or plot twist. If a memoir veers from the truth, the author is stealing those emotions.

    And angry because publishers should be more careful in vetting books. Last year, Margaret Seltzer’s "memoir" of gang life, Love and Consequences, and Misha Defonseca’s Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years, were exposed as fakes. And who can forget the spectacular crash of James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces?

    And angry because such trickery gives ammunition to crackpot Holocaust deniers.

    But I was also saddened that Rosenblat — a true Holocaust victim and concentration camp survivor — will now be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Not for the quiet heroism of facing overwhelming evil. Not for having the strength to build a new life. after the war. Not for a long life and long marriage.

  13. Cip, I like that thought and still wonder a bit just how self-delusional Mr. Rosenblat might have become over the years. Did he really start to believe his own lies? I wonder...

  14. Glen, that story you mentioned is a new one to me but sounds to be a very inspirational one. That's the real shame of all of this - so much really did happen, some of it very ironic and unbelievable, and something that turns out to be a lie taints all the real stories because some people do not want to believe that anything like this might have happened.

  15. Yuenshin, I am willing to bet that this story will still see the light of day in some form, be it the movie version or it being turned into the novel it always should have been.

    Whether or not Rosenblat should profit from the enterprise is another question - at least until he has paid back the money he cost everyone involved.

  16. Excellent points, all, Dave. What you've said is pretty much why this whole thing bothers me the way that it does. On the one hand, I have to sympathize with the old man, especially because of the abuse and terror he survived. On the other hand, though, this kind of thing is happening so regularly lately that the whole idea of taking a memoir on faith is becoming harder and harder to do. It's happened forever, I would imagine, but publishers these days have much better tools to make sure that it does not happen...and they allow it. That's shameful on their parts.

  17. My friends here, Sam and Dave and all....there is one thing i think you do not understand about all this, and in fact the MSM has been loathe to listen to me from day one, but i know the truth here. This book was not Herman's idea. Herman did not write the book. There is a cabal behind Herman which pushed and connived and manipulated Herman to go forward as the so-called "author" of this now-defunct memoir. Why Dave will not listen to me on this, I don't know, and why Sara Nelson at PW will not listen to me on this I don't know, and why the NYTimes will not listen to me on this I don't know. But the truth is that there was and is a cabal behind Herman and Roma that instigated this entire affair. Herman cannot even write, for God's sake. There is a scandal behind this scandal and nobody is asking the right questions... and I know the answers. Why doesn't somebody ask me? I am NOT kdding about this. It is very scary and strange and sad. Ask and I shall tell. But as usual, the MSM is three months behind the curve, or the curb, and they will not look into this until after I spill the beans again to Gabe, IF he will listen to me, or some other enterprising reporter. You are all missing the handwriting on the wall. This was never about Herman and Roma. This was and is about the cabal behind them. It is NOT a pretty picture, trust me. When the truth of this cabal comes out, you will fall of your chairs in disbelief and shock and also with a sigh of "Aha, so that is what this was all about!"

    ask me. gently.

  18. I'm looking forward to hearing you're theory in detail someday, Dan.

  19. Sam
    I can't dish the dirt yet, as I still investigating, but it is going to surprise the heck out of alot of people. But trust me, this book was not Herman's idea and he had nothing to do with the writing of it. The cabal? The usual suspects. Connect the dots. The news will come out soon in the New York Times, IF they take my "news tips" this time, which is highly doubtful..... once bitten twice shy.....?

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    new book to be released in june.