Odd that Oprah …

December 30, 2008 § 7 Comments


… seems always to be tied into these hoax memoirs.  I’m not questioning her honesty, but the allure of Oprah-show-endorsement riches must somehow be tied into the recurrence of this story:

(CNN) — Oprah Winfrey once dubbed it the “greatest love story” she had ever heard: a boy held at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II and a girl on the outside who tossed him apples to keep him alive. They eventually married and grew old together.

Herman Rosenblat has acknowledged his Holocaust love story is fake: “I am sorry.”

It turns out the story of Herman and Roma Rosenblat isn’t true.

The two had told their love story for years and years, inspiring a book deal, an upcoming movie, and stories across the globe on television, in papers and on the Internet. A children’s book, “Angel Girl,” was also based on their love story.

When the couple appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” more than a decade ago, the famed host called it “the single greatest love story in 22 years of doing this show.”

But over the weekend, Herman Rosenblat issued a statement through his literary agent, Andrea Hurst, acknowledging the story of how he met his wife was made up.

“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,” he said in the statement.

“In my dreams, Roma will always throw me an apple, but I now know it is only a dream.”

Herman Rosenblat really was in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II — a subcamp of Buchenwald — and he really has been married to Roma for decades. Beyond that, the truth is murky.

Berkley Books immediately canceled publication of Rosenblat’s memoir, “Angel at the Fence,” which was set to be released in February.

“Berkley will demand that the author and the agent return all money that they have received for this work,” Berkley spokesman Craig Burke said in a statement.

A movie version of the Rosenblats’ story — even though now proven a hoax — remains in the works. Atlantic Overseas Pictures says the movie is a fictionalized adaptation and that “the story retains its power to grip audiences worldwide.”

Many Holocaust scholars had long cast doubt on the Rosenblats’ story.

Professor Ken Waltzer, the director of Michigan State University’s Jewish Studies program, said he began raising questions to the agent and publisher in November, suggesting that the story was fabricated. But he says his numerous queries went unanswered.

He says he told the editor that the story is “at best embellished and perhaps invented.”

“The idea of a prisoner being able autonomously to approach the fence not just once, but every day at the same time, … none of it seemed plausible,” Waltzer says. “That fence was right next to the SS barracks, so to go to the fence, which was also punishable by death, was to risk death.”

§ 7 Responses to Odd that Oprah …

  • globalme says:

    “Why did I do that and write the story with the girl and the apple, because I wanted to bring happiness to people?……..What utter bullshit, Show me the money , let us see the money trail, how much did he receive for this fraud? How much has the publisher made, how much has the agent made? How much did the lawyers make for putting the movie deal in place?

  • lol man says:

    One thing to say: lol.

  • Wanda says:

    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.

  • acidbrat says:

    That’s a lovely story, Wanda! Thanks for sharing it.

    It is mind-boggling that the veracity of the story (or lack thereof) wasn’t checked out before it was published. I can only speculate that it tugged on people’s heartstrings that they got caught up in the romance of it all and simply couldn’t conceive of someone making up such a story.

    Why is Atlantic Pictures going ahead with the project? I don’t believe for one second the company’s claim that they’re doing it because “the story retains its power to grip audiences worldwide.” Translation: “The story retains its power to dig into the pockets of audiences worldwide.”

    Seems to me Rosenblat could have just avoided this whole imbroglio by writing the story as a fictitious account with elements of fact.

  • danny bloom says:

    Here is the story: straight from the horse’s mouth:

    QUOTE: “Over at The New Republic blog The Plank, the magazine’s editors offer a helpful recap of *how* their reporter successfully exposed a Holocaust memoir as a hoax.”

    It’s true, Gabe Sherman did a terrific reporting job exposing how that hoax memoir came to be. He deserves a Pulitzer award for that kind reportage, really, because he took material supplied to him by several sources and went even deeper and found amazing quotes from people directly involved in the backstory, inforamtion that nobody—nobody—ever knew for certain before—and certainly never said in public before.

    But there is one thing you should know, Sara, and I am sure Gabe won’t mind me telling tales out of school. Gabe never heard of Herman or his cockamamie backstory before a reporter who had been investigating the matter for 2 months, based in Taiwan, go figure, called Gabe up at midnight and badgered, pestered and cajoled him for three days and nights into agreeing to take on this “assignment”.

    What the TNR does not mention, not anywhere, I guess it is natural and for promotioanl reasons of their own, is that their TNR reporter had no idea about this “story” before he was contacted by me. And at first, for the first two days of my barrage of emails and phone calls, Gabe resisted, said he was busy with other things, and besides, how did i know all these things—I knew, Sara, I knew, but according to my promises to my sources deep with the investigation, I could not go public with what I knew, and that’s okay, from here in Taiwan, I did not have a platform to publish what I knew anwyays.

    So I spent 8 weeks trying to find a reporter in the USA who would listen to me, and believe me, and act. Gabe, who didn’t know me from Adam, at first was skeptical of this unknown blogger in far away Taiwan calling him at all times of the day, and badgering his email box with over 5o emails of names, tips, addresses, phone numbers, the whole megillah, and at one point, Gabe—and I love the guy, he is salt of the Earth and an ace reporter and he did the perfect job, nobody else in US journalism could do what he did on this story, and I deeply respect and admire him—Gabe at one point in our phone chats told me to stop bugging him, stop calling him, stiop emailing him, and to go away.

    Go away? No way. Not when I had the goods on Herman, and took it on as my self appointed mission to try to stop that book from coming out before it was published. Against the advice of those who were advising me in the ongoing investigation group.

    They told me to “chill” and “give it a rest, Danny” and “we aren’t ready yet to go to the media, our reserach wont’ be ready until the end of January”—and i understood their concerns, but i knew instinctively, Ben that if the book was published, once it was out of the warehouse and into the bookstores, the damage would be done, the book would be very hard to stop, what with all the coming Oprah PR and the book tours and all the AP and Reuters stories about this lovely couple, so I acted alone, on my own heartfelt instinct, that the time to act was ASAP.

    I didn’t know Gabe from Adam either. Never heard of him before. Of course, I have been out of the USA for 20 years or so, so I am not familiar with the new names in NYC and DC journalism, so I didn’t know him.

    How did I find him? Good story, Sara, and glad you asked. …[SMILE]

    I was carrying out my investigation here in Taiwan of the Herman hoax case using the internet and the blogosphere as my tools, plus my hunch from the get go that the BLIND DATE part of the book was impossible, not in this Universe, but a sweet touch, but completley off the wall, so i was googling every search window I could find about earlier hoaxes.

    And i found one item about a book by a child soldier nbamed Ishamel Beah, and there was a big to do about this in Slate magaizne, writteny by, are you ready?—drum roll—Gabriel Sherman!

    I think YOU were quoted in that story, too, Sara. Small world, getting smaller every day.

    So i emailed him in a jiffy, found his website and emailed him, and he wrote back in Internet time, “Danny, sounds interesting, Call me or I will call you.”

    Well, of course, he didn’t call me. Nobody ever calls me back. Story of my life. So I called him…. the very next day, and dished. I told him everything I knew in a one hour phoen call,—My dime my time. He said “all this is very interesting, Danny, but how do you know? It’s some people’s word against Herman’s word, and who are you? Why are you so obessed with this story?”

    So we said goodbye on the phone, I told him I would email him more damning news tip I had in my files, from top historians involved in the case, and he said, Okay, keep me informed.

    I thought I had landed my fish, my big fish. The fish i needed to land the final punch somewhere in thte USa media landscape.

    The top reporters at the NY Times and your own PW would not answer my emails at all at first and then eventaully the Times reporters just said , Yeah, we know about this issue, but we are mulling it over. “Mulling it over”? It will take too long to mull it over. We need to act now. Before the book is out. stop it in its tracks. PW never answered at all. Shame on PW! Fire them all! Kidding.

    So I kept up my badgering campagn with dear ol’ Gabe, who must be all of 30, and here I am , all of 60, oi, and I never gave up. I knew he was the guy to do this story, to pull the rabbit out of the hat, so to speak, to lift the lid on this Pandora’s Box of fabircations by a sweet old man. I like Herman. I never had any animostiy against him. I just wanted to epose the blind date thing.

    That was my sticking point. that is was got me invovled in this, when i read a newspaper acocunt from the AP on October 12 about Herman and the applkes and Roma and the blind date. Impossible, i said. I called the AP reporter in Miami who wrote the AP story and said Matt, this could not be true.

    He said,”Danny, it’s what they told me. Who are we to question their story? Until a smoking gun can be found, the media cannot report what you are saying, Danny. Sorry.”

    So i started looking for the smoking gun. I found many. Not on my own. I am no historian, no forensic expert, i am a nobody. Just a lone blogger with a mission. So ….I alerted the media in the USa all of October and November and early December. The entire USa media force, including PW, ignored my emails and phone calls. The Miami Herald, too. I spoke the features editor there, he said, “thanks for calling, interesting news tips: but he never acted.. Just sat on this story..

    anyways, back to gushing narrative of this story: I knew by Dec, 19 , i had to find a reporter , soon, do or die moment, so i kept bugging Gabe until he finally said, “Look, Danny, you sound like a nice and sane man, but please, enough of this calling me and emailing me already…go away. leave me alone. I will make some calls, like you suggested, using your leads and contacts, and let’s see if there is a story here.”

    The rest is history, cultural history of our times, sad tragic Holocaust history, too, and GAbe made it happen. The man!

    So that’s the backstory of the backstory, and if you don’t beleive a word I typed, because most people never believe a word I say — I don’t know why, I am always right —.kidding — in fact, i am often wrong — ….ask Gabe!.

    He’s on CNN and NPR and Canada TV now and it;s great. More power to him. He helped expose a very sad and tragic episode in Jewish life. And in American life and Oprah life. And in the publishing world. And in Holocaust history.

    I salute his groundbreaking reportage, and consider him my brother for life! OKAY, enough of this tale told out of school.—Danny, checking in from a small village in southern Taiwan where nobody ever heard of Rosenblat and has no idea what I am doing in the Internet cafe every day, moving on to other things now……

    How’s that for an interesting story,Sara, typed in a ligtning speed,, typos and all, mis-spellings and all?

  • Jennifer says:

    I’ve linked to this article and the intriguing comments related to what I call “The Rosenblat Ruse” in an article on my blog. Your blog posting, in conjunction with the article in the New Republic, is insightful. Thank you

  • Steve Fellner says:

    Hi,

    I think it’s funny that Oprah gets all bent out of shape (or that certain writers fear she will) about these writers who embellish their memoirs. Is there anyone who has turned themselves into pure walking myth, an autobiography of masterly embellishments and metaphor than Oprah herself? Hasn’t she in a way provided a model for these writers who seem if anything deferential to Oprah by the use of romantic hyperbole?

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