April 19, 2018

Book News: Berkley CancelsFake Holocaust Memoir

By Michael Rogers

  • Publisher demands advance be returned; film still will be made
  • Author appeared on Oprah
  • Story reprinted in numerous magazines and books
  • Author literally dreamed story
  • Lerner pulls children’s version

Berkley Books has cancelled the February 2009 release of Herman Rosenblat’s Angel at the Fence after the author admitted December 27 that the Holocaust memory was partially falsified. According to the New York Times, the publisher, a division of Penguin Group (USA), has demanded return of its advance. Rosenblat claimed that as a child in the Schlieben concentration camp, a Jewish girl posing as a Christian secretly threw apples over the fence to him, allowing him to survive. Years later on a blind date, the two miraculously were reunited and eventually married.

Rosenblat first told the tale in a newspaper’s “Best Love Stories” contest, receiving national recognition and landing him on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show in 1996. According to the Times, the story also was reprinted in several magazines as well as in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and as the children’s book Angel Girl written by Laurie Friedman and released by Lerner Publishing. Following Rosenblat’s revelation, Lerner pulled the book. Film rights also were purchased. Producer Harris Solomon said he will proceed with the film, but now as a work of fiction, with Rosenblat’s royalties donated to a Holocaust charity. When admitting the story was false, Rosenblat said that a number of years ago while recuperating in a hospital after being shot during a robbery, he dreamed of the girl throwing apples to him in Schlieben.

Rosenblat’s story was questioned by Kenneth Waltzer, Michigan State University’s director of Jewish Studies. When apprising other camp survivors of Rosenblat’s story, he was told repeatedly that it would have been impossible for civilians to approach the camp’s fence without being seen by SS guards. Checking records of wife Roma Rosenblat showed that while she and her sister indeed were hidden as Christians, they lived more than 200 miles from Schlieben, a subdivision of the Buchenwald camp.