Monday, May 18, 2009

Herman Rosenblat's Holocaust memoir of love is exposed as a hoax

A heartwarming Holocaust memoir that is to become a big-budget film has been exposed as a hoax by a Jewish survivor in Britain only weeks before it was due to be published.

Herman Rosenblat's Angel at the Fence: The True Story of a Love that Survived, tells how he met his future wife as a girl when she threw apples to him over the barbed wire fence of the concentration camp where he was held.

Oprah Winfrey, who twice invited Mr Rosenblat on to her talk show, hailed the book as “the single greatest love story ... we've ever told on air”. The still-unpublished memoir became the basis for a children's book and $25 million (£17 million) feature film, The Flower of the Fence, which is due to start shooting in March.

The February 3 publication date was abruptly cancelled at the weekend, however, when Berkley Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), said it had received “new information” from the author's agent.

Mr Rosenblat, 79, a retired television repairman living in Miami, said that he met his future wife while he was a teenage boy in Schlieben, a sub-division of the Buchenwald concentration camp.

The nine-year-old girl, he said, tossed him an apple. The two met again by chance when Mr Rosenblat agreed to a blind date with a Polish immigrant named Roma Radzicki in Coney Island in 1957, and recognised her. They married soon afterwards.

Holocaust scholars doubted the story, and it was exposed by the New Republic magazine. Ben Helfgott, a former Schlieben inmate, told the magazine that Mr Rosenblat's story was “simply an invention”. Mr Rosenblat joins the swelling ranks of discredited memorists. “I wanted to bring happiness to people,” he said. “I brought hope to a lot of people. My motivation was to make good in this world.”

The film's producer plans to go ahead. Harris Salomon, of Atlantic Overseas Pictures, said he had always planned a “loose and fictionalised adaptation”.

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