Holocaust Survivor Caught "Fabricating"
By Dan Bloom
How 'citizen journalism' blogs uncovered a Holocaust hoax
Long live the blogosphere, and I'll tell you why. A chance encounter
by an alert blogger in Taiwan with a wire story in The China Post in
early October began a chain of events worldwide that led to uncovering
a literary hoax in New York — and the cancellation of an
"Oprah-approved" book. True story. Read on.
The China Post covered the news of his hoax thoroughly, publishing
five wire service articles from early October to late December. You
might have read the news in this newspaper: an elderly Holocaust
survivor named Herman Rosenblat was invited to appear on Oprah
Winfrey's popular TV show in Chicago twice, once in 1996 and again in
2008, to "tell a tale" of how he survived life in a Nazi concentration
camp (this was true), when a little girl threw apples to him over a
fence (this was untrue).
He told American media that he met this same woman, Roma, now his wife
(true), on a "blind date" in New York in 1958 (not true), and after
finding out she was the same girl who allegedly threw apples to him in
wartime Germany, he immediately proposed to her (also not true).
It sounded like a great, romantic story, and Oprah fell for it —
twice. Thousands of bloggers around the world did, too, as well as
senders of millions of chain email letters. The problem was — well, it
just wasn't true at all.
Now I want to tell you why this story might be interesting for readers
— and bloggers — in Taiwan. The aforementioned blogger spent some of
his spare time during the last three months of the year using the
blogosphere to follow a very strong "hunch" that Mr. Rosenblat's
"blind date" backstory was full of holes.
And his hunch proved correct. The sad story of yet another literary
hoax was exposed by a magazine reporter in New York, after receiving
"the smoking gun" evidence from the Taiwan-based blogger in a barrage
of emails and long midnight phone calls.
To learn more and help expose the hoax, our blogger here contacted top
Holocaust historians in America and found that they, too, were aware
of the hoax. In fact, it was these Jewish historians who found the
evidence that Mr. Rosenblat's account included false details, as they
had been looking into the "story" for over a year.
However, being busy professors, with books to write and papers to
publish, they didn't have time to spend pestering the U.S. news media
to report the hoax and stop the book before it reached bookstores. But
the blogger in Taiwan found a good reporter in New York who was
willing to expose the hoax, and Gabriel Sherman came on board at the
last minute. Although Sherman had never before heard of Rosenblat, on
Christmas Day, the New Republic magazine published his two-part expose
of the hoax, and the publishers pulled the book the very next day.
Case closed? Almost.
After Mr. Rosenblat — who really was a Holocaust survivor and suffered
much in his teenage years in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany,
admitted he had "fabricated" and "embellished" major parts of his book
(not for money or fame, but rather for emotional reasons that
psychiatrists will explain some day in the future) — his book became
How do I know all this? I was that blogger.
from the Februrary 2009 Edition of the Jewish Magazine