The publisher of a disputed Holocaust memoir has canceled the book that had been embraced by Oprah Winfrey and was set for a feature film adaptation.
Herman Rosenblat has admitted to fabricating the story of meeting his future wife at a Nazi concentration camp.
Rosenblat’s “Angel at the Fence” had been scheduled to come out in February, but Berkley Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), withdrew the memoir Saturday following allegations by scholars, friends and family members that his tale was untrue.
The Rosenblats were interviewed twice over the years by Winfrey, who has called their romance “the single greatest love story … we’ve ever told on the air.”
In 2006, Atlantic Overseas Pictures and EuroCo Prods. began developing a pic adaptation of “Flower of the Fence,” a love story set against the backdrop of the Holocaust. Project was initially set to lens in Hungary, using local tax credits (Daily Variety, Dec. 19, 2006).
Rosenblat, 79, a resident of the Miami area, was virtually unknown to the general public until the 1990s when he began speaking of how he came to know his wife, Roma Radzicky. According to Rosenblat and his wife, he was a prisoner at a sub-camp of Buchenwald in Nazi Germany and she a young Jewish girl whose family was pretending to be Christian and lived nearby.
For months, they would meet on opposite sides of a barbed-wire fence, where she would sneak him apples and bread. Rosenblat was then transferred to another camp and the two lost touch, until the 1950s, when they were reunited by accident — on a blind date — in New York. They soon married and earlier this year celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
Unlike such fake Holocaust memoirists as Misha Defonseca (“Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years”) and Benjamin Wilkomirski (“Fragments”), Rosenblat is indeed a survivor and records prove that he was at the Buchenwald camp.
But scholars doubted his story, noting that the layout of the sub-camp made such an encounter at the fence virtually unthinkable (They would have met right by an SS barracks). A recent article in The New Republic quoted friends and family members who were outraged by Rosenblat, so much so that one of his brothers stopped speaking to him.
The cancellation is sure to outrage survivors and scholars, who have worried that Rosenblat would encourage Holocaust deniers, and likely revive the debate over why publishers don’t fact check books. Even after such fabrications as James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces,” another Winfrey favorite, publishers have said that with more than 100,000 books coming out each year, fact-checking is too time-consuming and too expensive.
Penguin has already had to break ties with two authors this year.
In March, the publisher pulled Margaret B. Jones’ “Love and Consequences” after the author acknowledged she had invented her story of befriending gang members in South-Central Los Angeles. One month later, Penguin parted with romance writer Cassie Edwards over allegations that she had lifted numerous passages from other sources.