Belgian Author Admits Holocaust Memoir Is Fiction

by Staff

Belgian author Misha Defonseca admitted last Thursday to fabricating her Holocaust memoir, which became a best-seller in Europe. Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years (Mount Ivy Press, 1997), tells the story of a young girl who travels nineteen hundred miles across war-torn Europe looking for her parents after they were taken away by the Nazis, lives with a pack of protective wolves, kills a Nazi soldier, and is detained in the Warsaw ghetto. The book was translated into eighteen languages and made into a film in France.

"There are times when I find it difficult to differentiate between reality and my inner world," Defonseca said in a statement issued by her lawyers. "The story in the book is mine. It is not the actual reality—it was my reality, my way of surviving."

Lawyers for Defonseca, whose birth name is Monique de Wael, released a statement saying that the author is not Jewish and did not leave her home in Brussels during the war, but lived with her uncle and grandfather after her parents were arrested as resistance fighters by Nazis when she was four. The statement came after Sharon Sergeant, a genealogical researcher in Massachusetts, responded to an appeal for information about Defonseca's history made by Jane Daniels, the publisher of Mount Ivy Press, and located records challenging the author's account.

Since 1998, Daniels has been entangled with Defonseca and Vera Lee, the book's coauthor, in a legal battle over breach of contract, and was gathering information in an attempt to overthrow a 2005 court order, which required her to pay 22.5 million dollars to the writers, by proving that the story was fraudulent. Daniels encouraged Defonseca to write the story after hearing the author tell it to a Jewish congregation in Massachusetts, but claims that she was not able to research its validity before it was published.