The Next James Frey?

Today, I have a New Republic piece out on the controversial new Holocaust memoir, Angel at the Fence: The True Story of a Love That Survived. The piece looks into whether the author, Herman Rosenblat, a retired electrician from Miami, may have embellished or fabricated the book’s central premise. Herman’s tale is widely known. In the winter of 1945, Herman says that he met a girl outside the fence of a sub-camp of the infamous Buchenwald concentration camp. She threw him apples. Then, in 1957, Herman reunited with her on a blind date at Coney Island. Months later, they married. Oprah hailed Herman’s story. There’s currently a feature film in production and in September, a children’s book, titled Angel Girl, was released.

There’s now a growing concern among Holocaust scholars I spoke with that Herman’s story, at least the version he’s been telling, isn’t true. Historical documents from the Red Cross archives contradict his chronology. His late older brother said he was “ashamed” Herman was telling his tale. And according to Kenneth Waltzer, a Harvard PhD historian who heads the Jewish Studies Department at Michigan State University, it would be impossible for Herman or Roma to approach the barbed-wire fence at the camp. The only place where a prisoner or a civilian could get near the fence was right next to the SS barracks.

The book is slated for release on February 3. Herman’s agent and publisher, Berkley Books, refused to talk to me about the book, and whether the memoir was fact checked. After numerous emails and phone messages to the publisher went unanswered, I called the book’s editor, Natalee Rosenstein to inquire about the book. After picking up, she screamed into the phone: “How dare you call me at home!” before promptly slamming the phone down.

Read the full piece HERE


6 responses to “The Next James Frey?

  1. Sandre Blakeslee

    You said: “There are no comments yet…Kick things off by filling out the form below.”

    May I? From the UK I am…

    You mentioned in your very fine reportage at the New Republic[an] website (Hi Marty!)….you reported the Mr Walters from UMich spoke to a Holocaust survivor name Ben Helfgott about Mr Rosenblatt’s memoir and that this Mr Helfgott said the story could NOT be true, because he was there too at the time. I looked up his name? Do you know who Ben Helfgott is? I will reply below because it will blow your mind. Maybe.

  2. Sandre Blakeslee

    Okay, you read this far. Good.

    Ben Helfgott is a very well known British Olympian, who competed in the Olympics in some year, must look it up shortly. But go to wikipedia if you have that in the States and enter his name “Ben Helfgott” and you see. He is one of Britain’s most famous Jewish men.


    Dr. Ben Helfgott (born 22 November 1930) was a British weightlifter and Holocaust survivor .

    Born in Lodz, Poland, Helfgott was only 10 years old when the Nazis invaded the country in 1939. Initially sent to Buchenwald, Helfgott survived the Holocaust and was sent to England after the war with 700 other youngsters after being liberated from Theresienstadt. He was the only member of his family to survive; his mother and younger sister were rounded up and shot by the Nazis.[1]

    [edit] Weightlifting career
    Helfgott settled in London. He began lifting weights, and within a decade, was the English champion.

    [edit] National Champion
    He won the nation’s 11-stone championship in 1954, and was lightweight champion in 1955, 1956, and 1958.

    [edit] Olympics
    He represented Great Britain at weightlifting in the 1956 Summer Olympics at Melbourne, Australia. He was the captain of the British weightlifting teams at the Olympics in 1956 (Melbourne) and 1960 (Rome).

    [edit] Commonwealth Games
    In addition, he was a bronze medal winner at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games held in Cardiff, south Wales.

    [edit] Maccabiah Games
    Helfgott also won the gold medal in the lightweight class at the 1950, 1953, and 1957 Maccabiah Games.

  4. See? This is not just your ordinary bloke named “Ben Helfgott”. He is famous in the UK. You prob never heard of him in the USA. I wonder if that prof knows who Dr H really is?

    “Helfgott represented Great Britain at weightlifting in the 1956 Summer Olympics at Melbourne, Australia. He was the captain of the British weightlifting teams at the Olympics in 1956 (Melbourne) and 1960 (Rome).”

  5. In January 2000, Ben Helfgott testified at the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust and said:

    “Over many years I have worked diligently and constantly to try to educate and teach the lessons of the Holocaust and provide opportunities for remembrance. […] I have always believed that the Holocaust should be presented in context, both of Jewish History and World History. It must be taught as a consequence of history. It is a consequence of history […] the climax of a long history of anti-Semitism. [It must be taught] that it was not an isolated instance of regression into barbarism but that it occurred as part of a long history of prejudice, persecution, racial hatred, violence, ignorance and intolerance directed not only against Jews. […] I have always been against the use of Holocaust testimony to pursue private, political and religious agendas. The slogan “Never again!” has often been abused by various elements especially the political right in Israel. To raise anguish of the victims as a factor of political expediency touches on the obscene.”

    A biography of Helfgott, called ”Ben Helfgott: From Victim to Champion” by Joseph Finklestone, was published in 2000.

  6. im a proud american. and i know im free.

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