I have a follow up piece in the New Republic investigating the Oprah-endorsed story that forms the central premise of Herman Rosenblat’s Holocaust memoir, Angel at the Fence.
Herman’s sister-in-law and a fellow Holocaust survivor speak in public for the first time that Herman’s story is fabricated. Jutta Rosenblat, the wife of Herman’s late-brother Sam, told me that Herman and Roma did not meet outside the fence of the Schlieben concentration camp, and that the couple did not reunite on a blind date in New York City in 1957. This miraculous love story forms the foundation of Herman’s memoir. Herman’s brother was so mad at Herman for inventing the story, that they stopped speaking. When Herman went to visit Sam on his deathbed, Sam wouldn’t talk to him. “Laying in bed, he was looking away from him,” Jutta said. “He didn’t want to have nothing to do with him. Herman never apologized. He felt that this is the right thing to do … They wanted a good book.”
“There was no story. The story came after they married,” Jutta added. “Someone or something pushed him to make up a story. … Now the book is coming out. What can you do about it? What can you do about it?”
Sidney Finkel, a 77-year-old survivor who was liberated with Herman, told me that he had dinner the night before the couple was to appear on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” for the first time, in February 1996. At the Omni Hotel in downtown Chicago, Roma told Finkel that she was not hiding in Schlieben as Herman tells in his story, and was in fact hiding in another part of Poland. “It’s made up,” Finkel said in an exclusive interview. “He likes to makes thing up. He’s very good at it.”
In a statement released to the Associated Press, Berkley Books defended the memoir. “The events that are its background are part of history; the book, however, reflects my memories of how the events affected my life. I was a young child at the time my family was caught up in the Holocaust, and I saw things through a young child’s eyes. But I know and remember what I saw,” Herman says.
But three other survivors, including the famous British Jewish leader Ben Helfgott all are quoted in my New Republic piece saying that Herman’s story is fabricated. “I speak up with great sorrow,” Helfgott said. “I don’t like it. He is my friend, and he will always be my friend. He got intoxicated with it. And so he wants to carry on.”
For more on the controversy swirling around Rosenblat’s memoir, including comments from his two children, read the full piece HERE
And click HERE for TNR’s earlier coverage of the Angel at the Fence.