Gabriel Sherman of The New Republic first broke the news that Angel at the Fence by Herman Rosenblat, Holocaust memoir, might be fabricated. Professor Kenneth Waltzer, the director of the Jewish Studies program at Michigan State University, became aware of the story and was suspicious of the details Rosenblat recounted. Waltzer was convinced that the way in which Rosenblat tells the story of meeting his childhood love in Holocaust camps was not logistically possible. Waltzer contacted Berkley, the publisher, and received no response.
Sherman himself attempted to read the editor but instead was directed to the publicist who claimed that the book had been fact checked. Penguin stands by the memoir even though more individuals are coming forward, including Rosenblat’s sister-in-law, to state Rosenblat’s claim is fabricated. Three other survivors, at least one friend of Rosenblat, also claim that the story is false saying that Rosenblat became “intoxicated” with the response to his story.
According to Sherman, Penguin’s fact checking was “bare bones” or “nonexistent” and that a simple phone call to Holocaust scholars would have raised serious red flags.
I do wonder whether this will end Oprah’s endorsement of memoirs altogether and whether fictionalized memoirs will become a new genre.