Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Deborah Lipstadt on Apples over the Fence

Deborah E. Lipstadt, Dorot professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University, just published an eloquent commentary on CNN.com on the danger of the most recent fabricated Holocaust memoir, Apples over the Fence. Lipstadt wrote "History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving." She was the target of a British libel lawsuit by Irving, a Holocaust revisionist, or someone who denies the truth of the Holocaust. Lipstadt won the case in April 2000.

I found the film producer's words to her quite appalling: "The producer who acquired movie rights tried to intimidate those of us who raised questions. He wrote to me saying, "'I have traveled all over Eastern Europe for several years in preparation for what will be a major feature film. I may be more of a Holocaust expert than you, even though, I have no title nor university affiliation. What I do know for sure is before I make any statements I know the facts. You simply do not know those facts, and that Deborah, is the greatest sin to the memory of all those perished so long ago.'"

She argues: "The events of the Holocaust are horrible in and of themselves. They do not need to be aggrandized or exaggerated to be made to sound any worse than they were. They also do not need to be rendered as joyful love stories that make us feel good about what happened. Both are insults to the survivors and inimical to the pursuit of historical truth. The optimum way of teaching about the Holocaust and presenting its history is, to quote Detective Joe Friday from the old TV show, "Dragnet," "just the facts, just the facts."

2 comments:

dan said...

http://www.rushprnews.com/2008/10/15/an-oprah-moment-truth-and-consequences/ see the date of my artilce OCT . 15.....nobody would lsiten to me....but Debby did yes

dan said...

An ‘Oprah Moment?’: Truth and Consequences!
October 15, 2008
“Angel Girl” creates a media stir with touching backstory of how Herman and Roma Rosenblat first “met” in wartime Germany — but some observers question accuracy of elderly couples “memories”

by Dan Bloom

MIAMI, FLORIDA(RUSHPRNEWS)10/15/08 — It’s just a 24-page children’s book written by popular kids author Laurie Friedman, but the story behind the book’s genesis is causing a stir among grown-ups nationwide. You probably have read the Associated Press news wire story by ace AP reporter Matt Sedensky that hit the newspapers recently and exploded on the blogosphere with touching blog posts and commentaries from coast to coast.

Boy meets girl in wartime Germany, girl throws apples across a guarded security fence to boy, boy and girl move to different countries after the war, never see each other again …. until they go on blind date in New York in 1958 and “realize” they knew each other “back then”.

He proposes on the spot, she accepts, they marry, raise a family, move to Florida, go on Oprah Winfrey show, get two book contracts and a movie deal. Life can’t be more wonderfull that this, right?

But now, in the wake of the AP story’s huge reader response and with some critical reviews of the children’s book on amazon.com’s website, some questions have arisen over the “truth” of “Angle Girl” — the children’s book about Herman and Roma Rosenblat that Laurie Friedman published this year. It is important to note here that the Rosenblat did not write the book, a third party wrote it, and she based her text on independent research she did and on long conversations she had with the elderly couple face to face. Herman’s now 80, Roma a few years younger. Wonderful people, sweet smiles, salt of the Earth.

In fact, the book’s cover notes that the book is “based on a true story”. The key word here is “based”. The book does not say it is a true story, only that it is based on a true story. So the children’s book works nicely and is a touching, wonderfull read. Friedman has a gift for words, and she tells the story in a way that both children and adults can understand.

But what some observers want to know is this: did the “events the Rosenblats describe to Friedman and the AP reporter and Oprah really take place as they say they did? Michael Berenbaum, a Holocaust historian in Los Angeles, told the AP reporter that he had read the children’s book and “I see no reason to question it”.

But even AP story seems to question the backstory: “It all seems too remarkable to be believed,” the AP reporter wrote. “[But] Rosenblat insists it is all true.”

Let’s cut to the chase now. One amateur book reviewer on amazon’s book website writes: “The publicity relating to this book and the proposed movie has raised several questions about inconsistencies between the story and the known facts of the Holocaust. Recognizing that the Rosenblats were children, he was 12, she was 9, they said, living during unbelievably horrific times, it is possible that their understanding at the time and their interpretation in later life do not accurately reflect what truly happened.”

One reviewer who liked the children’s book by Ms Friedman wrote on the amazon site: “This is a touching story with a miraculous ending. The idea that this is a true story really seems remarkable. I have read other comments that question whether it is a true story or not. I’ll be very disappointed if I ever learn that it is not.”

And that is the crux of the matter here. If the backstory that the Rosenblats have been telling the media for years — they first went on the Oprah Show in 1996 — turns out to be sort of made-up due to faulty memories or other circumstances beyond anyone’s control, the authenticity of their story will be called into doubt.

And if a movie
is ever made about the Rosenblat’s lives based on the children’s book or Herman’s own autobiography, which is due to be published in 2009 by a major book company in New York (with 350 pages inside it), then the entire project might be at risk and some enterprising investigative reporter for a major newspaper like the New York Times might undo the magic that the Rosenblats so far have created.
When RushPRnews contacted the publishing company that released “Angel Girl” in 2008, a quick and polite reply was forthcoming by email:
“Thank you for your e-mails regarding our book. That picture book you write about is based on the true story that Herman and Roma Rosenblat told Laurie Friedman. Ms. Friedman spent months researching the story and discussing the details with the Rosenblats. Herman and Roma are two senior adults recalling a memory that occurred during very dark and difficult times in their pasts. That picture book is based on Ms. Friedman’s interpretation of that story and due to the nature of a picture book there are obviously details left out and the text has been aimed at a younger reading level.”

The email added: “Just as it says on the cover of the book, it ‘is “based on a true story.” The quotes from the book are not necessarily the exact lines that Herman spoke to Roma. I believe that after much research done by both Laurie Friedman and the publisher of the book that they did their best and have no reason to doubt that the story Herman and Roma told the author is true.”

Attempts to reach Laurie Friedman and Michael Berenbaum for this story were not successful, although the children’s book company did reply, as noted above.

The AP story can have the last word here: “It all seems too remarkable to be believed. Rosenblat insists it is all true.”

Truth and consequences? You decide.