Religion & Beliefs

Why Fake A Holocaust Memoir?

It's easy to decry a Holocaust memoir that turns out to be more fantasy than fact.  What’s more difficult is trying to figure out why a woman who’s not even Jewish would pen this story. What drove Misha Defonseca (real … Read More

By / March 3, 2008

It's easy to decry a Holocaust memoir that turns out to be more fantasy than fact.  What’s more difficult is trying to figure out why a woman who’s not even Jewish would pen this story. What drove Misha Defonseca (real name: Monique De Wael) to write a book falsely claiming that she was trapped in the Warsaw ghetto, was subsequently raised by wolves, and later killed a German soldier in self-defense?

Defonesca likely did have a horribly painful childhood. She now claims that her parents were Belgian resistance fighters killed by the Nazis, and that she was raised by her grandfather and uncle who treated her poorly and called her the daughter of traitors because of her parents' role in the resistance. She says this led her to "feel Jewish." I’m not suggesting that Defonesca’s fraud is anything less than atrocious, but it’s not hard to see why she thought writing a Holocaust memoir would be a good way to attract reliable support and sympathy. After all, Bernard Holstein (real name: Bernard Brougham) pulled the same stunt back in 2004–wolves and all. It’s as if Auschwitz is the gold standard for suffering.

The Jewish community should take care to shun “Shoah-business,” and avoid fetishizing the suffering that occurred in the camps. Survivors, Holocaust scholars, and community leaders need to stop going into conniptions whenever the words ‘Holocaust’ or ‘genocide’ are used to describe anything other than the events of World War II. Jews do not have a monopoly on anguish, but when we seem to dominate the field, we can’t be surprised to find those who want to play company to our misery.

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