Payout for fake Holocaust memoir

By Jessica Elgot, November 30, 2010

The publishers of a fraudulent Holocaust memoir must pay its ghost writer $10m because she did not realise Misha Defonseca’s story was a fake.

US author Ms Defonseca published “Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years” in 1997, telling a story of her survival from the Holocaust, roaming through Europe on foot, receiving food from a pack of wolves. It was a bestseller and the film rights were sold to Disney. Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel wrote the foreword for the book.

But it emerged that the author was not even Jewish and had, in fact, attended school in Brussels during the war, while her father was allegedly a Nazi collaborator.

After nearly a decade of litigation, a court in Gloucester, Massachusetts, found that Jane Daniel, the sole owner of Mt Ivy Press which published the book, did not have to pay Ms Defonseca more $22.5m for allegedly concealing profits from the sale of the book.

But Judge Gabrielle Wolohojian ruled that the publisher must pay ghost writer Vera Lee $10m, because she had not been given due credit as the book’s co-author, and because she was unaware the book was a fake, the Boston Globe reported.

Ms Lee said she had repeatedly insisted to Ms Daniel that the book’s facts needed to be more rigorously verified.

A court had awarded Ms Defonseca and Ms Lee the money in 2001 after Ms Defonseca sued Ms Daniel for concealing profits, and Ms Lee counter- sued her for not giving her proper attribution for having co-written the book.

When the Belgian press revealed the entire story was a fake in 2008, Ms Daniel appealed the awards against her, which she said were the result of false testimony.

Ms Defonseca admitted the story was fake but always maintained it had been Ms Daniel who had pressured her into writing the false story.

She said: “There are times when I find it difficult to differentiate between reality and my inner world. The story in the book is mine. It is not the actual reality; it was my reality, my way of surviving."

Last updated: 11:01am, November 30 2010