Holocaust survivors have expressed outrage over a book by a former Buchenwald inmate about love and life in the camp which turned out to be more fiction than fact.
One survivor, Ben Helfgott, who spent years in camps with the author, Herman Rosenblat, said the book, Angel At The Fence, provided ammunition to Holocaust deniers.
“I was with him in every camp. We were liberated together,” said Mr Helfgott, chairman of the UK’s 45 Aid Society. He dismissed the story as “a complete invention. I think any survivor who wants to write a book has to tell things as they were, without embellishment, because there are always enemies who want to diminish the Holocaust.”
Mr Rosenblat’s book has now been cancelled by its US publisher Berkley Books, part of Penguin. It had been hailed by American TV interviewer Oprah Winfrey as “the single greatest love story”. It was due for publication next month, and was to be the subject of a film.
It was an account of how a nine-year old girl, separated from the author by barbed wire at the German concentration camp of Schlieben — part of the Buchenwald complex — threw apples and bread to him.
The fabricated story said that after the war, when Rosenblat moved to New York, he met the girl, Roma Radzicki, by chance, and, discovering that she was the girl who had saved him from starvation, fell in love with her.
In fact, he met her on a blind date and married her 50 years ago.
Survivors questioned the author’s description of Schlieben and said it would have been impossible to throw food over the fence separating the camp from the outside world.
Both the publisher and Rosenblat’s agent Andrea Hurst dropped the book. “I question why I never questioned it,” Ms Hurst admitted.
Another British-based Holocaust survivor, Roman Halter, said that to make up stories about the camps was “very strange. He should find another form of expressing himself”.
Mr Rosenblat said he had simply “wanted to bring happiness to people. My motivation was to make good in the world”.