A world expert on false Holocaust testimonies is concerned that media interest in Shoah accounts is encouraging people to fabricate stories.
Professor Sue Vice, of Sheffield University, has suggested that the current popularity of “misery memoirs”, or mis-lit, has created a situation where “accounts of suffering are very marketable”.
Giving the annual Holocaust lecture at Royal Holloway University’s Holocaust Research Centre, Professor Vice argued that the media, “intrigued by the Holocaust, may be a factor behind false accounts”.
She described two types of false testimony: those that are totally invented, such as Binjamin Wilkomirski’s Fragment: Memories of a Wartime Childhood, and those which, while authentic accounts, have had incidents added to them.
Speaking about the psychological motives and delusions of “Holocaust envy”, whereby writers embellish their stories to make their accounts more marketable, she cited Herman Rosenblatt’s Angel at the Fence, in which he concocted events to add a romantic love story to his Holocaust experience.
“The process by which he came to invent it reveals the pressure of the media. In fact, the book was marketed in a way that gave preference to the love story over the Holocaust.”
Following the talk, an audience member suggested that errors in later testimonies might be attributed to lapses in memory.
Kitty Hart, a survivor and author of the memoir Return to Auschwitz — who was also present — suggested that accounts written as recently as 2009 must be suspect. But the suggestion was refuted by another guest who said survivors of traumatic events, such as the First World War, sometimes only spoke about their experiences at the end of their lives.