Misha Defonseca, who wrote "Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years," admitted through her lawyer that her story was fabricated. Published in 1997 by Jane Daniel, the book told the tale of a little Belgian Jewish girl who trekked across Europe on foot during World War II, searching for her deported parents and eluding capture by hiding with packs of friendly wolves. It turns out the author made the story up.
European readers ate up the story. The book has been translated into 18 languages and is the basis for a new French movie, "Survivre avec les Loups" but some had doubts. Belgian surgeon Serge Aroles, author of a book about the history of wolf-children narratives, said he read the French edition and right away thought it was a fake. He knew the roundup of Belgian Jews had happened in 1942, not 1941. Other details about times and places were wrong. And the wolf part, he thought, was laughable.
The Holocaust scholars are outraged, as much at the publiher as at Defonseca. "What happened to the Jews was the worst atrocity in history, and people who exploit it for profit, by posing as Jews or lying about being part of the experience, insult those who went through it," said Langer. "It's as bad as saying the Holocaust never happened."
In a statement issued by her Belgian lawyer, Misha Defonseca, confessed that she is not Jewish and that she spent the war safely in Brussels.
In her statement, Defonseca said: "Yes, my name is Monique De Wael, but I have wanted to forget it since I was 4 years old. My parents were arrested and I was taken in by my grandfather, Ernest De Wael, and my uncle, Maurice De Wael. I was called 'daughter of a traitor' because my father was suspected of having spoken under torture in the prison of Saint-Gilles. Ever since I can remember, I felt Jewish. . . . 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. At first, I did not want to publish it, but then I was convinced by Jane Daniel. I ask forgiveness from all those who feel betrayed."
« Je me suis raconté une vie, une autre vie. Je demande pardon »
A spokeswoman for Vera Belmont, the French director of "Survivre avec les Loups," said: "Vera is not making any comment. Her movie is a fiction from the book. No matter if it's true or not - she believes it is, anyway - she just thinks it's a beautiful story."
The publisher Jane Daniel met Defonseca in the mid-1990s, heard her story, and suggested that she write a book. In 2001, a US court jury issued a $7.5 million breach-of-contract judgment against Jane Daniel after Defonseca and Lee, her co-author, alleged that she had failed to publicise the book as promised and had hidden profits. The judge in the case tripled the damages to $22.5 million, and an appeals court upheld the verdict in 2005.