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Another memoir set to implode?

By / December 24, 2008



It's not exactly the kind of heartwarming news you'd prefer to read on Christmas Eve, but once again the veracity of a memoir is under attack.

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The sad thing about this one is that it's exactly the kind of story you'd like to be able to believe. Holocaust survivor Herman Rosenblat, a retired television repairman now living in Miami, has written "Angel at the Fence: The True Story of a Love That Survived," a memoir set to be published by Penguin this February (in time for Valentine's Day, of course.)

Rosenblat tells the story of his internment in the Buchenwald concentration camp. He says that one day, during the winter of 1945, a nine-year-old girl showed up at the fence of the camp and tossed him an apple. She returned every day for months and helped to keep him alive that winter with those apples.

Years later, in New York, 1957, Rosenblat says he went on a blind date with a Polish immigrant. She turned out to be that same girl – and went on to become his wife.

Herman and Roma kept their story quiet, they said, until the 1990s when he was robbed in his New York TV repair story and, as a result of the trauma, decided to take his story public.

He has since appeared twice on Oprah (who called it "the single greatest love story, in 22 years of doing this show, we've ever told on the air") and the story has been told and retold in various venues.

A children's book ("Angel Girl") came out this fall and a movie ("Flower of the Fence") is scheduled for release in March.

It makes for a fabulous story – and now a piece by Gabriel Sherman in the New Republic suggests that "fabulous" is indeed the correct word for this tale.

Sherman has talked to Holocaust experts who say that the physical setup of Buchenwald would have made it impossible for Herman and Roma to meet at any part of the camp's fence. Also, other Buchenwald survivors have been unable to corroborate the tale.

Rosenblat himself has not yet make a public response to the questions being raised.

What seems hardest to understand about this is why, if this story has been so widely told over the course of a decade and yet it is in conflict with basic physical facts about the setup of Buchenwald, questions are only now coming to light?

Perhaps that has to do with a desire to believe. As one customer wrote about "Angel Girl" on Amazon: "Regardless of the veracity of 'Angel Girl,' it's a darling story of a terrible time."

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