Title: How Falsehoods Diminish Truth
Date: For the Week of March 3, 2008
The story is absolutely mesmerizing! It is a touching tale from the years of the
Holocaust. A little Jewish girl from Belgium makes her way across Europe to
search for her Nazi-deported parents. She is able to escape capture herself
only by taking refuge with packs of friendly wolves. In the course of her
incredible escape, she even kills a German soldier.
This multi-layered account of Nazi cruelty, childhood innocence, and unlikely
rescue was published as Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years. It
generated millions of dollars in revenue and was translated into 18
languages. A French movie from the book has been a hit during its current
Then came the confession through her lawyer last Thursday that Misha
Defonseca's dramatic story is a shameful lie.
Defonseca spent the war years in safety in Belgium. Despite her moving
speeches about experiences that led to her bestselling book, we know now
that she made up the stories about wolves and Nazis. She isn't even Jewish.
Scholars had challenged a garble of dates, events, and information in the
book. But their research largely fell on deaf ears, as the public received the
book with eagerness. Now the house of cards has collapsed.
People who misrepresent significant realities with trumped-up, self-serving
false claims actually manage to tarnish the truth. In the words of Dr.
Lawrence Langer, one of the scholars who knew all along it was a hoax:
"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. It's as bad as saying the
Holocaust never happened."
The gruesome facts of the Holocaust don't change; a woman's
misrepresentation of her experiences related to that event minimizes it,
however, and gives comfort to Holocaust-deniers and anti-Semites.
Truth's credibility is always tied to the integrity of its messengers.
How Falsehoods Diminish Truth