Flawed Holocaust memoir finds new publisher
Within days of the Penguin Group's decision to cancel the publication of Herman Rosenblat's Holocaust memoir, York House Press, a small publishing house, has announced it will print the book, minus the fictionalized apple stories. Below is the publisher's announcement.
An author or storyteller is entitled to compose his narrative as he sees fit, combining fact, fiction and fantasy to achieve the purpose of his story. Of course, an author is also obliged to represent his work accurately, disclosing, where he can, what is fact and what is indeed fiction, part fiction or imagination remembered as reality. Without a doubt, as important as an author’s work is his honesty, integrity and ethical conduct upon which his work stands.
After reading Mr. Rosenblat’s memoir, Angel at The Fence, we find it unfortunate that Mr. Rosenblat integrated false memories, and in so doing, drew savage criticism of what is otherwise a credible, heart-wrenching, and no doubt, verifiable account of his time as a young boy in the death camps of Germany and the horrors he experienced there.
We understand the dismay at this event of Holocaust historians who work tirelessly to assert the facts of the Holocaust and who must ensure the integrity of unimpeachable survivor accounts as a way to counter anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers of which there are still far too many.
Mr. Rosenblat, now age 80, fantasized that his wife of 50 years came as a girl to nourish him by tossing apples to him over the barbed wire at a sub camp of the infamous Buchenwald concentration camp. This is a story he told himself and others repeatedly until it was integrated seamlessly into his otherwise factual account. It is beyond our expertise to know how Holocaust survivors cope with their trauma. Do they deny, try to forget, rationalize or fantasize and promote fiction along with truth? Perhaps the coping mechanisms are as individual as the survivors themselves. Would, for humanity’s sake, that Mr. Rosenblat’s fantasy were true and that not just one girl, but a whole crowd, had come to toss apples over the fence, to tear it down and to liberate those within much sooner than was actually the case.
As the events of the Holocaust recede further into history, authors, artists, historians, commentators and the world community are responsible for deciding upon the right and proper ways to memorialize these grave events, to integrate them into history, art, culture and the collective consciousness. It is an important conversation and one we hope this controversy will further stimulate. We also hope that those who enter into the discourse do so with humility, openness, tolerance, restraint and respect, since it was in the absence of these qualities that Germany’s death camps sprung up.
No deliberate untruth is permissible, but beneath any fabrication is motivation and intent. We believe Mr. Rosenblat’s motivations were very human, understandable and forgivable. We hope that Mr. Rosenblat will be able to work through the attacks to reconcile with his community and ultimately receive acknowledgment for his credible efforts.
York House Press is in serious discussion to publish a work of fiction in early spring that is based on the screenplay, tentatively called, Flower at The Fence, about Herman Rosenblat’s life and love story, that is grounded in fact and that rises to the proper levels of artistic value, ethical conduct and social responsibility.
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