a Holocaust hoax
By Dan Bloom
Special to the China Post
January 9, 2009
Long live the blogosphere, and I'll tell you why.
A chance encounter by an alert blogger in Taiwan with a wire story in The China Post in early October began a chain of events worldwide that led to uncovering a literary hoax in New York — and the cancellation of an “Oprah-approved” book. True story. Read on.
The China Post covered the news of his hoax thoroughly, publishing five wire service articles from early October to late December. You might have read the news in this newspaper: an elderly Holocaust survivor named Herman Rosenblat was invited to appear on Oprah Winfrey's popular TV show in Chicago twice, once in 1996 and again in 2008, to “tell a tale” of how he survived life in a Nazi concentration camp (this was true), when a little girl threw apples to him over a fence (this was untrue).
He told American media that he met this same woman, Roma, now his wife (true), on a “blind date” in New York in 1958 (not true), and after finding out she was the same girl who allegedly threw apples to him in wartime Germany, he immediately proposed to her (also not true).
It sounded like a great, romantic story, and Oprah fell for it — twice. Thousands of bloggers around the world did, too, as well as senders of millions of chain email letters. The problem was — well, it just wasn't true at all.
Now I want to tell you why this story might be interesting for readers — and bloggers — in Taiwan. The aforementioned blogger spent some of his spare time during the last three months of the year using the blogosphere to follow a very strong “hunch” that Mr. Rosenblat's “blind date” backstory was full of holes.
And his hunch proved correct. The sad story of yet another literary hoax was exposed by a magazine reporter in New York, after receiving “the smoking gun” evidence from the Taiwan-based blogger in a barrage of emails and long midnight phone calls.
To learn more and help expose the hoax, our blogger here contacted top Holocaust historians in America and found that they, too, were aware of the hoax. In fact, it was these Jewish historians who found the evidence that Mr. Rosenblat's account included false details, as they had been looking into the “story” for over a year.
However, being busy professors, with books to write and papers to publish, they didn't have time to spend pestering the U.S. news media to report the hoax and stop the book before it reached bookstores. But the blogger in Taiwan found a good reporter in New York who was willing to expose the hoax, and Gabriel Sherman came on board at the last minute. Although Sherman had never before heard of Rosenblat, on Christmas Day, the New Republic magazine published his two-part expose of the hoax, and the publishers pulled the book the very next day. Case closed? Almost.
After Mr. Rosenblat — who really was a Holocaust survivor and suffered much in his teenage years in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany, admitted he had “fabricated” and “embellished” major parts of his book (not for money or fame, but rather for emotional reasons that psychiatrists will explain some day in the future) — his book became history.
How do I know all this? I was that blogger.
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