Author of fake Holocaust memoir fined $22.5 million
A Massachusetts woman who penned a fabricated story about how she survived the Holocaust has been ordered by a court to pay $22.5 million to her publisher.
Misha Defonseca, 76, previously admitted that she made up her 1997 best-selling book “Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years.”
In the book, Defonseca described how she trekked 1,900 miles across Europe in search of her parents, lived with wolves and fatally stabbed a Nazi soldier. She claimed that all of these events occurred while she was between the ages of 7 and 11 years old.
In 1998, years before the truth about her survival tale was revealed, Defonseca and her ghostwriter Vera Lee had won $32.4 million from publisher Mt. Ivy Press and its founder Jane Daniel in a lawsuit over the handling of profits. Defonseca’s share was $22.5 million.
After her trial loss, Daniel began to investigate the veracity of Defonseca’s story. She discovered that the Defonseca’s real name was Monica Ernestine Josephine De Wael, and she was not Jewish, The Daily Mail reported.
It turned out that Defonseca was enrolled in a Brussels school during World War II.
In 2008, she publicly admitted that her book was false.
“This story is mine. It is not actually reality, but my reality, my way of surviving,” Defonseca said in a statement given by her lawyers to The Associated Press.
She explained that her parents were arrested for being a part of the anti-Nazi resistance when she was 4 and that she was sent to live with family members who treated her harshly. These experiences led her to “feel Jewish.”
According to the Daily Mail, Defonseca said she “found it difficult to differentiate between what was real and what was part of my imagination.”
Judge Marc Kantrowitz issued what he called “the third, and hopefully last” opinion in the case on April 29, which confirmed the 2012 court ruling to set aside the previous verdict that awarded Defonseca $22.5 million.
The book was translated into 18 languages and was even made into a French film called “Surviving with the Wolves.”
She published the book after meeting Daniel in the 1990s, when Daniel heard Defonseca tell her wild tale at a Massachusetts synagogue.