My name is Karen Schulman. I am speaking out because I want to share my first-hand experiences with Misha Defonseca and her husband, Maurice.
Misha and her husband lived with me in my home in Milford, Massachusetts for two and a half years. I had heard Misha speak publicly about her amazing experiences during the Holocaust at Borders Bookstore and at a performance at Holliston High School of the play, The Diary of Ann Frank. I was very touched by her story.
I had worked in the department of nursing, telemetry and progressive care unit of Milford Regional Medical Center as a medical secretary and then at the CVS in Medway. One day a neighbor of the Defonsecas came in to fill a prescription. We struck up a conversation and the neighbor said, “Do you know what’s happened to them? They’re about to lose their house to foreclosure.” I was shocked. I phoned the Defonseca’s and Maurice answered the phone. He confirmed what I had been told and added that they had no money and didn’t know what to do. I offered to allow them the use of a wing in my large house consisting of four rooms and a bath until they could get on their feet again. They moved in on June 6, 2001, along with 24 cats and two dogs.
(left, damage to floor caused by cat urine and mold) I didn’t ask for any payment but Misha insisted on giving $500 a month. Misha never helped with any of the housework. They used my kitchen. Misha’s son and his future wife stayed at my house when they came for a visit. Misha wanted them to sleep in the backyard but I didn’t think it was appropriate in my neighborhood for them to camp out. They ended up sleeping on my dining room floor among all the boxes that belonged to Misha.
Maurice had a job in Hopkinton. I allowed him to use my car to drive to work and filled the tank for him. I also drove Misha on errands. I wined and dined them, took them out to dinner often and always paid the tab. At one time I accompanied Misha to Bloomingdales when she spent $250 to $300 on make-up. Once on a shopping trip I saw her hide things she had not paid for under her real purchases and take them from the store. I was so stunned that I questioned if I had actually seen it.
Delivery trucks arrived frequently delivering packages of goods Misha had ordered. I wondered how they could afford these things but assumed that Maurice was making good money in his job in an engineering company.
(left, a few of about a dozen litter boxes) Misha used to say “People are no good” and “Americans are stupid.” “Stupid Americans, stupid Americans,” she said it all the time. She said her son couldn’t qualify for higher education in Belgium where educational standards were high but he could get into a college in the US because the American schools had lower academic standards.
I have known many Holocaust survivors. Misha was very different! For one thing, she didn’t understand any of the Yiddish words I used. When I asked her why, she said her mother never taught her Yiddish. She said, “Hiltler took my first family away” and that’s why she needed so many animals. Misha had a bas mitzvah, I believe in Holliston, and learned to speak Hebrew and to chant from the Torah.
Eventually I got fed up. My friend Barbara Beattie, who also had been taken in by the Defonsecas, urged me to see a lawyer to get them out of my home. When I told them to leave they were angry. How could you do this to us, they demanded.
(left, cat urine damage to rugs) When they finally left, on November 30, 2003, I had $17,000 to $18,000 worth of damage to contend with. I had to have the hardwood floors taken up and replaced because they were saturated with cat urine. I had to remove the wallpaper and carpeting because of cat spray and have the whole area painted. I replaced whole windows that were broken. After they left I learned that they had not lost their home to foreclosure as they claimed, they sold it for $325,000. I learned they were not destitute either. In 2001 when I took them in Maurice earned $70,000 from his job (this figure was on a bankruptcy filing Maurice made.) From my house they moved to their new home in Dudley and paid cash for it, $190,000, plus two brand new cars.
In closing I would say that Misha and Maurice are very manipulative and deceitful. They know exactly how to get what they want from soft hearted people. I feel cheated, exploited, disrespected and abused.