Misha Defonseca and Herman Rosenblat: Two Holocaust hoaxters exploit the same fertile territory

Another literary hoax bites the dust. Herman Rosenblat has admitted that his
sensational memoire, ³Angel at the Fence,² is a fake. Just last February,
another sensational Holocaust hoax was exposed and its author confessed. The
parallels between the two are striking.

In her book, Misha A Memoire of the Holocaust Years, published abroad
under the title, Survival with Wolves, Misha Defonseca tells how she
walked across war-torn Europe searching for her parents who were arrested by
the Nazis and living, at times, in the care of wolves.

In his book, Angel at the Fence, Herman Rosenblat tells how he found true
love when he was reunited with a little girl who had thrown apples to him
over the concentration camp wall.

Both are incredible, uplifting stories set against the terrifying backdrop
of the Holocaust. And both are inventions of their authors¹ imaginations.

Other similarities stand out:

Misha Defonseca fooled her publisher, Mt Ivy Press, and a movie producer.

Herman Rosenblat fooled his publisher, Berkeley Books, a division of
Penguin, and a movie producer.

Misha Defonseca only began telling her amazing ³true² story years later when
she and her husband, Maurice, hit financial difficulties.

Herman Rosenblat only began telling his amazing ³true² story years later
when he and his wife, Roma, hit financial difficulties.

The hoaxters¹ spouses were complicit in the scams. Maurice Defonseca
supported his wife¹s story. Roma Rosenblat supported her husband¹s story.

The Defonsecas were invited to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

The Rosenblats appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

People who questioned Misha Defonseca¹s story were called jealous,
anti-Semitic and deniers.

People who questioned Herman Rosenblat¹s story were called jealous,
anti-Semitic and deniers.

Misha Defonseca's "true" story was made into a French feature film,
Survivre avec les loups.

Herman Rosenblat sold the movie rights to his "true" story, Angel at the
Fence and production was to begin in March, 2009.

Misha Defonseca was cornered by the press (Le Soir) and forced to confess.

Herman Rosenblat was cornered by the press (The New Republic) and forced to

When confronted with evidence that her story was false, Misha Defonseca said
that her memories were affected by wartime trauma and that she had recounted
the truth as she remembered it.

When confronted with evidence that his story was false, Herman Rosenblat
said that his memories were affected by wartime trauma and that he had
recounted the truth as he remembered it.

Misha Defonseca's French publisher Bernard Fixot defended her by saying her
real life was even more touching than the story she told in her book.

Herman Rosenblat¹s movie producer defended him by saying his real life was
even more touching than the story he told in his book.

Concocting a literary hoax is dangerous business; truth has a way of seeking
the light. Most hoaxes fall apart when the work achieves its author¹s
desired goal: success and fame. Think of Clifford Irving¹s scam ³authorized
biography² of Howard Hughs which landed its author in jail, Benjamin
Wilkomirski¹s Holocaust memoire ³Fragments² which was exposed as false soon
after it won the National Jewish Book Award, James Frey¹s confessional tale
that was endorsed by Oprah and then collapsed, and Margaret Seltzer¹s fake
misery lit autobiography that caused a sensation and then was debunked. All
these hoaxes melted in the spotlight of fame.

Amazingly, unlike the others, Misha Defonseca¹s story survived for 20 years
in the spotlight, becoming an international bestseller and a feature film.
Moreover, she is unique in profiting immensely from it, suing her publisher
for failing to make the book a bestseller in the U.S. and winning a $33
million verdict that still stands, even after she confessed.

COMING SOON: Watch for more on the Defonseca scam on YouTube.

Also see: BESTSELLERthebook.blogspot.com


Letter received from Vera Lee's Lawyer






October 27, 2008

Dear Ms. Daniel,

As you are aware, the Gloucester District Court entered an order requiring you to comply with the settlement agreement dated August 16, 2007 and suspended, at my request, the sentence of the 20 days in the House of Corrections that had been imposed upon you for violation of order of the court. Now that your frivolous action to set aside the judgment and revoke the execution held by my client has been dismissed by the Superior Court, you need to deal with me to resolve these outstanding issues or I will proceed to bring the matter back before Gloucester District Court and ask that the court revoke its suspension of the sentence previously imposed upon you. I will also seek additional sanctions by reason of your failure to comply with the agreement.

I have spoken with Coldwell Banker relative to the possibility of re-listing [your house] for sale. I am requesting that you make the premises available for inspection…. If you are not agreeable to permitting the inspection of the premises, please advise me so I do not waste my time driving to Gloucester…. I will be accompanied by the realtor Ginger Attaya and Attorney Orestes Brown when I visit as we would like to re-evaluate the marketability of the property at this time.

I understand your attorney has been quoted in the press as advising that you intend to appeal the dismissal of the litigation you filed seeking to vacate the judgment and revoke the execution. By this time I am sure you have the benefit of counsel’s advice as to the probability of success with respect to such appeal. I am suggesting that you clearly understand that the only possible benefit you could incur from appealing is trying to delay the inevitable and that there is no reasonable basis to appeal as the decision of the court is consistent with the law. If you are seeking to delay the sale of the property, I am willing to discuss with you the possibility of you making some additional payments on the outstanding execution in consideration of our agreement to defer action with respect to the sale of the real estate…. In light of the fact that you are in breach of the agreement, one remedy I have available to me is seeking an order that you vacate the house immediately and take possession of same. While I am not seeking to do that at this time, it remains an alternative that will be considered in the future.

In short, I am sending you this letter advising you that you need to talk to me about the present situation so we can reach some understanding or I will take further action at Gloucester District Court which I am sure will prove unpleasant to you. While I prefer to resolve this matter in a reasonable manner through negotiation with you and your attorney, I will deal with it however I have to, based on your response or lack thereof.

Very truly yours,

Frank J. Frisoli, Esq.

Update: On October 28, 2008, my attorney, Joseph Orlando, filed a Notice of Appeal of the order of the court dismissing my complaint against Misha Defonseca for fraud on the court. — Jane Daniel


Bestseller Available Now!

Now Available from Amazon

Hello to those of you who have been following this blog since I started it last July, and welcome to any newcomers. It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything here, though there have been many related postings.

I began my blog by putting up chapters of a book I had begun, “Bestseller!” which was about a bestselling Holocaust memoire that my tiny publishing company had published. That “memoire” spawned a massive lawsuit and resulted in a $33 million verdict against me. When I began the blog, I explained that I was writing “Bestseller!” in real time and that I didn’t know how the story of my struggle would end.

Through an amazing twist of fate, I was contacted by a forensic genealogist who had read my blog. She was able to prove that the memoire was a massive literary fraud. I had hoped that the truth would allow me to overturn the $33 million judgment that was awarded to the perpetrator of the hoax and her co-author. For many months I had been feeling my way in the dark, but when the truth was revealed I had high hopes that I would, at last, find justice.

“Bestseller!” was ready to go to the printer when the story took yet another surprising turn. The complaint I filed to overturn the $33 million judgment (based on fraud on the court) was dismissed. I will now be filing an appeal. That will be my last chance to find justice. If the appeal fails, my eleven-year struggle will end in defeat. I will lose everything – including my home, which is also my livelihood (I run a B&B.)

At the last minute I added a postscript to the book that explains what my complaint was about and what happened. I am posting it here. The rest of the bizarre, fascinating, appalling account is in the book. It is a scathing indictment of our legal system.

I want to extend my appreciation to the kind souls, many total strangers, who have expressed their support. You, dear ones, have helped me through some very dark times.

- Jane Daniel

At the heart of justice is a divine spirit. It sprouts from the same seeds as life itself. And although we can define neither life nor justice, we are able to recognize injustice, the supreme form of which is to surrender to the status quo and to sanctify the myths and fantasies that breed it, among which is the national legend that in America there is liberty and justice for all. - Gerry Spence

by Jane Daniel
ISBN #9780615237510
Trade Paperback • 302 pages

Publication Date:
November 1, 2008

Pre-order for deliver as soon as the book is available.

Post Script: Does the Truth Matter?

Monday, October 13, 2008

I write this just as this book is going to press.

Following Misha’s confession, my new attorney, Joe Orlando, prepared a complaint to overturn the judgment against Mt Ivy and me. It was filed on April 8, 2008, almost six years to the day since the judgment entered. To overturn a judgment, the rules required that I go back to the same court that issued the judgment. For me it was returning to the scene of the injustice, hoping for a better outcome.

The issues we placed before the court went to the heart of the case: the effect of the hoax on the trial.

Mass. Rules of Civil Procedure, 60 (b) sets a time limit of one year for bringing an action to overturn a judgment on the basis of five causes, including a mistake, newly discovered evidence, fraud, etc. We were well beyond the time limit for causes (1) through (5). But at the end of the paragraph, there is 60(b)(6) which provides relief “where there is something more,” some kind of “extraordinary circumstances.” Fraud on the court, committed by an officer of the court, rises to this “extraordinary” level and has no statute of limitations.

A lawyer is an officer of the court. Misha was her own lawyer for almost a year, signing under pains and penalties of perjury the required pleadings. A pro se litigant is bound by the same obligations and constraints under Mass. Rules of Civil Procedure that apply to an attorney. Joe said the courts have overturned judgments for conduct far less egregious than Misha’s brazen fraud. “If this case doesn’t present an extraordinary circumstance, I can’t imagine what would!” he said.

One of the cases we relied on involved a matter of legal fees. An attorney representing himself in suing his client had, in a nutshell, pulled a fast one on his client to collect his fees. The court, in this case, found that the attorney’s conduct rose to the level of “something extra” such that it warranted a reversal of the judgment against the client.

Misha had stepped into the shoes of an attorney, we argued, thus becoming an officer of the court. In this capacity she had committed fraud on the court in holding herself out as a victim of the Holocaust, one of the most horrendous events in human history. The sympathy and credibility she gained from the judge and jury profoundly influenced the outcome of the case.

We had been sued for failing to fulfill the terms of the contract. However, we argued, the contract was void ab initio, invalid from the outset, because both Misha and Vera had warranted in their Publishing Agreements that “all statements of fact are true” and the story is “authentic,” a warrantee that they both violated. Had the court known at the time about the hoax, all of the accusations against us would have been examined through a completely different lens. In fact, without a contract, there never would have been a trial. The case would have been thrown out on summary judgment.

Frisoli, on behalf of Vera, and Misha (again representing herself) filed motions to dismiss my complaint. A hearing was scheduled for August 28, 2008 in Middlesex Superior Court. I notified the media. National Public Radio reported on the hearing; we listened to the broadcast as we drove to the courthouse. The Associated Press sent a reporter and a photographer. The Gloucester Times was there. There were others I didn’t recognize. Many supporters showed up including Sharon, Karen, Barbara and Ginny. Rosian and Susie got to the courthouse but were directed to the wrong courtroom.

When we entered the courtroom there was a press camera tripod in the corner and the benches were full. Ramona Hamblin was sitting beside Misha and Maurice in the front row. She would not be representing Misha, I knew, because the Board of Bar Overseers website listed her as “administratively suspended.” Misha had gained weight and Maurice sported a new mustache.

Judge Timothy Feeley took the bench. He had only received the papers on this case that morning, he told the lawyers, apologetically.

Joe spoke first. He presented his arguments in a low-key and measured tone. The case law supports our position, he said. Courts have overturned verdicts for far less egregious conduct than what occurred in this instance. Misha was an admitted liar. Her conduct in exploiting the suffering of the victims of the Holocaust for her own financial gain was a heinous act. The fraud permeated the trial. It was more than fraud; it was fraud on the court. Rule 60(b)(6) was designed to catch just such extraordinary miscarriages of justice as this.

Frisoli spoke next. He was wearing another of his matching outfits, this time a baby blue seersucker suit with a blue shirt and tie. In his usual hyper-excited manner, voice too loud, gesturing profusely, he explained that Misha hadn’t admitted that she lied; her story was simply historically inaccurate. Her “alleged” admission was like the repressed memory of a sexually abused child. And, in any case, the statute of limitations on fraud had long expired. He went through the usual litany of character assassinations I’d heard so many times before. I couldn’t bear to watch him; I fiddled with my rings in my lap while he spoke, “Foreign rights diverted …lies… money hidden from my client in an offshore account… Framingham jail….” He went on and on.

Then Misha read from a prepared statement, citing statutes and case law. Her statement appeared to have been written by a lawyer. In her broken English, she explained that she didn’t intend to defraud the court; she really believed her story.

The judge then asked several questions about whether the fact that the book was not a true story had any bearing on its marketability. Did it matter that the story wasn’t true? Frisoli said it didn’t. Joe replied that Misha’s aura convinced the court that everything she said was true.

Were there any expert witnesses? the judge wanted to know. Joe answered that there was never an independent auditor. We would welcome the opportunity to have an auditor examine the company’s finances if the judgment were to be overturned, he said.

And then it was over.

Outside the courthouse I gave interviews to several reporters. A TV crew from Providence shot footage that aired that night on New England Cable News. From the corner of my eye I saw Frisoli emerge through the glass doors of the courthouse and walk toward me as if to catch my eye. I turned away and he proceeded toward the entrance to the parking garage. When he had exited, I turned my head to be sure he was gone and, just as I did, he popped back through the door. Grinning a gloating smile, he raised one hand and wriggled his fingers at me. “Bye-bye, Jane,” he said in a sing-song, taunting voice.

Karen saw the gesture and moved to stand beside me. “He makes me sick,” she hissed. Sharon said to me later. “I wonder if the judge understands that the $33 million was the award based on Misha’s estimate of what the book should have been worth, plus punitive damages; it was not the book’s real earnings.”

The AP story went out on the wire and was picked up all over the world. It was obvious from the headlines that the reporters didn’t understand the money issue either. The gist of the story was the same; the headlines differed.

Author of Faked Holocaust Book Fights Publisher for Millions

Memoir faker fights publisher

Author of book hoax fights for profits

Author of hoax memoir asks judge to toss lawsuit

Author of faked Holocaust book fights for her millions

Fake book author wants profits

Author of faked Holocaust book fights for millions

Despite lies, US author of faked Holocaust book fights to keep $33 million

Author of faked Holocaust book fights for millions

The best headline came from the little Gloucester Daily Times:

Does the truth matter?

On October 9, 2008, Judge Timothy Feeley issued his ruling. Here are excerpts:

The court is not condoning or minimizing the fraud and misconduct alleged in the case. If true, the allegations in the complaint are, as claimed by the plaintiffs, deeply disturbing on a number of levels. The Holocaust tragedy is a subject that deserves respect from all, and no one should attempt to obtain personal gain from the unconscionable slaughter of millions. People should not profit from their own misconduct.

However, this is not an action against Defonseca for her misdeeds. This is an action by plaintiffs seeking relief from judgments entered by this court six years ago. The question is not whether relief from judgment might have been appropriate at some time; the only question is whether such relief is appropriate now.

I find nothing extraordinary about the allegations of fraud, misrepresentations and misconduct in this case. This case lacks the “something extra.” Plaintiffs argue that Defonseca’s role as a pro se litigant invested her with some kind of special obligation to the court and made her fraud, misrepresentations and misconduct particularly egregious. The court disagrees. The misconduct did not arise out of [her pro se] status, and the harm to plaintiffs was not aggravated by that status.

The substance of the book may have given flavor to the trial, but it was the conduct of the parties, and particularly the conduct of Daniel, that was the subject of the trial and the basis for the judgment in the case. Defonseca’s fraud, misrepresentations, and misconduct did not go to the heart of the case. It did not establish the basis for the jury’s and the court’s verdicts against the plaintiffs. Accordingly, this court finds nothing exceptional or extraordinary about the fraud, misrepresentations and misconduct in this case to justify the use of Rule 60(b)(6).

A ‘fraud on the court’ occurs ‘where it can be demonstrated, clearly and convincingly, that a party has sentiently set in motion some unconscionable scheme calculated to interfere with the judicial system’s ability impartially to adjudicate a matter by improperly influencing the trier or unfairly hampering the presentation of the opposing party’s claim or defense. A party seeking to demonstrate fraud on the court must prove ‘the most egregious conduct involving a corruption of the judicial process itself.’

Defonseca’s fraud does not rise to the level of “fraud on the court.” Her misrepresentations and fraud did not prevent the court from providing plaintiffs a fair and impartial trial.

The Supreme Court stated that independent actions under Rule 60 (b)(6) “should only be available to prevent a grave miscarriage of justice.” Here the fraud is certainly of the sensational variety, and not to be condoned, but refusing plaintiff’s relief from a six-year judgment does not constitute a grave miscarriage of justice.

Whether Defonseca should profit from or be punished for her bad conduct is not the question for this court. The only question is whether Defonseca’s bad conduct should absolve plaintiffs from their own bad conduct six years after entry of judgment. It bears noting that it is not, as claimed by plaintiffs, Defonseca’s conduct that caused harm to plaintiffs. It was their own bad conduct that not only caused a jury to find against them across the board, but caused a Superior Court judge to fine their conduct so egregious that it warranted treble damages and attorney’s fees.

The motion to dismiss the claim was allowed.

“We’re filing an appeal,” Joe said.

To be continued ….


Pre-Order NOW!

by Jane Daniel
ISBN #9780615237510
Trade Paperback • 302 pages • $19.95
Publication Date: November 1, 2008
Pre-order for deliver as soon as the book is available. Order here or at Laughing Gull Press.


My Public Apology to Jane Daniel

I have been troubled deeply, and riddled with anger, shame, guilt, and a myriad of emotions. Like many other unfortunate souls, I came under the spell and perceived charm of Misha Defonseca. I bought into the whole package, and even adopted as my own, her feelings and opinions about publisher Jane Daniel. My head is full of concocted stories, of jealousy and falsehoods.

Jane Daniel is a lovely, intelligent, professional woman who holds none of the titles or qualities, she was accused of wrong fully possessing. An unflattering picture was painted of her and I accepted this, as did many others. Jane spoke not one unkind word about Misha, and we became friends when we finally connected. The vitriolic and hateful language was most undeserving and she needs to know how badly I feel about the turn of events and my changed feelings.

No one should judge Jane the way I did. I realize now I made a terrible mistake. The stories about Jane are so very untrue, and I was so hugely premature in basing my opinions about her. I want every reader to know of my heartfelt apology. The greatest lesson I learned from all of this is to always keep an open mind and know that there are always two sides to every story. Judgement should not be made until all the information is on the table. Jane Daniel's credibility should be returned and never be questioned ever again


Karen Schulman


Letter to Rabbi Earl Kideckel

Rabbi Earl Kideckel 5/15/08

Temple Beth Torah

Holliston, MA

Dear Rabbi Kideckel,

Since we have not had the opportunity to speak together, I must make some assumptions in writing this letter. First, I assume that you know who I am. I was Misha Defonseca’s publisher, the one that she sued and against whom she won a massive judgment. I also assume that you are aware that Misha has admitted that her memoire was a hoax.

I am not sure whether you are familiar with a letter that was written by Naomi Aigner, president of Congregation Agudah Achim in December 1999 concerning that lawsuit and me. It is about that letter that I am writing you now.

I first saw the letter about a year before the trial. The woman who showed it to me was upset because she had extended enormous effort in support of Misha and she was shocked at being asked to give money as well. I, too, was shocked — by the contents of the letter and by the scathing, defamatory description of me. The letter contained many falsehoods including the statement that Misha was impoverished because of my publishing company and me.

At the time, Misha was not impoverished. I recently had subpoenaed her bank records and seen that she had almost a quarter of a million dollars passing through her accounts in the previous three years. Much of this money was as a direct result of my actions in enabling the publication of the French book. I am attaching the analysis of Misha’s finances in 1999 prepared by the genealogist who uncovered Misha’s fraud, so you can see for yourself.

Recently, other people have given me copies of that letter. I shudder to think how many people were sent the letter, how many others were shown the letter second-hand, how many more heard about it. I cringe at the thought that people believed such horrible things about me. Coming, as it did, under the letterhead of the temple, signed by the president of the temple, that letter undoubtedly has done inestimable damage to my reputation.

That said, I want to be perfectly clear that I do not blame Naomi Aigner, nor the temple, nor the rabbi, nor any of the Jewish people, nor anyone who passed the letter on. I know Misha, and how convincing she can be. I have seen how she turns people against each other and erects walls of fear and anger. I met a woman named Pat who gave Misha $2,000. Misha never told their mutual friend, Sharon, about the gift but instead said to Sharon that Pat had stolen $100 from her at a book signing. By turning people against each other and inciting distrust Misha kept people from talking and comparing notes about what they knew about her. That was one of the ways she maintained the hoax for two decades.

You may also know that I have engaged the services of an attorney and filed a complaint to overturn the judgment. What you may not know is that Misha was responsible for destroying my publishing company and my livelihood, stripping me of all my assets and ruining my reputation. Her attorneys sued my 86-year-old-father and seized my inheritance. They sued my daughter who still has a multimillion dollar lien on her home. I have spent the past ten years being mercilessly hounded by lawyers attempting to collect the $33 million judgment. It has been a living hell. And it’s still going on; just last week I got a threatening letter from Maurice.

I am writing to you today in the cause of truth and healing. I have no desire to extend the harm that Misha did to the Jewish people whom she so ruthlessly exploited. We all opened our hearts to her. We were all her victims. We are all traumatized. As a gesture of good will I want to tell you that, should you wish it, you may have an attorney of your choosing draft a Covenant Not to Sue in regard to that letter and I will sign it, no questions asked.

I would only request that those who were exploited by Misha to stand up and tell the world what happened to them — as a way of bearing witness, if you will. Right now we are all isolated in our own pain. I am hoping we can all join together and say, This is wrong. This is intolerable. This must stop. Now!

Without that effort, it will not stop. I have learned from two European journalists that Misha is working on another book. One of them said to me, “It will be more lies.” Misha and Maurice and their hoax machine are not going away unless people who know the truth decide that it’s time to call a halt to the deceit.

Karen Schulman has begun the process of gathering the truth. She has started a new blog:


I hope that those who have been harmed by Misha and Maurice will speak out. The blog is one way to do that. Anyone wishing to post a message anonymously on the blog may do so.

Karen Schulman has offered to host a meeting between you, me, and possibly Sharon Sergeant at her home. Of course, you would be welcome to bring anyone else you think should be involved. I believe such a meeting would be one way to begin to pick up the pieces and move on.

Please let me know if you are agreeable to that.

Best wishes,

Jane Daniel

978 281-7732


A Report from Sharon Sergeant, forensic genealogist

May 5, 2008: the Internal Revenue Service has placed a lien on the Dudley, MA home of Misha and Maurice Defonseca for $60,109.13 in unpaid taxes owed by Maurice Defonseca for the tax year 2005. (below)

This is just the latest in a long, long history of financial irregularities involving the Defonsecas. When the regrettable form letter (below) was sent from Congregation Agudah Achim in December of 1999, the mailing list included not only members of the Jewish community, but many others who believed Misha Defonseca’s fraudulent Holocaust story. It is clear that none of Misha’s supporters had any idea that Misha and Maurice Defonseca were hiding their assets and income, nor that the Defonsecas were soliciting money, goods and services based on knowingly fraudulent representations.

Using forensic genealogical methods and financial analysis, we have begun to compile a financial time line. The following sources were used to create this report:

Public records including deeds, foreclosure notices and recorded liens in the Registry of Deeds, Norfolk County, Massachusetts on the Defonsecas’ residence at 7 Bogastow Circle, Millis, MA, from 1985 to June 2001 [www.norfolkdeeds.org.]

Bankruptcy records for February 2001 through May 2001 for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition filed by Maurice Defonseca to eliminate unpaid debts, some stemming from the early 1990s, as well as more than $50,000 in unpaid personal loans from individuals [United States Bankruptcy Court, District of Massachusetts, Case number 01-40839 JBR.]

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue records indicate in the bankruptcy petition that the Defonsecas did not file tax returns or pay Massachusetts income taxes for at least a decade from 1990 through 2000 [United States Bankruptcy Court, District of Massachusetts, Case number 01-40839 JBR.] Based on an estimated $44,000 in back state taxes owing for this period, payment for which was a requirement of the bankruptcy plan, Maurice Defonseca’s bankruptcy petition was withdrawn.

Bank records for three of the Defonsecas’ Middlesex Savings Bank accounts for the period December 1996 through March 2001 produced through discovery in the lawsuit [MICV 1998-02-456] against Jane Daniel and Mt Ivy Press.

The Worcester County, Massachusetts Registry of Deeds masslandrecords.com/malr/index.htm for the Defonsecas’ residence at 70 Mason Road, Dudley, MA, purchased in November 2003.

The Middlesex Superior Court trial court held in its Findings of Fact (MICV 1998-02-456):

“The Defonsecas' three bank accounts reveal deposits between December 1996 and February 2000 of over $243,700.00. The evidence never made clear how, notwithstanding that amount of deposits, the Defonsecas were claiming financial hardship, such that their home was foreclosed upon in 2001.”

The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds records indicate that the Defonsecas’ Millis home was not foreclosed as they claimed, but actually sold for a profit in June of 2001. The Defonsecas were not suffering financial hardship at the time they sold their home, but were hiding cash and other assets, while soliciting money, goods and services.

This pattern of misrepresentation was also true in December 1999, when the Congregation Agudah Achim solicitation letter went out. The Defonsecas were portraying themselves as being in desperate financial circumstances. In fact, the $50,000 in personal loans shown in the 2001 bankruptcy filing are not included in the $243,700 income confirmed by the court for the period including 1997, 1998 and 1999. Despite around $300,000 of income during this roughly three-year period, the Defonseca’s attorneys, as well as veterinarians, therapists, and other service providers were persuaded to provide their services for free. Of the people who were solicited for cash, the 2001 bankruptcy petition indicates that the amounts actually procured by the Defonsecas included as much as $20,000 from just one person.

What we currently know about the fraudulent solicitations is as follows.

° The Defonsecas made a habit of withdrawing large sums of cash from their bank accounts. Misha Defonseca’s cash withdrawals, from just one Framingham bank account (Middlesex Savings Bank, primarily from account #223631634) in 1999 totaled $53,920.

° The pattern of fraudulent solicitation is exemplified by the fact that the Defonsecas withdrew $10,000 in cash in March 1999 – just two weeks before the March 24, 1999 Boston Globe Dances With Wolves (Archive fee) article by Stephen Bailey reported the following:

In a lawsuit, Defonseca has charged that tiny Mt Ivy Press, L.P. has withheld royalties and underreported sales. Defonseca says she and her husband, Maurice, are in danger of losing their Millis home and have been reduced to taking food from Jewish charities.

“I would like to see Jane Daniel and Brett Kates eating dog food, as we had to, while they were withholding at least $27,000 owed to me for several months, somewhere in a bank account in the West Indies,” Defonseca says.

° This particular instance illustrates the discrepancy between what the Defonsecas were saying publicly, what the facts were, and what they were actually doing. In addition to their misrepresentation that they were destitute, the other alleged facts were also false or misleading. Note that there is no mention in the article that there was a June 1998 motion by the attorney for Misha’s ghostwriter, Vera Lee, asking the court to hold in escrow Mt Ivy Press’ earnings, which included the royalty payments. The motion was granted and thus the royalties were suspended. Nor does the article explain that the French book revenue was direct-wired from Editions Robert Laffont into Misha Defonseca’s bank account. (Laffont never paid royalties to Mt Ivy Press.)

There are still other unanswered questions raised by the facts contained in public records.

° 1994 marked the beginning of unpaid debts showing up in liens against the Defonsecas’ Millis home. By 1997 Misha Defonseca’s cash withdrawals from the Middlesex Savings Bank accounts totaled $54,000 from more than $102,000 in deposits. 1998 cash withdrawals grew to more than $74,000 from another $102,000 in 1998 deposits. At least one payment of $6,600 from Mt Ivy Press for the Disney option did not show up in these deposits. Where did this money go?

Another poignant example of the Defonseca’s exploitation of the generosity of individuals is this: A one thousand dollar short-term loan was solicited by Maurice Defonseca in April of 1997 purportedly to use for a mortgage payment. It was documented by a promissory note signed by Maurice Defonseca agreeing to repayment in May 1997. It remained unpaid in 2001, according to the bankruptcy records – despite the fact that the Defonsecas’ bank statements showed more than $65,000 in deposits from January through April of 1997. Why hadn’t they repaid a man who loaned them $1,000 in April of 1997, when they had access to more than one hundred thousand dollars in both of the years 1997 and 1998? How many other people gave them money and were not repaid?

In fact, when the Defonsecas refinanced their Millis home mortgage in July of 1998, they only took a little over $1000 in cash from these Middlesex Bank accounts for the months of July through September of 1998. What were they living on for that three-month period in 1998? Where did it come from? Where was it being held? How many other sources of income and accounts did they have?

The 2001 bankruptcy file also lists nine other individuals who provided un-repaid personal loans to the Defonsecas for the following amounts:

Not only do the Defonseca’s Middlesex Savings Bank accounts indicate large deposits and cash withdrawals, the records also show that the Defonsecas made a habit of depositing only a tiny fraction of large checks, while taking the balance of the check in cash at the time of deposit. Thus one deposit is recorded as $12.50, but the check cashed was $2,512.50. $2,500 was taken in cash, while the bank statement indicates a deposit of only shows $12.50. The cash withdrawal total for just this one bank is incomplete.

When the Defonsecas sold their Millis home in June of 2001 for $325,000 - but claimed that they had lost it to foreclosure, they were given shelter, food, medicine, and other gifts at the home of a Milford woman who took them in believing that they were homeless and destitute. In reality, they had at least $90,000 in earned income for the year, and still continued to solicit aid from others.

By November of 2003, the Defonsecas had finally exhausted the emotional and financial resources of the compassionate woman who took them into her Milford home. She was forced to engage a lawyer to evict them from her home. They immediately purchased a new home in Dudley, MA for $190,000 plus two new cars with cash, and left more than $17,000 worth of damage at the home of the woman who had supported them for two and a half years.

During this period Misha approached a decorated Viet Nam vet whom she met years earlier at a speaking engagement in a prison where he incarcerated. She told him she was desperate and had lost her home to foreclosure. His 48 year-old wife was dying of cancer at the time. Misha knew that the vet was receiving a military pension. She told him, Your wife is dying and you are in prison so you don’t need the money. He sent her approximately $500 a month until the federal government suspended pension payments for all incarcerated veterans.

This analysis is preliminary and likely represents only the tip of the iceberg of fraudulent financial activity by the Defonsecas.


Article in Today's Jewish Advocate....

Defonseca fallout still felt months after revelation of inauthenticity

Panel formed to discuss memoir hoax's aftermath

By Lorne Bell - Friday May 16 2008

When Dudley, Mass. resident Misha Defonseca admitted last February that her Holocaust memoir, “Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years,” was a fake, Jews in Greater Boston and across Europe were shocked.

And although Defonseca’s book sold only 5,000 copies in the U.S., her elaborate deception continues to have far-reaching effects. Jane Daniel, the original publisher of Defonseca’s book, has recently joined Waltham-based genealogist Sharon Sergeant; historian and Holocaust author Susie Davidson; and local Holocaust survivor Rosian Zerner to discuss the book’s fallout as part of a series of panel discussions titled, “Deception and its Aftermath.”

“Misha mined the Jewish community and left behind her a wake of trauma,” said Daniel. “A lot of people are still in a state of shock, and feel wounded and betrayed. It is chutzpah beyond all measure.”
Defonseca’s fraudulence was revealed this winter, when Sergeant posted a response on Daniel’s Web log offering to help her uncover the author’s true past. Defonseca had already won a lawsuit against Daniel’s small publishing company, Mt. Ivy Press, in 2001, in which she claimed Daniel had withheld royalties and failed to adequately promote the book. Daniel has since filed a countersuit to overturn the court’s decision, based in part on the original contract’s presumption that Defonseca’s story was not a fictional account.
“I e-mailed Jane [Daniel] and said that I thought this case could be solved, that [Defonseca’s] identity could be verified,” said Sergeant.

Sergeant would soon reveal the truth behind the author’s fabricated story, disproving Defonseca’s claims that she had trekked across Europe as a wartime orphan, wandered in and out of the Warsaw Ghetto and taken refuge with a pack of wolves. Instead, Defonseca, whose real name was Monique De Wael, lived in Belgium with her uncle and grandfather during the war. And she is not Jewish.
“There’s so much in [the book] that’s convoluted and doesn’t have anything to do with reality,” said Sergeant. “She’s not who she said she was, and whatever her initial motivation, this became what I call a Misha Money Machine – it became a business.”

That “business” has wiped out Daniel’s own, after the 2001 ruling required Mt. Ivy Press to pay Defonseca and her French ghostwriter, Vera Lee, $32.4 million in damages.
“That’s how shnookered the court was,” Daniel said.

But the deception stretches far beyond the court and Mt. Ivy Press. After hearing that Defonseca and her husband’s Millis home was being foreclosed in 2001, Karen Schulman, a 62-year-old Jewish resident of Milford, took the couple and their 22 cats into her ranch home. “All I could think was that here is this woman who went through the Holocaust and now she is losing more – this time her home,” Schulman said. “Never in my life did I think that this was a scam.”

Defonseca and her husband, a high-level computer company executive, lived with Schulman for more than two years before she finally asked them to leave. Although she said the couple insisted on paying her $500 each month, they also reportedly purchased two new cars and, unbeknownst to Schulman, a new home in nearby Dudley. “I kept telling myself that she would not do this to me – look at what I have done for her,” said Schulman. “But she is a clever little fox. In my opinion, she needs to go to prison.”
Defonseca’s tale has also cast unfair doubts upon the credibility of true Holocaust survivors, according to Zerner. “It amazes me that there are still people who rationalize and sidestep the deception and essence of what she has done,” said Zerner. “She stole our identities as survivors. It is an offense beyond what is tolerable.”

Zerner’s own story closely resembles the fabricated past that Defonseca claimed in her book (although she never lived with wolves). As a child she was corralled into the Kovno Ghetto in Lithuania, and was shuffled from one hiding spot to another during the war. She said she hopes the panel discussion can help to alleviate concerns of other survivors and those who might doubt their stories.
Davidson, whose 2005 book, “I Refused to Die,” documents the lives of 20 survivors and concentration camp liberators, agreed. “Somebody said that to survive the Holocaust, your story had to be incredible and unbelievable,” said Davidson. “But [this incident] should not disauthenticate those experiences of true survivors whose stories are just as incredible and unimaginable and show the bravery, ingenuity and in many cases the shear luck that allowed these people to rise above the odds and survive.”


New panel explores widespread ramifications of recently-revealed Holocaust memoir hoax

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Susie Davidson

New panel explores widespread ramifications of recently-revealed Holocaust memoir hoax

In February, 2008, Misha Defonseca confessed that her bestselling autobiography, “Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years,” published in 1997, was a hoax. Publisher Jane Daniel appears in a new speaking tour addressing the hoax, along with genealogist Sharon Sergeant, who compiled the evidence that led to Defonseca’s confession; oral historian and Holocaust author Susie Davidson (“I Refused to Die”); and Holocaust child survivor Rosian Zerner.

The panel will explore the following areas:
° What are the consequences when an impostor usurps Holocaust history and places real survivors in question?
° In the light of other recent fake memoirs, how can publishers be sure that what they publish is true?
° What effect does a fake Holocaust testimonial have on deniers of the Holocaust?
° How did Misha Defonseca sustain the hoax for ten years and how was it exposed?

An open discussion period will follow the presentation.

Full information follows.

For booking information, contact Susie Davidson at Susie_d@yahoo.com or 617-566-7557.

New panel explores widespread ramifications of recently-revealed Holocaust memoir hoax

In recognition of Yom HaShoah, I would like to bring to your attention a new program being offered in the Boston area. As you may be aware, recently a Massachusetts woman, Misha Defonseca, confessed that her internationally-bestselling autobiography, “Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years,” was actually a hoax.

This new program, called “Deception and its Aftermath,” presents four women affected by the challenges that stem from this revelation, who discuss protecting the truth of the Holocaust from those who would usurp it.

Misha Defonseca began telling her fabricated story in 1989 when she spoke at a local synagogue on Yom HaShoah. Defonseca recounted that, as a seven-year-old child living in occupied Belgium, she set off on foot across the European theatre of war in search of her parents, who had been arrested by the Nazis. Twice during her travels, she said, she was befriended by wolves. It was all a lie. The truth is that she spent the war years at home with her Catholic family.

Nevertheless, for years Defonseca was warmly embraced by the local Jewish community. Those who were deceived by her story booked appearances for her, attended her speeches in schools and universities, and donated money. Such prominent figures as Elie Wiesel, the late Leonard Zakim, and Rabbi Albert Axelrod, then Chaplain of Brandeis University, contributed liner notes for her book.

The aftermath of her confession personally and profoundly impacts thousands in the Boston area who heard her speak and offered their support. Beyond that, this revelation affects those who gather stories of Holocaust survivors and Holocaust survivors themselves. There remain innumerable questions as to how such a monumental fraud could have occurred.

The panelists include:

Jane Daniel of Mt Ivy Press, the publisher whose original American edition of “Misha” was the basis of an international bestseller and a French feature film. Daniel herself painstakingly fact-checked the story line by line and employed other researchers, but in the end was also taken in. Defonseca sued Daniel, her U.S. publisher, in 1998, winning a $22 million judgment and the return of all rights to the story based on the finding that Mt Ivy had failed to sufficiently promote her book. Daniel has filed a lawsuit to overturn the judgment and posted chapters of her upcoming book on a blog.

Sharon Sergeant, the forensic genealogist who put together the team of researchers, who included real “hidden children” Holocaust survivors, that amassed the indisputable evidence leading to Defonseca’s confession. Sergeant’s work was made more challenging by the fact that Belgium has privacy laws that seal vital records for 100 years. As a member of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council Board of Directors, Sergeant advocates for open records to prevent fraud; in this instance, she employed a methodology that can be used by anyone doing historical research on their own family.

Susie Davidson, journalist for the Jewish Advocate and weeklies, poet, and author of "I Refused to Die: Stories of Boston-Area Holocaust Survivors and Soldiers who Liberated the Concentration Camps of World War II" and "Jewish Life in Postwar Germany." She speaks about and teaches courses on the Holocaust and global genocide with Dachau liberator Chan Rogers, and organizes genocide awareness events with the local Armenian and Rwandan communities. Davidson is a co-coordinator of the Boston chapter of COEJL, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, and a board member of the Boston-based activist umbrella organization Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow.

Rosian Zerner, who survived the Holocaust in the Kovno Ghetto, Lithuania, and in hiding. She is the former Vice President of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust, where she also served on the Advisory Board and as elected Secretary. She is the contact person for the Greater Boston Child Survivor group, where she serves as representative on the WFJCS Governing Board and as Liaison to “Generations After,” a group for descendants of survivors. She is the Jewish Community Relations Council representative from the American Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors of Greater Boston, where she serves on the Executive Committee. She is on the Holocaust survivors' Advisory Board (Hakalah) at the Jewish Family and Children's Service, is a docent for the New England Holocaust Memorial, and is on the Yom Hashoah Planning Committee and the Board of American Friends of Mogen Dovid Adom. Zerner has been the keynote speaker at the annual Yom HaShoah commemoration at Faneuil Hall, speaks at universities, synagogues, senior centers, clubs and organizations, and is an advocate on behalf of survivors.

# # #

From the Providence Journal

Boston author’s book a Holocaust hoax

01:00 AM EDT on Sunday, April 27, 2008

Misha Defonseca, in Millis, Mass.

The Providence Journal / RACHEL RITCHIE
On Holocaust Memorial Day this Thursday, there will be fewer eyewitness testimonies than the year before. Within the lifetimes of most people reading these words, there will be none. That is the work of time, and unalterable.

Each passing year brings greater and greater reliance on memoirs, therefore — written memories of atrocities, unspeakable crimes, incredible survival stories by those who experienced them. The vast majority are the sacred truth. But some, we are learning, are the work of frauds who would alter history for their own benefit.

The latest revelation came as a personal shock, because I had been an unwitting accomplice.

In 1997, in one of my first author profiles as books editor, I wrote about Misha Defonseca, of Millis, Mass., and her then-new book, Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years. I had heard her speak before reading the book, and had fallen under the spell of her story.

As she told it, she was seven years old in 1941, living in Brussels, Belgium, when the Nazis came to her home and arrested her Jewish parents. Misha had been hustled off to live with another family, but instead she set off on foot, alone and with only a tiny compass to guide her way eastward, to find her parents.

“Thus began a terrible odyssey,” I wrote 11 years ago. “Wandering alone on her hopeless quest for four years, clear across occupied Europe, through Germany, into Russia and back again, Misha witnessed greater horrors than most soldiers experienced on the front lines.” She wrote of entering and then escaping from the Warsaw Ghetto; living for days in midwinter without food or shelter; stabbing a Nazi soldier to death; and, perhaps most incredibly, living with a pack of wolves.

It was a wonderful story, and in fact I wondered. It “strains credulity,” I wrote, adding: “Misha offers no proof. There is none, she says. Perhaps, she says, one of the nameless people she encountered in those years will see her book and remember, and get in touch with her. She hopes so.”

That brief caveat having been delivered, I turned back to the absorbing “facts” as Defonseca related them into my tape recorder there in the living room of her modest house outside Boston.

The book, produced on a shoestring by tiny Mt. Ivy Press, had modest sales here, despite a glowing endorsement from none other than Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Prize-winning Holocaust survivor and scholar. It achieved a new life in Europe, however, where it sold more than 30,000 copies in France and Italy, was translated into 18 languages, and turned into a film, Survivre Avec les Loups (Living With Wolves), which opened in Paris in January.

Suspicions were raised almost from the first, but Defonseca had covered her tracks well. Not until the film was released did experts on wolf behavior and the Holocaust in Belgium publicly question details. Meanwhile, a genealogist in Massachusetts, working with colleagues in Brussels, found the smoking-gun evidence about her parents that finally prompted Defonseca to confess.

It was all a lie, she told the Associated Press last month. Her real name, until she married her husband, Maurice Defonseca, was Monique De Wael. She was, indeed, orphaned when her parents, who were in the Belgian resistance, were put to death by the Nazis. But they were Catholic, not Jewish, and Defonseca was raised, uneventfully, by relatives, not wolves.

In a statement released through her lawyer, Defonseca said, “The story in the book is mine. It is not the actual reality — it was my reality, my way of surviving. At first I did not want to publish it, but then I was convinced by Jane Daniel.”

The story of her relationship with Daniel, who published the book more or less single-handedly, is nearly as depressing as her own fraudulent account.

The short version: Daniel was sued by the book’s ghostwriter, Vera Lee, for illegally withholding proceeds from the book’s sales from Lee and Defonseca. In 2002, she was found guilty. The judgment was for nearly $33 million.

Daniel, who reportedly published the book despite warnings from two experts who doubted its veracity, has been among the most ardent of the debunkers since the suit was filed against her. Now she has countersued, claiming the writers should get nothing because they breached the contract, which required them to be truthful. That suit is pending.

Meanwhile, thoughtful people inside and outside the Jewish community are responding with expressions ranging from outrage to sorrow.

“It is sad. It’s just very sad,” said Elie Wiesel, who heads the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies at Boston University. Reached by phone in New York last week, he told the Journal that the most important thing to note is that “very few” of the hundreds of Holocaust memoirs published in recent years have been hoaxes. But each one is a blow.

“In truth, I don’t recall reading it,” he said of Defonseca’s book, which he described as “very moving” when asked to endorse it in 1997.

“You see, when I speak with Holocaust survivors, I am always urging them to write, write, write. So whenever I receive a memoir, I am willing to say something about it. But it doesn’t mean I have read every page.”

Others have been more outspoken.

“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,” Lawrence L. Langer, an authority on Holocaust narratives at Simmons College, in Boston, told the Boston Globe. Langer identified himself as one of those experts who originally counseled Daniel not to publish Defonseca’s memoir. “It is as bad as saying the Holocaust never happened,” he concluded.

Which brings up the most damning aspect of the entire episode: the fact that Defonseca’s hoax is now being used as ammunition by those who would deny, or play down, the Holocaust for their own reasons.

Here’s what David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, had to say on his Web site:

“This case must cast doubt on many other ridiculously impossible Holocaust tales that have been sold as ‘true stories’ to a trusting public. The fact that the media would shamelessly promote a patently ridiculous story of a young girl trudging 5,000 kilometers through Europe with a pack of wolves shows the uncritical attitude of the media to all things ‘Holocaust.’ ”

I ended my story of 11 years ago with a quote from Defonseca. Little did I know then how ironic it would seem now.

She told her story, she said, because “bigotry and prejudice and hatred — they have not disappeared. And I do it for this reason.

“But I have not confidence in the human race. Not at all.”



From National Law Journal...

©2008 National Law Journal Online

Page printed from: http://www.nlj.com


Firm named in suit filed over controversial Holocaust book

Sheri Qualters / Staff reporter

April 15, 2008

BOSTON — A Massachusetts publisher has filed a new lawsuit in Middlesex Superior Court to fight a $33 million judgment that stemmed from a business dispute about a book written by a woman who claimed wolves befriended her during the Holocaust.

Jane Daniel of Gloucester, Mass. and her company Mt. Ivy Press sued the writer Monique De Wael, who is also known as Misha Defonseca and her ghostwriter Vera Lee. Defonseca and Lee are both Massachusetts residents.

Daniel also named the Boston law firm Edward Angell Palmer & Dodge on the lawsuit. Mt. Ivy Press v. DeWael, No. MICV2008-01432 (Middlesex Co., Mass., Super. Ct.)

In February, Defonseca's public statements that she fabricated some of the best-selling book led to widespread publicity. Daniel is asking the court to set aside judgment for the fraud and relief from the prior judgment.

Lee initially sued Daniel, Mt. Ivy Press and Defonseca for breach of contract, fraud and other claims and Daniel countersued. Lee v. Mt. Ivy Press, No. MICV1998-02456 (Middlesex Co., Mass., Super. Ct.).

In August 2001, a jury found that Mt. Ivy Press has breached its publishing agreement with Lee and Defonseca and had violated Massachusetts consumer protection laws in its business dealings with them.

The jury awarded damages of about $11 million to the plaintiffs, which the trial court later tripled to $33 million for the consumer protection violations. The court also gave Defonseca the dramatic, movie, television and radio rights.

Daniel appealed, and the Appeals Court of Massachusetts upheld the lower court's ruling and denied Daniel's motion for a new trial. Vera Lee v. Mt. Ivy Press, No. 2003-P-1496 (Mass. App. Ct.).

Lee's attorney Frank J. Frisoli Jr. of Frisoli & Frisoli in Cambridge, Mass. said Daniel pocketed the revenue from the book and didn't pay Defonseca or Lee.

"The judgment is because she stole money she cheated them out of the revenue from the work," Frisoli said.

Frisoli also said some of the statements in the new complaint are inconsistent with the facts disclosed at the trial.

"This issue was already litigated," Frisoli said. "This complaint has no merit."

Daniel's lawyer Joseph M. Orlando of Orlando & Associates in Gloucester, Mass. said the judgment awarded to Defonseca and Lee was "based on perjured testimony which resulted in a fraud on the court." Orlando also said that Defonseca and Lee signed contracts with Mt. Ivy Press declaring that Defonseca's story was truthful and accurate when it was not.

"That fact casts a shadow over every finding by the jury and the court, including those in regards to finances," Orlando said. "Once the judgment is vacated, auditors will have the opportunity to review all the financial issues to determine the truth."

In a statement, Edward Angell said it was named in the current and prior case only because its predecessor firm held funds in dispute among its former clients, Mt. Ivy Press, Defonseca and Lee. "Mt. Ivy Press is now seeking a declaration that it is entitled to client funds that the firm was directed in the earlier case to pay to Ms. Defonseca and Ms. Lee."


Press Release: Legal Action Follows Expose of Holocaust Fraud

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Email contact: Caroline Best


April 9, 2008

Publisher seeks to overturn $33 million judgment

The third act of a decade-long legal drama began on April 8 when publisher Jane Daniel filed a complaint to overturn the judgment against herself and her company, Mt Ivy Press, brought by Misha Defonseca and her ghost writer Vera Lee, over their book, MISHA A Memoire of the Holocaust Years. The trial ended in 2001 with an award to the plaintiffs of $11 million, which was trebled by the court to $33 million, then the second largest award in Massachusetts history.

"This case has been an unbelievable ordeal. My hope now is that I will be able to restore my good name," says Daniel. The new lawsuit follows the stunning confession by Defonseca on February 28, 2008 that her autobiographical account of walking 3,000 miles across the European theater of war, at the age of seven, searching for her deported Jewish parents, at times living with wolves, was completely fabricated. Her book, an international bestseller, has been translated into 18 languages and made into a French feature film, "Survival with Wolves," that premiered in Paris in January.

Although there were historians who questioned the authenticity of the story, the hoax went unchallenged for twenty years until an American genealogist, Sharon Sergeant, unearthed documents that proved Defonseca's real identity and showed that she had spent the war years in the home of her Catholic family.

Daniel's attorney, Joseph Orlando of Gloucester, MA says his client's case is unprecedented in his experience. "In the Complaint we allege that Defonseca perpetrated a fraud and a hoax based upon one of the great historical tragedies known to mankind, the Holocaust and that Defonseca's fraudulent autobiography diminishes and mocks the unimaginable suffering of millions of Jews ... at the hands of the Nazis."

In July of 2007, Daniel began writing a book based on her decade-long legal battles and posting chapters as a blog, BESTSELLERthebook.blogspot.com, with the request that anyone having information on the case contact her. Five months later, forensic genealogist Sharon Sergeant emailed her expressing her belief that she could solve the mystery. The clues were limited. In Defonseca's account she says she never knew her Jewish surname, her date and place of birth or any family names. The name she used, Monique DeWael, was a "false identity," she said, given to her by the Belgian "foster family" that hid her from the Nazis. In addition to the lack of personal information on Defonseca, Sergeant's efforts were hampered by Belgium's privacy laws that seal all vital records for 100 years.

Sergeant assembled a team that included real Jewish hidden children in the U.S. and Belgium who were the key to bringing the truth to light. "This work was very 'close to the bone' for them. It brought back excruciating memories of their own lost families," says Sergeant. "They obtained Defonseca's baptismal record and her first grade school registration that provided the central evidence needed to uncover the fraud."

When the documents appeared on Daniel's blog, they set off a firestorm across the Belgian and French media, with hour-by-hour new revelations of mounting proof that Defonseca's "memoire" was based on lies, including an interview with her 88-year-old cousin who recalled her as a child. After ten days of intense pressure, Defonseca released a statement in the leading daily newspaper, Le Soir, saying, "It is not the truth but it is my truth. I always felt Jewish."

The text of the entire complaint is online at: Complaint Against Misha Defonseca, et. al.

# # #

Complaint Filed In Middlesex Superior Court Against Misha Defonseca et. al.

Yesterday a complaint was filed in Middlesex Superior Court on behalf of Jane Daniel and Mount Ivy press against Monique DeWael, a/k/a Misha Defonseca, Vera Lee, and Edwards, Angell, Palmer and Dodge. The complaint was filed by attorneys Joseph M. Orlando and Brian M. McCormick.

In part, the Complaint reads:


6. In 1994, the plaintiff, Daniel, was working as a publisher/editor at Mt Ivy Press, LP, a small publishing company, founded by the plaintiff, the previous year.

7. In the course of the plaintiff's business, the plaintiff, Daniel, met the defendant, Defonseca.

8. When the plaintiff first met the defendant, Defonseca, Defonseca related that:

a. As a Jewish child, age 7, she was living in Belgium, when her parents were arrested by the Nazis in 1941;

b. She was placed in a foster home, and she was given a false identity, Monique DeWael, age four. Such identity was assumed for the purposes of protecting herself from the Nazis;

c. Defonseca was befriended by a man, who she referred to as "grandfather," whose name was Ernest DeWael, who gave her a tiny compass, and showed her a map of Europe;

d. When Ernest DeWael expressed to Defonseca concern that the Nazis would come for her, Defonseca set out on a journey "to the East" in search of her parents;

e. Over the next four years, Defonseca walked three thousand miles across the European theater of war, hiding in forests where twice she was befriended by wolves.

9. Defonseca further related to the plaintiff that she had been telling her story, and soliciting contributions from speaking engagements since approximately 1989-1990, and had been warmly embraced by the Jewish community in the Boston area and elsewhere.

10. Upon hearing the story, as related by the defendant, Defonseca, the plaintiff offered to publish Defonseca's autobiography (hereinafter, "the book").

11. Defonseca engaged a French-speaking writer, defendant, Vera Lee, to ghostwrite Defonseca's story, as Defonseca's command of the English language was weak.

12. Defonseca and Lee signed a collaboration agreement, intended to set forth the respective rights of the parties.

13. Both Defonseca and Lee signed publishing agreements with Mt Ivy Press, LP, in August of 1995.

14. Both publishing agreements contained the following warranty:

A. The Author represents and warrants to the Publisher that, with respect to the Work as submitted by Author, excluding revisions or additions by Publisher (i) the Work is not in the public domain; (ii) the Author and her collaborator are the sole and exclusive owners of the Work and have full power, free of any rights of any nature whatsoever in any one that mightinterfere therewith, to enter into this Agreement and to grant the rights hereby conveyed to the Publisher, (iii) the Work has not heretofore been published in whole or in part; (iv) the Work is original except for material in the public domain and such excerpts from other works as may be included with the written permission of the owners thereof; (v) the Work does not, and if published will not, infringe upon any proprietary right at common law; or any statutory copyright, or trade names, or patent, or trademark rights, or any other right whatsoever, (vi) the Work contains no matter whatsoever that is obscene, libelous, in violation of any right of privacy, or otherwise in contravention of law or the right of any third party; (vii) all statements of fact are true or based upon reasonable belief, except for facts and identities deliberately misstated to preserve confidentiality or for other valid reasons, provided the Author notifies the Publisher thereof (viii) the Work, if biographical or “as told to” the Author, is authentic, and (ix) the Author will not hereafter enter into any agreement or understanding with any person, firm, or corporation that might conflict with the rights herein granted to the Publisher.

15. Defonseca and Lee set to work to draft the manuscript. Over time, disagreements arose between Lee and Defonseca regarding the scheduling of time to work together on the manuscript.

16. During the same time frame, disputes began to arise between Lee, Daniel, and Defonseca, regarding the plaintiff's editorial dissatisfaction with respect to the form, substance, and delayed production time of the manuscript.

17. Defonseca's account of her experience could not be subjected to standard verification and process, due to the absence of certain critical information, including, but not limited to:

a. Defonseca reported that she did not know, and had never been told, her Jewish surname;

b. She had simply been called "Mischke," and never known her parents by any names other than "Gerusha,"(her mother, a Russian Jew), and "Reuven,"(her father, a German Jew);

c. Her parents were emigrees to Belgium;

d. She did not know her place of birth, but represented that she suspected it may have been Poland.

18. In the course of her research, the plaintiff, Daniel, learned that, at times, Jewish children of the Holocaust lost their identities when their parents were taken away.

19. Without the names, date, and place of birth of "Mischke," it was not possible for the plaintiff to check the personal aspects of the story.

20. To ready the manuscript for publication, the plaintiff attempted to undertake fact checking, including verifying historical and descriptive details, researching historical events, studying the flora and fauna of geographical locations and investigating behavior of wolves in the wild, etc.

21. The plaintiff also sent the manuscript to wolf experts, and to Jewish scholars and Holocaust experts for review.

22. Enthusiastic endorsements were returned from several luminaries, including the chaplain of Brandeis University, Rabbi Albert Axelrod, Noble Laureate and renowned Holocaust survivor, Eli Wiesel, Leonard Zakim, director of the New England region of the Anti-Defamation League, and the North American Wolf Foundation.

23. The American book was published in April 1997, under the title, Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years. American edition, was followed shortly thereafter by a French version, published by Editions Lafont, under the title, Surivre avec les loups, (Survival with Wolves), the production of which was under the oversight of Defonseca exclusively. Neither Mt Ivy Press, nor Jane Daniel, had any input with respect to the French edition, other than to make several specific minor corrections request by Lafont. Other foreign editions followed.

24. Two significant changes were made in the Lafont editions, and subsequent editions controlled by Defonseca. Identifying photographs were removed, and the "false identity" of "Mischke" was changed from Monique DeWael, to Monique Valle.

25. In 1997, Lee initiated a suit against plaintiffs Daniel and Mt Ivy Press, and defendant, Defonseca, in Middlesex Superior Court, C.A. No. 98-2456, alleging, among other things, breach of contract.

26. From the inception of the underlying litigation in May 1998, until March 1999, Defonseca represented herself.

27. In the course of her self-representation, defendant, Defonseca, filed a counter-claim against Lee, affirmatively representing, among other things, breach of contract.

28. The counter-claim filed by Defonseca against Lee represented that Defonseca had complied with all of the terms of the collaboration agreement, including that the book was, "based on the author's life experience, accomplishments, and impact upon society."

To read the full text of the complaint, click here.

Press Release to follow.