Misha Defonseca, Author of Fake Holocaust Memoir, Ordered to Pay Back $22.5m to Publisher
Misha Defonseca, the author of "Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years" a fake memoir about how she was raised by wolves during the second world war, has been ordered to pay back $22.5 million (£13.3m) to her publisher.
The story was published almost 20 years ago. The book describers how the author's Jewish parents were taken by Nazis when she was six and how she set off across Belgium, Germany and Poland on foot to find them, living on stolen scraps of food until she was adopted by a pack of wolves.
The story became a bestseller, and was made into a film in France. But in 2008 the story was found to be a lie. The author, who was actually named Monique De Wael, said "it's not the true reality, but it is my reality", and "there are times when I find it difficult to differentiate between reality and my inner world".
It was also discovered that she wasn't even Jewish. In 2008 she said, "Yes, my name is Monique De Wael, but I have wanted to forget it since I was four years old. My parents were arrested and I was taken in by my grandfather, Ernest De Wael, and my uncle, Maurice De Wael. I was called 'daughter of a traitor' because my father was suspected of having talked under torture in the prison of Saint-Gilles. Ever since I can remember, I felt Jewish."
Before the truth was exposed, the author and Vera Lee, her ghost writer, had won $32.4 million from Mt Ivy, her US publisher, and its founder Jane Daniel after bringing a copyright case against them. Daniel then went on to appeal the ruling, and to look into and do her own research on the story, discovering documents that revealed Defonseca's date and place of birth, and that she was actually "enrolled in a Brussels school in 1943", reported Courthouse News.
A judge has now ruled that the author will have to pay back the money she was awarded, which is $22.5 million. The judge said, "The present case is unique. The falsity of the story is undisputed. Under oath, Defonseca averred that, notwithstanding her present understanding that her story was false, she believed throughout the book production process and trial underlying Mt Ivy I that her story was true; her parents were in fact taken away when she was four years old and murdered in Nazi concentration camps." The judge continued to express "no opinion as to whether Defonseca's belief in the veracity of her story was reasonable," Courthouse News reported. "However ... whether Defonseca's belief was reasonable or not, the introduction in evidence of the actual facts of her history at the trial underlying Mt. Ivy I could have made a significant difference in the jury's deliberations."