Woman who Made Up Fake Holocaust Propaganda Bestseller is Forced to Pay Back $22.5 Million


A woman who invented a wild tale of survival during the holocaust has been ordered to forfeit the $22.5 million judgement she won from her publishers by a Massachusetts court.

Published in 1997, Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years is about a Jewish girl from Brussels who walked across Europe by herself after her parents were seized by "evil Nazis". Misha Defonseca, 76, and her ghostwriter Vera Lee won $32.4 million from publisher Jane Daniel and Mt Ivy Press in a copyright registration claim in 1998 in which Daniel was found to have conducted 'highly improper representations and activities.'

Daniel appealed, but in 2005 the Massachusetts Appeals Court upheld the judgement. However, during the appeal process, inconsistencies in Defonseca's outlandish tale began to attract the suspicion of Daniel, journalists, forensic genealogists, reports the Courthouse News Service.

In her memoir, Defonseca wrote that she trekked 1,900 miles across Europe in search of her parents. She spent months living in the forest with a pack of wolves, hiding from "evil Nazis" and in one encounter, stabbed an "evil Nazi rapist" to death.

These events all occurred when she was aged between seven and 11 years old, according to the book.

Following her trial loss, Daniel set out to determine whether Defonseca's tale was truthful.

She eventually located a document that included Defonseca's maiden name - which in the book was Levy - and her date and place of birth.

Her real name, Daniel found, was Monica Ernestine Josephine De Wael, and she was not Jewish.

During the time she was supposed to have been communing with wolves and killing evil Nazis, Defonseca was in actual fact enrolled in a Brussels school.

Defonseca, now living in Massachusetts, has admitted that her best-selling book was an elaborate fantasy she kept repeating, even as the book was translated into 18 languages and made into a feature film in France.

'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.

'I ask forgiveness to all who felt betrayed. I beg you to put yourself in my place, of a four-year-old girl who was very lost,' the statement said.

She admitted that her parents were arrested when she was four and she was taken care of by her grandfather and uncle.

Defonseca said she was poorly treated by her adopted family, called a 'daughter of a traitor' because of her parents' role in the resistance, which she said led her to 'feel Jewish.'

She said there were moments when she 'found it difficult to differentiate between what was real and what was part of my imagination.'

Defonseca had been asked to write the book by publisher Jane Daniel in the 1990s, after Daniel heard the writer tell the story in a Massachusetts synagogue.

Daniel and Defonseca fell out over profits received from the best-selling book, which led to a lawsuit. In 2005, a Boston court ordered Daniel to pay Defonseca and her ghost writer Vera Lee $32.4 million, of which Defonseca received $22.5 million.

In 2012, the Superior Court found that Defonseca had committed a fraud and set aside the verdict. She appealed and on April 29, Judge Marc Kantrowitz, in what he described as 'the third, and hopefully the last' opinion on the matter, agreed that the truth of Defonseca's story would have made a difference to the jury's deliberations.

Judge Kantrowitz noted that Defonseca and Daniel had both acted 'highly inappropriately,' and expressed the Court's hope that 'the saga has now come to an end,' reports Mondaq.

(Daily Mail)

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