Monday, December 29, 2008

Forensic Genealogy strikes again

I read this morning in the San Diego Union-Tribune that the Holocaust love story in the book Angel at the Fence by Herman Rosenblat was fictional - I'm sure many of you are dismayed that an author could fool a publisher and a TV star like Oprah Winfrey with this story. However, he didn't fool fact-checkers at The New Republic or two forensic genealogists, Colleen Fitzpatrick and Sharon Sergeant.

Colleen passed me these links in email last night:

* Original article in The New Republic framing the controversy about the Holocaust love story Angel at the Fence by Herman Rosenblat

* Framework of doubts about the story

* Cancellation of the book by Berkeley Penguin Press published in The New Republic, Rosenblats must return advance

* Dismay expressed by Herman's literary agent, etc. that the story was a lie

* Deborah Lipstadt's blog carries statement from Ken Waltzer, Professor of Jewish Studies at Michigan State University

The latter blog article gives Colleen Fitzpatrick and Sharon Sergeant credit for the research they did to bring about the confession. Unfortunately, there are no details about the research done by the two intrepid forensic genealogists. I hope that they will tell us more in the coming days and weeks.

Colleen Fitzpatrick's web site is

Sharon Sergeant's web site is Sharon has two articles as of today about this case, but no details of the research yet.

You may recall that, back in February 2008, Sharon was the researcher who led a research team, thati ncluded Colleen, that built an airtight case that proved that Misha DeFonseca was not a Jewish child with a forgotten surname or raised by wolves. See my post about this case here. Sharon wrote an article about this case for the NGS Quarterly dated September 2008.

Which podcaster will be the first to bring the research details to us? Or will the news media show some interest in the forensic genealogy of this case beyond the shaming of the author? Hopefully, Sharon will write another NGSQ article about the Rosenblat case.

Sharon's article says "The long arms of truth in history can reach to yesterday, a decade ago or centuries past." Sharon and Colleen are setting excellent examples of finding truth in history - and all genealogists should be following their lead when pursuing their family history. We can all learn more about analyzing difficult problems by reading about cases like these.


Miriam Robbins said...

Hi, Randy! I just awarded you with the Proximidade Award.

William said...

This hoax is a tragedy. The Rosenblats have hurt Jews all over and given support to those who deny the holocaust. I don't understand why Atlantic Pictures is still proceeding to make a film based on a lie. I also don't understand how Oprah could have publicized this story, especially after James Frey and given that many bloggers like Deborah Lipstadt said in 2007 that the Rosenblat's story couldn't be true.
There are so many other worthwhile projects based on genuine love stories from the Holocaust. My favorite is the one about Dina Gottliebova Babbitt - the beautiful young art student who painted Snow White and the Seven Dwarves on the children's barracks at Auschwitz. This painting became the reason Dina and her Mother survived Auschwitz. After the end of the war, Dina applied for an art job in Paris. Unbeknownst to Dina, her interviewer was the lead animator on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. They fell in love and got married. Now that's a romantic love story! I also admire Dina for her tremendous courage to paint the mural in the first place. Painting the mural for the children caused her to be taken to Dr. Mengele, the Angel of Death. She thought she was going to be gassed, but bravely she stood up to Mengele and he made her his portrait painter, saving herself and her mother from the gas chamber.

Also, Dina's story has been verified as true. Some of the paintings she did for Mengele in Auschwitz survived the war and are at the Auschwitz Birkenau Museum. The story of her painting the mural of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on the children's barrack has been corroborated by many other Auschwitz prisoners, and of course her love and marriage to the animator of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs the Disney movie after the war in Paris is also documented.

Why wasn't the Rosenblatt's story checked out before it was published and picked up to have the movie made?? I would like to see true and wonderful stories like Dina's be publicized, not these hoax tales that destroy credibility and trust.

Abba-Dad said...

I first read about this story in one of those viral e-mails that I get from too many people. I read it with interest and then thought to myself - no way! That is one helluva cosmic coincidence and there is no way this is not fiction. Literary license, I called it.

So I am not surprised at all that it's not true. I am not sure though why so many people are in such an uproar. There's a really easy way to handle the situation. Don't buy the book. Don't watch the movie. Simple.