December 29 2008

Once Again, Oprah Is Fooled

oprah shockedPoor, Oprah. She just can’t pick a book, can she?

Remember when Oprah got duped by James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces?  She was steadfastly behind this book about a man’s trials with drug addiction, even making it one of her precious “Oprah’s Book Club” choices.  Then it came to light that he had made the vast majority of it up.  She had him come back on the show and chastised him for fooling her and the readers.

Think she will do the same with Herman Rosenblat?

Over the years, Mr. Rosenblat has become famous for his tale of how he met his future wife while he was at Schlieben, a sub-division of the Nazi Buchenwald concentration camp.  The story goes that Mr. Rosenblat met a young Jewish girl, Roma Radzicki, who lived near the camp, but her family was posing as Christians, when she approached the fence one day.  Over the next few months she passed food to him through the fence, but they lost contact when he was moved to another camp.

Then in 1957, Mr. Rosenblat was set up on a blind date in Coney Island, NY, and he recognized the girl immediately to be the girl that passed him food years before.  They married not long after that, and have now been together for 50 years.

Ms. Winfrey has referred to as “the single greatest love story … we’ve ever told on the air.”  The problem is that it has now been revealed to be a hoax.

Due to the popularity of the story, it was due to be published as a book entitled Angel at the Fence: The True Story of a Love that Survived in February by Berkley Books.  The book has now been canceled and a demand has been made for Mr. Rosenblat to return his advance.  However, the $25 million dollar movie that is slated to be made of the story is still going forward as they had planned to fictionalize large portions of it.

According to Times Online, the story was revealed as a hoax by Ben Helfgott, a former Schlieben inmate, in the New Republic magazine.  He says that the story is a complete fabrication, and other experts on Schlieben have said the story was impossible because where Mr. Rosenblat says this all took place would have put him right next to the SS barracks.

Mr. Rosenblat is quoted as saying:

I wanted to bring happiness to people.  I brought hope to a lot of people. My motivation was to make good in this world.

That is all well and good, but perhaps you shouldn’t have told people it was true?  He continued to report this story to be true for years, and through two appearances on the Oprah show.  He had ample oppurtunity to tell people it was made up, and people would have probably still enjoyed it, but instead he continued the lie, and was happy to make money off of it.  That is where he sunk himself.

According to a story by the Associated Press, publishers admit they are not fact checking books because of the volume of releases each year, and it would simply cost them too much to check each one.  To that I say, “tough luck.”  Since when has checking facts become too much of a hassle?  Are publishers now saying that the truth no longer matters?  “Well, it looks sorta true… good enough.”

And what of Oprah?  Has she not learned her lesson?  Should she not be looking to check facts after that whole Frey debacle?  What is that old saying again?  “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me”?  Well, guess what, Oprah… shame on you.

This whole thing is sickening.  It plays on people’s guilt about the Holocaust, it plays to people who are desperate for stories that show love can survive anything, and it just stinks in general that someone could lie for years and feel that is perfectly okay.

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