Last week, TNR published an article by Gabriel Sherman, whose original reporting revealed that a new Oprah-touted Holocaust memoir, Angel at the Fence, was a hoax. Based on interviews with top scholars, Sherman concluded that Herman Rosenblat likely fabricated his story of having been saved in a sub-camp of the Buchenwald concentration camp by a girl who threw apples to him over the fence. (According to Rosenblat's story, he later met her in New York on a blind date and married her.) The publishing company stopped responding to Sherman when he questioned the book's fact-checking process. Rosenblat's agent refused to comment for the original article, but Harris Salamon, the producer of a new movie based on Rosenblat's story, vociferously defended the story's veracity to Sherman. (TNR’s Noam Scheiber criticized “Rosenblat’s shameless defenders” who “invoke the fabricator's moral authority as a survivor to defend the apparent lies or embellishments.”)
Over the next two days, Sherman continued to report the story. On the morning of December 26, responding to Sherman's first article, Berkley released a statement to the Associated Press affirming that the publisher and author stood behind the story. Later that day, Sherman published a second article, in which Rosenblat's sister-in-law and three other Holocaust survivors all confirmed that the story was fabricated. Sherman also received more information regarding the scant to nonexistent fact-checking process for the book. The publisher also refused to comment for the second article.
The day after Sherman’s second article appeared, Rosenblat confessed to his agent, Andrea Hurst, that he had fabricated the love story, and Berkley announced that they are canceling the publication of the book. Following the announcement, Kenneth Waltzer, the Michigan State professor who originally questioned the story’s veracity, spoke to Sherman about the danger of Rosenblat’s fabrication. Hurst emailed a statement to say that she is “stunned and disappointed” by the lie. Salamon says that he will still be making the movie as a “fictionalized adaptation of his story,” but that he "may rewrite elements of the script to reflect recent revelations.” Sherman also spoke with Rosenblat's son after the revelation, who described the episode as "always hurtful."
On the evening of December 28, after both of Sherman's articles and follow-up interviews appeared, The New York Times published an account by Joseph Berger and Motoko Rich of the contorversy around Angel at the Fence. According to a source, Berger had received a tip weeks ago that Rosenblat's memoir was a hoax. But after initially interviewing Rosenblat, Berger concluded that his story held up, and didn't pursue it.
Sherman reported on December 29 that Salamon is considering legal action against the publishing company, while Hurst has consulted a lawyer to protect her interests. "I wanted to help him make his dream come true. From a dream to a nightmare, it is still unbelievable to me," Hurst told Sherman. The publisher of a children's book based on Rosenblat's story, Angel Girl, has now pulled the book from stores and is offering refunds for people who had bought it.