6-year-old Misha is rescued at school in 1941 when her parents are arrested and deported. She is spirited away to the De Wael family and given a new name, Monique. Unhappy with her host family, she runs away in hopes of finding her parents. Over the next four years she wanders alone across Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Yugoslavia, across the Adriatic Sea by boat to Italy, then through Italy across the Alps to France and back to Belgium. Along the way, she is sheltered by packs of wolves, kills a German soldier, witnesses an eastbound freight train full of Jews, wanders into the Warsaw Ghetto, and escapes.This is the description of the best-selling holocaust memoir by Misha Defonseca. Living with packs of wolves? Killing German soldiers? Sneaking into the Warsaw ghetto? All at age 7? Doesn't this strain credulity?
Turns out that it does. Misha's real name is Monique De Wael, and not only is the whole story a lie, she's not even Jewish.
Finally caught in her lie, Defonesca was unapologetic:
I always felt different. It's true that, since forever, I felt Jewish and later in life could come to terms with myself by being welcomed by part of this community.
Misha... I mean Monique is not alone however, in fooling stupid book publishers. Take, for example, the book, "Love and Consequences":
In the vividly told book, Ms. Seltzer wrote about her African-American foster brothers, Terrell and Taye, who joined the Bloods gang when they were 11 and 13. She chronicled her experiences making drug deliveries for gang leaders at age 13 and how she was given her first gun as a birthday present when she was 14. Ms. Seltzer told The Times last week, “One of the first things I did once I started making drug money was to buy a burial plot.”They say truth is stranger than fiction, but sometimes, when a white girl from Sherman Oaks pitches you a story about her gang childhood, some red flags should be raised.
Sarah McGrath, the editor at Riverhead who worked with Ms. Seltzer for three years on the book, said she was stunned to discover that the author had lied.
Doesn't anybody fact-check anything anymore? Do we just take any Tom, Dick, Stephen Glass, James Frey and Nasdijj at his word?
“I’m not saying like I did it right,” Ms. Seltzer said. “I did not do it right. I thought I had an opportunity to make people understand the conditions that people live in and the reasons people make the choices from the choices they don’t have.” Ms. McGrath said that she had numerous conversations with Ms. Seltzer about being truthful. “She seems to be very, very naive,” Ms. McGrath said. “There was a way to do this book honestly and have it be just as compelling.”If Seltzer and Defonesca have taught us anything, its that book publishers will pretty much publish any bullshit story you pitch to them, as long as it has to do with the holocaust, minorities, or addiction.
With that in mind, I think it's time to share my absolutely true story with all of you loyal readers, as well as with any book publishers which may come across this:
"Hitler and Me, A Memoir"I'm available to do interviews, but please, don't ask me about the details. I think the story speaks for itself. Oh and book publishers? I expect a six figure advance.
The year was 1945, and I was living in an attic of a Berlin church, hiding from the Nazi death squads with a gypsy named Melina, a black man named Trevor, and a pack of wild wolves, named Snippy, Wolfy, and Janet. We all knew that the war was drawing to a close; Father Bretzger kept us informed from the reports he'd hear from travelling priests. Any day the Americans or the Russians would cross the German borders and liberate us from Hitler's tyranny. But I found it hard to be hopeful. In the three years Father Bretzger had kept me sheltered in his church, I'd become hopelessly addicted to the ceremonial wine he stored in the attic. The lush purple poison had infected my soul; I could think of nothing else.
Sweet, sweet Melina. She had a soft spot for me, and even though I was only seven years old, we had fallen deeply in love. But the alcohol, time and time again, came between us. One day I hit her while in a drunken stupor. Things weren't the same after that.
It was Trevor who confronted me. Told me I had to change my ways or risk throwing away the very thing that the Nazis wanted to take from me: my life. I vowed to go to rehab, but this being 1945 Germany, the options were few and far between.
I left the attic, disguised as a young altar boy, and went out into the streets of Berlin, which were still smoking from the previous night's bombardment by Allied bombers. I searched desperately for a free clinic that could help me cure my disease, but as the day wore on, I began to search desperately for something else-- that vile, intoxicating liquid that makes fools of men and makes sex-tape-whores of heirs to hotel fortunes.
I went down a flight of stairs, thinking it led to a dive bar, but instead, I was confronted by a heavy steel door. When I opened it, I could see a long hallway, barely lit by unadorned light bulbs. Following the hall, I emerged into what appeared to be a large bomb shelter. There, sitting on a bed, was a man and a woman. I recognized the man immediately.
"Well, hello," said Hitler. "What's an altar boy like you doing in a place like this?"
I knew what I had to do. Using the magic amulet I received from Melina, I hypnotized Hitler and his girlfriend and made them both drink cyanide. Within seconds, the monster was dead. I turned around and left the way I'd came, careful to avoid the evil eyes of the German SS patrols.
Emerging into the sunshine, I spied an open bar across the street. Through the windows I could see people happily imbibing, erasing the memories of the war by sucking down the strongest stuff they could find. The bouncer saw me staring, and sauntered over to me.
"Would you care for a drink, lad?"
In the distance, I could almost hear the distant tanks, the rhythmic stomping of boots, the buzzing of fighter planes-- the sound of liberty approaching. I looked up at the bouncer with a newfound confidence in my heart.
"A few minutes ago I would have said yes, my good sir," I replied. "But now I know I've still got some living to do, and I plan on living it."
With a smile, I pulled off my altar boy costume to reveal myself as I was, a Jew, wearing, with pride, a golden star of David on my sleeve.
"A Jew!" he cried out. "Seize him!" The Nazi guards approached, their eyes wild with hate.
Suddenly, the wolves jumped out from the shadows. Stunned, the Nazis could do nothing but allow themselves to be eaten. The bouncer tried to run into the bar, but he was gunned down by Trevor. "That's how we do it in South Central," he said, reloading his modified tek-9. "Bloods forever!"
I heard a soft voice behind me. "I always knew there was a hero inside of you."
I turned around. There was Melina, dressed in little more than the scarf Lindsay Lohan wore in that New York Magazine photo shoot to try and recreate those photos of Marilyn Monroe, but failed to because her freckles were distracting and ultimately Monroe had a certain fragility and elegance to her that Lindsay couldn't really match. Lindsay Lohan is such a whore.
Melina reached out to kiss me, but I pulled away. "I'm sorry Melina," I said. "But you'll always be a gypsy. And I'll always be a Jew. And I need to marry Jewish."
I turned towards Janet, who was wolfing down the remains of the SS soldier's testicles. She peered up at me with her sky blue eyes.
"Janet Rabinowitz," I said, "will you marry me?"
They could hear her howl of affirmation from Leningrad.