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Monday, December 29, 2008

Narratives

by Saul Bloodworth

I can't quite follow the outrage about the fake Holocaust memoir written by Herman Rosenblat (or his ghostwriter). So yes, he fabricated the part of the story that got him the book deal in the first place, the heartwarming story about his future wife throwing apples over the fence at Buchenwald.

So, everybody who is familiar with Buchenwald must know right away that this was made up. Buchenwald was not a place were children would get apples (let alone in the winter of 1944/1945). It was a very brutal camp for political prisoners, mainly Communists, Social Democrats and Union leaders, but also priests, Jehova's Witnesses, homosexuals and POWs, mainly from Tchechoslovakia, Poland, France and the Soviet Union, and also Gipsys. More than 50.000 died of hunger, cold, typhus, forced labor, or they were shot when they try to escape.

Among the prisoners were Leon Blum, the former French chancellor, also Ernst Heilmann, the head of the Democratic party in the Prussian government, who was killed, as well as Ernst Thälmann, the head of the Communist Party of Germany. He was killed as well.

Only a few of the inmates were Jewish, except for 1945, when Jews were brought there from Auschwitz. And I doubt there were a lot of children.

http://www.buchenwald.de/index_cten.html

So, why am I not outraged? Because, in the end, Rosenblat was a victim of an attitude created by the publishing industry as well as Hollywood: Confuse fact and fiction! Pretty much most stories sold to you as "based on a true story" are fake, for the simple reason that real life does not make good stories in terms of Hollywood storytelling, i.e. the suspense and the happy ending and the good/bad-guys formula. Oddly enough, the same publishers that want fiction to be true force non-fiction writers to include narrative elements.

Of course he could have sold that story as fiction, but in this case, the publisher would not have bought it. The problem is the publishing industry, not the Rosenblats. So, lets try to untangle fiction and non-fiction and just label everything correctly. It would be a great step towards reclaiming the truth.

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