NEW YORK - "Herman Rosenblat and his wife are the most gentle, loving, beautiful people," literary agent Andrea Hurst said Sunday, anguishing over why she, and so many others, were taken by Rosenblat's story of love born on opposite sides of a barbed-wire fence at a concentration camp.
"I question why I never questioned it. I believed it; it was an incredible, hope-filled story."
On Saturday, Berkley Books canceled Rosenblat's memoir, "Angel at the Fence," after he acknowledged that he and his wife did not meet, as they had said for years, at a sub-camp of Buchenwald, where she allegedly sneaked him apples and bread. The book was supposed to come out in February.
Rosenblat, 79, has been married to the former Roma Radzicky for 50 years, since meeting her on a blind date in New York. In a statement issued Saturday through his agent, he described himself as an advocate of love and tolerance who falsified his past to better spread his message.
Rosenblat's believers included not only his agent and his publisher, but TV talk host Oprah Winfrey, film producers, journalists, family members, school children and strangers online who ignored, or didn't know about, the warnings from scholars and skeptics that his story didn't make sense.
Publishing, the most trusting of industries, has again been burned by a memoir that fact-checking might have prevented. Berkley is an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), which in March pulled Margaret B. Jones' "Love and Consequences" after the author acknowledged that she had invented her story of gang life in Los Angeles. Winfrey fell, as she did with James Frey, for a narrative of suffering and redemption better suited for television than for history.
"If I ever take on another memoir, they're going to have to prove everything, every line," Hurst said. "From now on, I may just stick to basic fiction and nonfiction." *