small, dark eyes squint into the light. Herman, 78, is standing silently in the corridor
behind her, an imposing man in glasses and a goatee.
I ask if they are Mr and Mrs Rosenblat. "No," she says flatly, in a thick eastern
European accent. "They're not here. They don't live here." But having already seen
photos of the couple, I know it is them. When I say I would like to give them a letter, it
is Herman who softens. He takes a few steps forward and gestures with his hands for
Roma to open the screen. She takes the letter and closes the door. As I walk away, I
wonder if either of them is struck by the irony that they are still lying about who they
Doubts about the Rosenblat memoir started circulating on the internet and were
mentioned by the eminent Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt on her website as early
as December 2007. Shortly afterwards, Danny Bloom, a 60-year-old expatriate Jewish
American living in Taiwan, picked up on some of the story's discrepancies and started
emailing academic experts asking them to look into the veracity of Rosenblat's account.
"I just remember thinking, 'How could this humanly be possible?'" says Bloom, over a
crackling, long-distance phone line. "My challenge was to prove it wasn't kosher."
One of the academics Bloom emailed was Ken Waltzer, the Madison professor of
Jewish studies at Michigan State University. Waltzer, who was writing a book about the
children of Buchenwald, had already made his own tentative inquiries into the Rosenblat
story. Strangely, out of all the survivors who had helped him with his research, Herman
Rosenblat was one of the few who did not respond to Waltzer's repeated requests for
"In November 2008, I was contacted by two forensic genealogists [Sharon Sergeant
and Colleen Fitzpatrick] who were investigating the memoir," he explains. "They were
able to give me maps of the Buchenwald sub-camp Schlieben [in south Brandenburg,
near Berlin]. We already knew from survivor testimonies that to go to the fence was
punishable by death and there was a high risk you would be electrocuted. The maps
showed that the only external fence was down by the SS barracks [the other three
faced inwards] and that civilians had been banned from the road that ran alongside it
since 1943 so there was no way that Herman and Roma could have had a rendezvous."
Father died in nearby Wolborz ghetto
Mother does not survive eight-day-long
sorting ghetto inmates based on work
October 1942-November 1944
Worked at the Deitrich Fischer woodworks
Transported to Buchenwald; Remains there
six days, Dec 2-8, 1944
December 8, 1844
Transported with brothers to Schlieben
satellite work camp; Built anti-tank weapons
in factory for five months
Evacuated to Theresienstadt
Early May 1945
Liberated from Theresienstadt
Father died from typhus in the Piotrkow
ghetto before liquidation of Ghetto
Mother does not survive one-day selection
when Piotrkow Ghetto liquidated; He tried
to follow her, but to save his life, she
pushes him away, saying she never loved
Transported to Buchenwald; worked in
crematorium for several months shoveling
Mid to late 1943
Transported to Schlieben; worked in
factory for seven months
About April 1945
Evacuated to Theresienstadt; Scheduled to
Early May 1945
Liberated from Theresienstadt
they told the story on Oprah. That event generated rising attention – placement in
Reader’s Digest, appearance in a collection titled Chicken Soup for the Couple’s Soul
(1999), and appearance in a collection called It’s a Miracle 2 (2003). Ultimately the
story was converted into a screenplay, Love is a Survivor (2003) -- a tale about an
angel at the fence of a Nazi camp and birth of a special love amidst the Nazi terror.
In a radio interview with Helen Glover of WHJJ Talk Radio in Providence, Rhode Island
By his own account, Herman Rosenblat was a teenager in the Schlieben Nazi
concentration camp in Germany. Roma Radzicki was a young girl living nearby on a
farm in the village, her family hiding as Polish Christians. While Herman was walking
near the camp fence one day, he spied a young girl hiding behind a tree in the forest
outside the fence. As their eyes met through the barbed wire, she stepped out and
threw him an apple. He took it and ran back to the barracks. Herman wrote: “I
returned to the same spot by the fence at the same time every day. She was always
there with something for me to eat…. We didn’t dare speak or linger. To be caught
would mean death for us both.” Every day after that, the little girl appeared at the fence
at the same time, she threw an apple or bread, he caught the food. They never spoke.
He never told anyone else, not even his three older brothers who were with him at
Schlieben or other prisoners. After several months, he told her that he wouldn’t see her
anymore, that he was being taken away.
Years later, on a blind date in New York, they found one another again by chance.
Now get ready to read about four more amazing love stories. The first, Oprah says, "is
the single greatest love story, in 22 years of doing this show, we've ever told on the air."
When he was 12, Herman Rosenblat and his family were taken from their home in
Poland and sent to a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. Young Herman was forced
to work shoveling bodies into a crematorium. All the while he did not know if he, too,
would soon be killed.
One day two years later, Herman walked up to the barbed wire fence and saw a girl on
the other side. "She says, 'What are you doing in there?'" Herman says. "I said to her,
'Can you give me something to eat?' And she took an apple out of her jacket."
The girl fed Herman an apple every day for seven months. Then one day he told her not
to come back—he was being moved to another camp. "A tear came down her eyes,"
Herman says. "And as I turned around and went back I started to cry, too. I started to
cry knowing that I might not see her again."
Herman was shipped to Czechoslovakia. Just two hours before he was scheduled to die
in the gas chambers there, Russian troops liberated the camp and Herman was set free.
UPDATE: On December 27, 2008, Herman Rosenblat admitted to fictionalizing portions
of his life story, including how he met his wife. Based on this admission, the publisher
of his forthcoming memoir—Angel at the Fence —cancelled plans to print his book.
When Oprah chose Love in the Time of Cholera by Nobel
Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez for her Book
Club, she chose one of the greatest love stories ever
written. This exploration of a 50-year affair explores the
nature of love in all its forms—passion, lust, infidelity and
Herman Rosenblat survived a Nazi death camp. Fifty years on, he told Oprah of the
little girl who had thrown food over the fence and kept him alive. Years later they
married. But, as he prepared to publish his sensational memoir, the truth emerged ...
|The Rosenblat story is so
sad. Why is Atlantic Pictures
making a film based on a lie?
Why didn't Oprah check the
story out before publicizing
it, especially after James
Frey and given that many
bloggers like Deborah
Lipstadt said in 2007 that the
Rosenblat's story couldn't be
Genuine love stories from
the Holocaust do exist. My
favorite is the one about
Dina Gottliebova Babbitt -
the beautiful young art
student who painted Snow
White and the Seven
Dwarves on the children's
barracks at Auschwitz to
cheer them up. This painting
This couple, though I don't think anything was malicious, sure played this story out for
all its worth. It makes one think about the harm this type of "inventiveness" does to the
real stories of the holocaust survivors and the truth of the holocaust itself.
N.B. It depends on your definition of malicious. They hurt their families, their
friends, and all Holocaust survivors with their lives.
I know the articles say Oprah cried because of the love story... but i'd bet she was also
crying over being fooled again... i side with the camp -- call it a work of historical
fiction, and let it go... Karen Petrus
I'm sorry, but I really don't care when or why Oprah cried. Just google "Oprah cry" to
get an idea how often she does it. Tamura Jones
How very sad that there are people out there like that. It just gives credibility to the
creeps who claim the Holocaust never happened. Keep up your good work.
Bravo, Colleen! Such a sad, disappointing life they've had. Lisa Thaler
They shame every one who survived (and didn’t) by their lies. The truth was bad
enough. Betty Chambers
I have corresponded, over the years, a few times, with Sharon Sergeant, an excellent
genealogist. Old Herman certainly had a lot of intestinal fortitude (the wrong kind) to
stick to such an obviously false claim, in view of the mounting evidence showing what
he was telling was not what happened. Bill Utterback
Both [the Rosenblat and Defonseca] stories were interesting and could have made
fictional bestsellers. I don't understand why these people insist on claiming they are
true when they are not. Everyone is touchy about anything concerning the holocaust
and if you tell a lie it is sure to be found out. Are they so starved for any kind of
attention that they will resort to lies? Regarding the link [to the news that a new version
of the apple story is coming out]: So now someone is writing a story about a man
writing a story about a story that will be made into a movie? Marilyn Hamill
Too, too easy! This is the story you helped debunk about Herman and Roma Rosenblat.
The story was a hoax so the movie was cancelled. Oprah called it the greatest love
story ever told. I understand the book "The Apple" is being published September 1,
2009 by York Press as a novel and the movie might still be made. Penelope Holt is still
the author. Dawn Carlile
Good work again. I haven't read his book and don't intend to but I read several
comments that it is a good story and would have been successful if he had just written
it as fiction. Caroline Pointer
Well, thank you for your work on exposing his lies. No matter what his stated
intentions for lying were, his story once exposed as a lie would be used by those who
deny that the holocaust occurred to support their crazy theories. That would have been
a tragedy, since according to Herman, he was only trying to tell an uplifting story.
|TWO SOUR APPLES
Herman Rosenblat and Roma Radzicki penned a story,
Of how Roma tossed apples to Herman over a fence.
The story locale was a German prison camp during WW II
That contributed to the terrible Holocaust offence.
The story eventually discredited by other prisoners,
Detailing the prohibitive layout of the prison fence.
Ophah Winfrey sponsor of the apple tossing episode,
Brought tears to her eyes as the story made no sense.
A nice ending story that one wants to believe,
Needs in-depth study of the "apple" to be creditable.
Wanting to believe does not make it so,
You must peel the skin to make the "apple" eatable.
Robert Edward McKenna
Quiz Poet Laureate
It's a great love story
Said Oprah with tears
As Herman kissed Roma
Hi wife of some years.
To show her his love
He knelt on one knee.
He gave her a ring
Right there on TV
Too bad for them both
It was such a lie
They fooled poor old Oprah
(But so did James Frey).
Their book now is history
The movie not so
Harris Salomon is hoping
To make it a go.
But a fraud is a fraud
Let's hope he does fail
Why bother us still
With this tall phony tale?
I know the back story
I was there on the spot
When we found Roma where
Herman claimed she was not.
We allowed Dr Waltzer
To speak for the group
He's the expert on Buchenwald
And knew the whole scoop.
Wherever there's money
And a public to swoon
This will happen again
But let's hope it's not soon.
Quiz Poet Laureate
Robert E. McKenna
1. Mother was not a victim of a one-day selection
during the liquidation of the Piotrkow Ghetto in
October 1942; She was selected for transportduring
over an eight-day sorting based on the status of her
2. She did not push him away, saying she did not
3. His father did not die of typhus in the Piotrkow
Ghetto. He died of unknown causes in the nearby
4. Herman was not transported "that year or a year
August 9, 2008
What's Bugging Me?
|This was a section of R.R.
track approx 7 miles long
that was built in 1943
from the main town to the
concentration camp of
Buchenwald Germany. It
was built by detainees in
three months and served
to supply the armaments
factory and later bring in
and out thousands of
|Discrepancies in Herman's Story
Herman said Roma spoke that night of
hiding on a farm near a camp during the
war, of a boy she visited regularly who
was a prisoner, bringing him apples at the
fence, until the boy one day disappeared.
“Did he tell you one day not to come back
because he was leaving Schlieben? That
was me!” Herman told Roma. In 1958,
six months later, they married in a Bronx
synagogue. Then nearly forty years later,
|What's Wrong with This Picture?
|The Story about the Story
|"Angel at the Fence," Holocaust survivor Herman
Rosenblat's memoir, was touted by talk show host Oprah
Winfrey as "the single greatest love story in 22 years of
doing this show." But last week Berkley Books, an imprint
of the Penguin Group, announced it was canceling the
February 2009 publication of the book after Rosenblat
admitted that his account of meeting his wife, Roma, in a
concentration camp during World War II had been
fabricated. The couple actually met on a blind date in New
York after the war. Accusations of falsity by scholars and
relatives started building in the months after Rosenblat
appeared twice on "Oprah" to promote the book. "I
wanted to bring happiness to people," Rosenblat said later
in a statement. abcnews.go.com/US/popup?id=2784903
|If you have a picture you'd like us to feature a picture in a future quiz, please
email it to us at CFitzp@aol.com. If we use it, you will receive a free analysis of
your picture. You will also receive a free Forensic Genealogy CD or a 10%
discount towards the purchase of the Forensic Genealogy book.
1. The story was a hoax.
2. Herman and Roma Radzicki Rosenblat
3. She was moved by their love story (before it was debunked).
|Click here to see results of
5th occasional photoquiz survey.
|Other Notable Literary Frauds
|Does Publishing Need
Publishers Weekly Interview with
Colleen Fitzpatrick and Sharon
by Judith Rosen
January 12, 2009
|Herman Rosenblat and Roma Radzicki were married in 1958.
|If you enjoy our quizzes, don't forget to order our books!
Herman Rosenblat knew how to tell a story. At family occasions, he was the one who
would spin fantastic yarns with only a kernel of truth. He was the clown, the joker, the
raconteur whose tales had to be taken with a liberal pinch of salt. "I remember him
laughing, being silly and making jokes that weren't funny," recalls his wife's nephew,
Bernard Haykel. "He was quite a jovial character, fun-loving. He always seemed pretty
One of Uncle Herman's favourite stories was about how he met his wife Roma. He
would recount the astonishing tale of how, as an 11-year-old Polish Jew interned by the
Nazis in a sub-camp of Buchenwald, he was sustained by a young girl who came each
day to throw him apples over the fence. He never knew her name. In 1945, Rosenblat
and his three elder brothers were liberated by allied troops from Theresienstadt
concentration camp, where they had been transferred shortly before the armistice.
|Comments from Our Readers
|became the reason Dina and her Mother survived
Auschwitz. After the end of the war, Dina applied for an
art job in Paris. Unbeknownst to Dina, her interviewer
was the lead animator on Snow White and the Seven
Dwarfs. They fell in love and got married. It's such a
romantic love story.
Another reason I love Dina's story is the tremendous
courage she had to paint the mural in the first place.
Painting the mural for the children caused her to be
taken to Dr. Mengele, the Angel of Death. She thought
she was going to be gassed, but bravely she stood up to
Mengele and he made her his portrait painter, saving
herself and her mother from the gas chamber.
Dina's story is also verified to be true. Some of the
paintings she did for Mengele in Auschwitz survived the
war and are at the Auschwitz Birkenau Museum. The
story of her painting the mural of Snow White and the
Seven Dwarfs on the children's barrack has been
corroborated by many other Auschwitz prisoners, and
of course her love and marriage to the animator of
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs the Disney movie
after the war in Paris is also documented.
Why wasn't the Rosenblatt's story checked out before it
was published and picked up to have the movie made??
I would like to see true and wonderful stories like Dina's
be publicized, not these hoax tales that destroy
credibility and trust. Dorian
|This couple's love story was the subject of a children's book,
and there were plans to make it into a feature length motion picture.
later" (1942-1945) to Buchenwald. He remained in the Piotrkow area working at the
Dietrich-Fischer woodworks until December 1944.
5. Herman was not in Buchenwald for many months. He was there for six days.
6. Herman did not work in the Buchenwald crematorium shoveling bodies. He was
placed with other Piotrkower in the little camp, a quarantine camp, where prisoners
were not assigned work at all.
6. Herman was not in Schlieben for seven months (during which time he claimed he
received apples from the little girl). He was in Schlieben for five months.
7. Herman said the little girl threw apples to him over the Schlieben camp fence. The
fence was bordered by other sections of the camp. The only section of the fence that
was left exposed to the outside was next to an SS barracks that was guarded by a
machine gun tower 24 hours a day.
8. In early versions of his story, Herman claimed he was scheduled to be gassed at
Theresienstadt on a day after the war ended.
9. In some versions Herman said he was told to report the next day to be gassed after
they reached Theresienstadt in April 1945. Prisoners were never "told to report to be
gassed". Nazis never informed camp inmates of their impending deaths.
10.. Herman said he worred that the prisoners being evacuated from Schlieben would
be gassed at Theresienstadt. There were no gas chambers at Theresienstadt.
The most important discrpancy of all - the one that could not be explained away:
11. Herman claimed that Roma Radzicki and her family were hiding as Polish Christian
farm workers in the Schlieben area. According to family friends, and by testimony
provided by Roma's sister to the Jewish Claims Conference, the family was hiding
several hundred miles away in Brieg near Breslau on the Oder River. The area is now in
Poland and is known as Brzeg.
|Congratulations to Our Winners!
Carl Blessing Bill Utterback
Paula Harris Betty Ware
Gary Sterne Debbie Sterbinsky
Anne Alves Stan Read
Judy Pfaff Marilyn Hamill
Diane Burkett Deena Proctor
Delores Martin Linda Templer Alexander
Sharon Martin Betty Chambers
Fred Stuart Robin Depietro
Tamura Jones Rick Mackinney
Milene Rawlinson Dennis Brann
Deborah Campisano Charlie Wayne
Jim Kiser Lisa Thaler
Gina Hudson Mike Swierczewski
Beth Long Edee Scott
Kathy Henderson Sandra McConathy
Carolyn Cornelius Jim Baker
Roxanne Connelly Don Draper
Linda MacIver Maureen O'Connor
Elaine C. Hebert Justin Campoli
Mike Dalton Karen Petrus
Michael Adan Robert Steinmann
Dawn Carlile Caroline Pointer
Karen Kay Bunting Justin Campoli
Caroline Pointer Brian Kemp
Robert E. Mackenna, QPL
|1. Why were these plans canceled?
2. What are their names?
3. How did they cause Oprah Winfrey to cry on the air?
|Read Dina's Story
Note that this story is still posted on Oprah.com, although there is now a disclaimer
included at the end of the original text.
by Ken Waltzer, Professor of Jewish Studies, The Michigan State University
in summer 2008, Rosenblat talked about his
father’s death from typhus in the Piotrkow
ghetto and the deportation of his mother in
October 1942 to Treblinka. Herman said he
was standing with his mother during the Nazi
action but she pushed him away to his older
brothers: “You get away from me, I don’t
want to see you anymore,” she told him.
Thereafter, he worked with his brothers and
cousins in a factor labor camp where a portion
of the 1700 Jews who remained in Piotrkow
slaved for the Nazi overlords. He said in varied published accounts and also in this
interview that he was then brought to Buchenwald that year or maybe a year later, and
that at Buchenwald he was made to work in the quarry and in the basement of the
crematorium moving dead bodies during the two-three months he was there.
Rosenblat then talked about being at Schlieben, working nights and sleeping days, and
also of a dream he had there of his mother, who he said had earlier sent him to life in
the ghetto, telling him she would soon send an angel to help him. Thereafter, the little
girl began coming regularly and her support, said Herman, assisted his health and
Subsequently, he said he worried that the prisoners being evacuated from Schlieben
would be gassed at Theresienstadt (in early versions he claimed he was scheduled to be
gassed at Theresienstadt on a day after the war ended, but this drew criticism from
survivors and was corrected). Thereafter, Herman and his brothers survived the final
transport from Schlieben, arriving at Theresienstadt which was under control of the
Red Cross. The prisoners in the camp were soon liberated by the Russians.
|Children's Version of Book
Now canceled by Penguin.
Twelve years later, Rosenblat was living in
New York when a friend set him up on a
blind date. In an incredible twist of fate,
the curly-haired woman with green eyes
who was his date for the evening turned
out to be his childhood saviour, the girl
who had thrown him apples all those years
before: his "angel at the fence". He
proposed on the spot, against the twinkling
lights of the Coney Island amusement
parks. They were married in 1958 and had
two children, Ken, born in 1960, followed
two years later by their daughter, Renee.
To begin with, it was an anecdote he
shared only with friends or new
acquaintances. Then, in 1995, Rosenblat
wrote it up and entered a newspaper
competition to find the best Valentine's
Day-themed short story. He won and his
story was featured on the front page of the
New York Post. Television crews and local
reporters swiftly tracked the couple down.
Within months, the Rosenblats were
appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show,
sitting hand in hand on a cream sofa, in the
full glare of studio lights.
In the years that followed, Rosenblat was
signed up by a literary agent who brokered
a book deal. A movie producer expressed
an interest in adapting his story for the big
screen. The Rosenblats, now living in
Miami, began appearing at local schools
and Holocaust-education centres, with
Herman giving his moving account of how
love triumphed over the forces of hatred.
He enjoyed the attention. "He was very jolly
but he was also a show-off," says Sidney
Finkel, 77, a lifelong family friend. He was
from the same Polish town as the
Rosenblat brothers and was interned with
them at Buchenwald. "He was always
bragging about all the publicity he got. He
wanted to stand out so badly."
In 2007, the couple appeared once more on
The Oprah Winfrey Show where Rosenblat
got down on one knee to profess his
continuing devotion to his wife. Oprah,
teary with emotion, described it as "the
single greatest love story we've ever told
on the air". The following year saw the
publication of a book for younger readers,
Angel Girl, written by children's author
Laurie Friedman. Rosenblat's memoir,
Angel at the Fence, was slated for
publication by Berkley Books in 2009.
Richard Dreyfuss was rumoured to have
signed up for the $25m film adaptation.
Life was good for the Rosenblats.
There was just one problem - it wasn't
true. Although Rosenblat did survive the
Holocaust and his marriage to Roma was
genuine, the story of a young girl throwing
him apples was a fabrication. His "angel at
the fence" was a fake.
Today, the Rosenblats live in a dispiriting
sprawl of beige 1970s apartment blocks in
North Miami, just up the freeway from the
Aventura Mall shopping complex that
caters for the constant stream of tourists
who come in search of year-round Florida
sunshine. The condominium has seen
better days. The Rosenblats' front door,
painted a dull green, now peeling,
overlooks a communal garden with a
neglected swimming pool where the
younger residents come to hang out and
smoke joints. Security guards are posted at
the entrance of the car park.
When I ring their bell, Roma answers, her
unsmiling face blurred by the mesh of the
security screen. She is a squat but
formidable 76-year-old, wearing a striped
shirt over cream trousers and lumpish
slippers. Her short hair is dyed brown. Her