The International Campaign for Real History
Check out the new David Irving bookstore at

Posted Monday, March 17, 2008

[] Index to the Traditional Enemies of Free Speech
[] Alphabetical index (text)


Quick navigation

The Boston Globe: Faked Holocaust memoir: Den of lies

Boston Globe, United States -- Mar 1, 2008

In 1997, Jane Daniel published a sensational memoir about a young girl fleeing the Nazis and living with wolves. Ever since, she's been trying to prove it's [fake]

Comment by Vera Lee, Professor Emerita, Boston College, March 7, 2008:

My Role

IN THE summer of 1995, my close friend and next-door neighbor, Jane Daniel, phoned, asking me to take over the ghostwriting of the story of Misha Defonseca. Jane had a small desktop publishing company, Mt. Ivy Press, set up in her basement. She had heard Misha speak in public about her unusual experiences as a child escaping from the Nazis in the Second World War, and she convinced Misha to let Mt. Ivy Press publish her story.

When Jane asked me to take on the ghostwriting job I immediately said no. I preferred to work on my own as an author and had no interest in collaborating on a writing project no matter how fascinating the story. Jane persisted. She explained that C--, the woman she had engaged as ghostwriter, was no longer in the picture because she had "betrayed" Jane, and she needed to replace her. (I discovered later that C--. herself had withdrawn from the job when she suspected Jane wasn't being honest or fair with her). Jane assured me there would be a lot of money in it for me, but money was not the point. I kept refusing the job and suggesting other possibilities for collaborators. She had objections to all alternatives. It was finally when Jane said "You're the only one I can trust," that I said, "All right, I'll do it - as a friend."

I did not hire a lawyer to go over the contract, since Jane objected strenuously if her authors had recourse to lawyers. Instead, Jane and I met with Misha at her home in Millis in August of 1995, and after skimming two contracts (one with Mt. Ivy Press and one with Misha), I signed both contracts, no questions asked.

If all of the above sounds terribly naïve on my part, I can only say that nothing in my previous years associating with Jane gave me the slightest inkling that she might be untrustworthy or less of a friend than I was to her.

Before the contract signing in Millis, I had met Misha once, when Jane invited us over to lunch at her place, earlier that summer. I guess it was Misha's chance to look me over. I knew Misha was an ardent animal lover and thought she might sense that I myself was not used to animals around me and did not share her enthusiasm for them. Jane's huge Doberman, Asia, was much in evidence and for some reason kept sidling up to me. I figured I'd better make the effort and give the creature a pat. Jane and I briefly exchanged glances, both holding back a laugh as I actually managed to stick my hand briefly on Asia's back rather than saying something like "Go 'way, thing." It reminded me of my job interview at Boston College, in full view of AVP Fr. Donovan's golden retriever. In both instances I somehow passed the test.

So the wheels went into motion. Around twice a week I made the trip out to Millis with my tape recorder and notebook, spending around a couple of hours there. It wasn't always easy going, since Misha tended to digress a lot, speaking at length about events in her more recent past. I would turn off the recorder and stop note taking until I could get her back on the track, starting from her earliest memories. She was clearly disappointed when I would wind up a session and invited me several times to stay for supper, but our interviews were so intensive, and I often wanted to be home early enough to nap and prepare myself for dancing. Misha seemed to feel at times as though the dancing impinged on our work, but there was only so much I could absorb at a session.

Did I sense the whole thing was a hoax? Not at all. For me, she was a Jewish woman with a Jewish past, parents executed and pretty much on her own as a child. When I did encounter improbabilities or discrepancies I'd go over them with Misha, or, if something didn't gel I'd often get to the library (this was Before Google Time) and research the question.

At one point, however, wondering whether readers might find the story far fetched, I phoned one of the people in charge of "Facing History," in Brookline and briefly ran through the main lines of the plot with him. To my disappointment, he balked, especially at the child's journey on foot through Germany in the Second World War. Concerned that Jane might have mud in her face if she proceeded in view of such opposition, I told her about the conversation and the man's negative reaction. Her answer was "There's no problem; this is the story of a woman's childhood memories, so of course you can't expect 100% accuracy."

So for several months the interview process continued. My aim was to get under Misha's skin, to find out what she was feeling at every point of the way, so that I could convey those feelings to readers. "How did you feel when--? Can you focus on your reaction and tell me more concretely what it was like? Where in your body you felt it? Etc. She came up with an especially good metaphor once, likening her reaction to an egg emptied of its contents.

One problem: Misha wanted to lecture readers about how wonderful animals were compared to the inferior human species. I kept trying to tell her that readers would not respond well to guilt trips and that rather than lecture them, she should let them understand her helplessness and grief from the story itself, let them empathize with the little heroine. Jane-who would remain supportive until she had my manuscript in hand-backed me up there a hundred percent.

Much of this preparatory process was painful. When I would go over with Misha the terrible things that (presumably) happened to her, I became deeply, emotionally involved. And I hated having to read about the Holocaust, about the concentration camps and the rest, but it had to be done. All that seems ironic now, in view of Misha's recent revelations re the hoax.

The next stage consisted of writing, continued research and writing. Although according to the contract I was to submit a draft to Jane, I submitted each chapter, incorporated her editorial suggestions and resubmitted every chapter when corrected. All the chapters eventually went to Misha as well. The research included the historical, geographical and topographical, I studied wolves and their habits, went to Wolf Hollow, even continued research re Belgian flora and fauna at an alumnae reunion at Russell Sage College Library. I carefully traced the child's itinerary and assured Jane that the time line of the story would have to be changed to account for the mileage covered, since she could not have traveled "as the crow flies."

It all seemed to be moving along smoothly when, suddenly, the tide turned. Disney offered to take out an option to make a TV film series of the book once they had seen a few of my chapters and a treatment. So I cleaned up the first three chapters and wrote a treatment. Based on my materials, they did take out an option.

Then -- as soon as Jane scented the possible income to be gained -- everything fell apart for me. She began to write copy for me to incorporate in the book. It was flowery, Bambi-type prose she must have thought Disney was still involved in. It was so remote from the suspenseful story I was telling. If Misha was bent on escaping and fearing for her life, she would hardly take time to smell the flowers, and yet, that was the sort of thing Jane was introducing. Also, Jane's grasp of English grammar and syntax is far from perfect and I would have been embarrassed to have had to include her phrases.

So I objected. It did no good whatever. I asked if I could submit my original chapters, marked X and hers, marked Y, to impartial experts. She objected to that initially, but I did submit them and was told in each case that the X version (mine) was much better.

This sort of thing went on but my hands were being tied. At one point I said to her "This feels like a rape." Once she seemed to want to justify herself, saying she knew she had been acting strangely but was going through menopause, had been betrayed by her friends (I said, "I would never betray you, Jane," and she said she knew it). And Mt. Ivy, meaning Jane, stood to make a huge amount of money if Disney came through. In any case, I wound up continuing to work with Jane but, in essence, editing the prose she insisted on writing herself.

What I didn't realize at all was that Jane, besides steamrolling over me as an author, was cutting me off financially, making herself the author by putting Mt. Ivy Press on the copyright and, essentially, replacing me without my knowledge. All this would be discovered later by my lawyer and would come out in the trial.

It got much worse. I sensed that Palmer and Dodge, in charge of foreign rights, was hiding something from me but had no idea Jane was collecting thousands in foreign rights and hiding her funds in a off-shore account in the Cayman Islands! Of course, her fraudulent activities came out in the trial, thanks to my attorney, Frank Frisoli.

One last incident. At the risk of inundating you with details, I must include this, because it was one of the most devastating parts of the experience for me. I was so concerned that readers might think I had written the prose Jane was inserting throughout the book that I mentioned my worry to Misha-who promptly told Jane I found her prose embarrassing. Jane called and asked if I wanted my name off the book, since I was embarrassed by it. I told Jane I'd get back to her. Spoke with niece Didi about it and Didi said not to take my name off -- that people who've done so regretted it. So I said no to Jane. She took me to lunch and brought up the "name off issue" again and I still said no. Then she came over with a contract she wanted me to sign. My friend Peter told me not to sign a thing without calling him. I asked to keep it for a day but Jane said no-her lawyer needed it immediately.

According to the contract I would sign over 1/2 of anything I received from the French rights to Jane. Apparently Jane had let the French rights slip through her fingers by mistake and this was a way of her not losing it all. She said it was for my protection, since Misha was going to cut me out entirely, but she, Jane, was my friend, coming to my rescue. I thought the contract would have stipulated that in exchange for giving Jane 1/2 of the French funds my name would remain on the book. But there was no "in exchange" for anything. I signed and-to my horror-she gave me a big bear hug. She did say "Will you ever forgive me?" And she assured me she loved me and would not lose me as a friend. It felt so unclean. I just wanted her out of my kitchen and out of my house. Had no idea what it was all about until attorney Frank revealed at the trial that that very day Jane had gone home and signed herself on as official author, cutting me out completely. My best friend!

That's enough raking over the coals. The depositions at the trial say everything else there is to say.

P.S.: Except for a few thousand dredged up to avoid spending a second night in jail, Jane never paid me a cent of what she owed me. But who's counting?

The Boston Globe: Faked Holocaust memoir: Den of lies


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Debolrah Lipstadt (left) writes:

Holocaust Hoax: The Co-Author Tells her Side of the Story

Vera Lee, the woman who helped the Holocaust hoaxer, Misha Defonseca, write her story has added her recollection of events to the mix of this story.

This Misha Defonseca sounds like a real piece of work. And, if Vera Lee is to be believed, the publisher is hardly an innocent.

The above item is reproduced without editing other than typographical

 Register your name and address to go on the Mailing List to receive

David Irving's ACTION REPORT

or to hear when and where he will next speak near you

© Focal Point 2008 Irving write to David Irving