Historian stripped of award for inventing family's Holocaust past.

Discussion in 'The Holocaust' started by von Poop, Jun 5, 2019.

  1. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Marie-Sophie Hingst: historian stripped of award for inventing family’s Holocaust past

    If this is confirmed (as seems likely with Yad Vashem announcing it will remove the submitted names), it might rank as one of the silliest acts of historical distortion I've seen.
    Claiming your work is “literature, not journalism or history” & it involves “a great degree of artistic freedom” hardly squares with travelling to Israel to submit paperwork...
    One to watch, and doubtless the denialist idiots will have fun with it, for years.
    Slipdigit, Michael Bully and Tolbooth like this.
  2. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Active Member

    Thank you for highlighting this. Reminds me of Benjamin Wilkormski's 'Fragments' fake holocaust memoir in the 1990's.
    I agree that excuses such as ' literature, not journalism or history' is dangerous denigrates genuine historical research.
    Fragments of a fraud
  3. BFBSM

    BFBSM Very Senior Member Patron

  4. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Active Member

    Interesting - I hadn't heard of Helen Darville and 'The Hand that Signed the Paper'. Thanks for sharing.

    Found an interesting article by Blake Eskin the journalist who exposed Wilkormski titled :

    Why did it take so long for a far-fetched Holocaust memoir to be debunked?

    Here Blake Eskin also looks at another fake holocaust 'memoir' Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years by Misha Defonseca from 1997. Centres around an account of a Jewish girl from Brussels who wanders round Europe in 1941 from the age of 7-11, living in forests and encountering wolves, who helped her survive . It seems that there were already concerns about its authenticity before publication, but the publishers went ahead. The book's credibility began to get challenged both by historians and individuals involved in studying the behaviour of wolves.

    The publishers later tried to avoid paying royalties to Defonseca-real name Monique DeWael - when the hoax came to light ;


    Not sure how the case was ever resolved.

    Unfortunately there are other examples of fake holocaust memoirs .....
  5. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

  6. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Active Member

    Thank you for the link. I can't help feeling sorry for Marie-Sophie Hingst's family and friends. What Marie-Sophie did in fabricating a Holocaust past was unjustifiable but wouldn't have wanted her to have taken her own life- which seems the most likely occurence -though not confirmed yet.

    It is hard to find one clear reason why people write false holocaust connections and memoirs. Tasteless sense of self importance and greed probably play their part. But perhaps there are genuine psychological factors at work....certainly thought that Benjamin Wilkormski genuinely began to believe his own lies to the point of self delusion.

  7. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    The subject of over-inflating the facts of wartime experiences is a complex one. Once relatives, especially following generations, are involved it can get out of hand. There are psychological factors beyond my ken at work.

    Clearly not on this scale, I have had many heated conversations with sons and daughters of 'witnesses to history' that 'yes they were heroes and yes they suffered as we will never know' however you do them no service by exaggerating to the point of incredulity.

    Also as a historian our job is of recorder, assessor and reporter. Bigging up our own credentials implies a lack of objectivity and is at least a bit crass.

    I suppose film, fiction and now computer games have warped the lexicon of real warfare. I probably need to reread the old "The Great War and Modern Memory", Paul Fussell, c.1980. It deals with the inability of the written and spoken world to accurately portray the horror of modern war.
  8. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I like to recall that the Argonauts were heroes before they set sail and would have remained so even if the golden fleece had never been recovered. They answered the call and fought for a rightful cause.

    You're right that some people get (perhaps understandably) attached to this or that myth and can become almost possessive over the idea that their relative/hero must have dropped in the first wave, stormed the bloodiest beach or achieved some war-winning feat.

    Relatives have an important part to play in telling their parents' and grandparents' stories, but they don't--on the whole--make the best storytellers.

    Hagiographies defeat their own purpose and historians should be at the least questioning of claims that a writer has a uniquely privileged perspective because of this or that biographical link with his subject.

    The proof is in the product alone.
  9. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    My father in law completed his pilot training through the BCATP but received his wings just prior to wars end and was never sent overseas.

    Among the family photo collection is one entitled "Dad's Spitfire". I recall seeing looks of disappointment when I informed the family that the aircraft in question was actually a Harvard. One must tread carefully when challenging long held family myths.
  10. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Active Member

    Charley - that is just so important. Here in Britain, family history has become so massive and there are disadvantages. People start to elevate their relative as the supreme reference point of an event such as World War 1 or 2 even if said relative died before they were even born. Of course family historians also have a positive contribution to make....but too few people are prepared to concede that this particular connection to the past might also have drawbacks.

    canuck likes this.
  11. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Active Member

    Returning to Marie-Sophie Hingst , found an interesting and quite thorough piece by Martin Doerry from 'Der Spiegel' ( in English)

    'Literature, Not Journalism': The Historian Who Invented 22 Holocaust Victims - SPIEGEL ONLINE - International

    Martin Doerry had already interviewed Sophie in Dublin in May 2019 and had asked a number of searching questions about her blog , and had some five pages of notes highlighting inconsistencies. Sophie had terminated that interview and left the building they were in.
    ( Source- 'Irish Times' article below)

    An Irish journalist-Derek Scally- maintains that he already knew by 31st May 2019, that Der Spiegel were about to run the story after he had himself interviewed Sophie. Derek Scally tried to persuade Martin Doerry and Der Spiegel not to go ahead with publication due to concerns about Sophie's mental health. Sections of Sophie's blog were vanishing from the 'Web. It had already come to light that she had fabricated a story about her charity work in India.

    The life and tragic death of Trinity graduate and writer Sophie Hingst

    Initially the 'Der Spiegel article was in German, but translated into English and placed on line .

    What a sad story: Whether Sophie should just have been left to carry on deleting the blog or whether it was necessary to expose her in print and on line is an open question. Martin Doerry felt that it was owed to Holocaust survivors to go ahead. Perhaps Sophie could have been persuaded to retract her story on line, and keep said statement posted.
    canuck likes this.

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