Order BESTSELLER! by Jane Daniel at Laughing Gull Press.
Genealogist Sharon Sergeant was responsible for many of the findings that lead to Misha Defonseca's exposure as a fraud and subsequent confession in Belgium last February. Sergeant also was responsible for an investigation into the Defonseca's finances. Using public records she discovered that at the same time Misha was begging funds from area Temples she had hundreds of thousands of dollars going through various bank accounts. Sharon was in court on Thursday. This is her summation of the situation. Also, an excellent article on hANOVER fIST blog.
by Sharon Sergeant
The AP reports on the Defonseca hearing yesterday focus on the statute of limitations for normal fraud, as opposed to fraud upon the court, perjury that tainted the whole proceedings because Misha was believed to be telling the truth about everything, not just her Holocaust story.
These AP reports appear all over the world and are essentially the same content, though newspapers tend to cut from the bottom or select a few statements when they do not post the whole article. However, they do change the headlines they use.
The International Herald Tribune chose
US author of faked Holocaust book fights for money
This Google search shows other headlines chosen:
*Author of Faked Holocaust Book Fights Publisher for Millions*
Author of fantastical Holocaust book fights publisher
Memoir faker fights publisher
Author of book hoax fights for profits
Author who fabricated Holocaust memoir fights publisher over profits
Author: Publisher 'too late'
*Author of hoax memoir asks judge to toss lawsuit*
**Author of faked Holocaust book fights for her millions
Fake book author wants profits
*Author of faked Holocaust book fights for millions*
Despite lies, US author of faked Holocaust book fights to keep $33 million
Holocaust Book Hoax
Holocaust story author asks suit dismissal
Author of faked Holocaust book fights for millions
What clearly isn't comprehended by the press at this point is that the millions of dollars at stake in this law suit were purported damages - not actual profits in the US!
Here's a fairly accurate report of the court hearing yesterday - focusing on whether the truth matters.
The real millions, and actual profits, are actually in the hands of the global publisher Bernard Fixot, his collaborator Marie Therese-Cuny, and Defonseca. Their post 2001 trial version published in 18 languages, and sold as film rights to Vera Belmont. was made possible by Fixot and Cuny. They hid Misha's true identity behind a fake "hidden child" Valle name and the removal of identifying photos from the original US book by Mt Ivy/Daniel.
Judge Timothy Feeley, yesterday's hearing judge, was unprepared to really examine the 2001 case in any detail. Particularly the issue of statute of limitations involving fraud upon the court and contamination of the entire proceedings. The court belived that Misha was telling the truth.
There were other important issues of discussion that relate to relevance and truth.
First, Judge Feeley questioned whether it mattered that Misha's Holocaust story was untrue.
"Is it important that it was a work of fiction or a memoir?" Feeley asked at one point during the hearing. "I have trouble seeing how this new information changes the extent of the wrong found to be inflicted," said Feeley.
In addition, Frank Frisoli, Vera Lee's lawyer in Lee's absence, adamantly contends that Misha didn't lie, nor confess to any lies. Frisoli eventually wandered off into references for repressed memories for sexually abused children. The judge thought that was not a relevant analogy, but at the same time time was still questioning whether the truth of Misha's story was relevant. There was much discussion about what how the market value of damages was determined based on the truth of Misha's Holocaust story.
Never directly addressing the impact of Misha's lack of truthfulness in any part of the proceedings.
Maria Malagardis addressed attempts to separate Misha from her story, or the value of a true story versus a fiction, in the July XXI Paris journal article.
"The story of the book is the story of the woman."
Vera Belmont's feature film production (reportedly at a cost of $9 million) is foundering, rather than the planned distribution in 20 countries, because it is now known that the story is not true.
Fixot cavalierly maintains that he would have published the story even if he had known it was not true. Fixot defends his direction to change the "hidden child" name from DeWael (Misha's real name as it turns out) to Valle, and remove identifying photographs, to protect his publishing company from defamation suits.
Had the US version been translated and distributed with that identifying information, Misha's childhood friends, who knew it was a fraud, might not have been castigated as anti-Semites, jealous or ridiculing Misha's misery over the years - more than a decade since the original 1997 French publication by Fixot when he was with the Robert Laffont publishing house .
In fact, Serge Aroles, the wolf-child fraud researcher, would also have been able to find the real DeWael family, instead of reaching a dead end with his Valle family research. Aroles correctly used a the scientific methodology as by the forensic genealogy team, but did not have the DeWael name that had been suppressed by the destruction of the US version through the 2001 law suit by Misha and Vera Lee against Daniel/Mt Ivy Press.
Bernard Fixot has now commissioned another ghost writer to work with Misha on her "true story," which they claim is more horrible than her Holocaust story. However, the revelation that Misha's Holocaust story is not true has now been shown to affect the market value vis a vi the problems Vera Belmont now reports that she faces with the film distribution, as well as Fixot's intent to market the "true story" in another book..
Misha appeared "pro se" yesterday (representing herself) before Judge Feeley, but her lawyer from the 2001 trial, Ramona Hamblin (now not a practicing attorney for reasons we haven't yet determined), was sitting next to Misha, and likely wrote the statement that Misha read to the court. Misha claims that she believed her story was true, and that she did not lie.
Hamblin went on record in a Boston Globe letter that "The irony is that Defonseca's real story seems to be even more compelling than the fabrication." Echoing the Fixot escape hatch.
Misha and Fixot's plan seems likely to be to "explain" in Misha's new book how she came to believe her story as a result of her "real trauma." A key to her defense against being a liar, perjurer and fraud.
Judge Feeley also questioned whether the exposure of Misha's real identity wasn't at hand back in the 2000-2001 preparations for the trial based on one clue in her exposure - a US bank signature card, containing a birth date, birth place and mother's maiden name.
Feeley has not processed the fact that the bank signature card was accepted as a false ID provided by Misha's "hidden child" identity as her only only known ID info. This bank ID card did not resolve the DeWael versus Valle maiden name, nor that the Valle story published by Fixot was claimed by Misha to be her "real" story. Nor did it surmount the closed Belgian civil records law of 1955, or the other clues found in the Mt Ivy/Daniel version repressed by the legal proceedings.
Meanwhile, Vera Lee the original ghost writer, herself a Jew as well as an academic scholar, has been quoted as saying that she filled in pieces of Misha's story herself, but that she always believed the Misha Holocaust story, yet also somehow claiming that statement when she also said questioned the Misha story but that Jane Daniel dismissed her questions.
This is another relevant piece of circular logic. Judge Feeley questioned whether Lee should be held as accountable as Misha - even if the truth is relevant.
Misha also said in her statement to the court yesterday that she was telling her story long before the book [reportedly since 1989] and the court action, to prove that she didn't make anything up to defraud the court. Yet she and Fixot have been claiming since the Belgian 28 February 2008 statement in Le Soir, just hours before Misha's confession statement, that Jane Daniel made Misha believe her Holocaust story. Jane Daniel first met Misha in 1994 approximately 5 years after Defonseca was telling her holocaust story.
Misha had also embellished her Holocaust story in recent years to include references to her deformed feet and legs as being a result (and proof) of her childhood experiences - despite the fact that the Daniel/Mt Ivy book contained flattering pictures of her at age 40 with no signs of the leg and foot deformity that this now elderly woman exhibits, previously illiciting cries of anguish from the school
children she showed.
Does the truth matter when a fraud usurps the lives of real Holocaust survivors and exploits everyone around her?
Is Misha's intent and motivation relevant, when her previous claims that she and her life story being victimized, emotionally and financially, now face a longitudinal time line scrutiny of what she was saying versus what she was actually doing.
Do Misha's financial transactions have any relevance when she said she was destitute and yet was actually taking tens of thousands of dollars out of the bank in cash?
Misha's claims of eating dog food, begging from Jewish charities and losing her home can now be contrasted to her actual collection of book sales, royalties, speaking fees versus her home and debt difficulties in a time line with cash withdrawals from her bank accounts. The veracity of fictitious claims and others were previously accepted - simply because she was believed to be who she said she was, a beleaguered Holocaust survivor.
Jane Daniel has noted that an old saw in the legal world says that failing citations of law or fact, some lawyers fall upon hyperbole to provide distracting suspicions without evidence. Hyperbole is always circular. Truth is a straight line.
The question remains in this case as to whether the legal system can find it's way back to the law and the facts.
Melinde Sanborn, a co-editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, and one of the 50 lifetime Fellows of the American Society since 1993, commented after attending yesterday's hearing, that the judge may be faced with determining whether Misha Defonseca is either a liar - or incompetent to provide any credible testimony in the proceedings if Misha is actually unable to distinguish her illusions from reality.
Misha's financials direct attention to the result of her statements over time. No matter whether Misha is a liar or subject to pathological delusion, and incapable of distinguishing truth from fiction, Misha, and whoever in the many possible parties may be deemed complicit, has accomplished a lucrative fraud at the expense of others.