American Author to Lose $22.5m for Fake Holocaust Memoir

Misha Defonseca, who admitted her best-selling book about living with wolves in the woods during the Holocaust was fiction, isn't even Jewish.

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Misha Defonseca, left, and Vera Lee, co-authors of fake Holocaust memoir.Credit: AP

An American woman who admitted to authoring a fabricated memoir about the Holocaust has been instructed to pay back her publisher $22.5 million, Fox News reported.

Belgium native and Massachusetts resident Misha Defonseca, 76, who wrote "Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years" in 1997, was exposed in 2008 after researchers found no evidence of her family in Holocaust archives.

In the book, which was translated into 18 languages and even made into a movie, Defonseca describes surviving alone as a child with wolves in a forest after her parents were taken away by the Nazis.

But it turns out she isn't even Jewish, but rather rationalized her fraud by saying that her parents’ arrest and her subsequent harsh treatment at the hands of relatives who took her in led her to "feel Jewish." According to a statement submitted to by her lawyers to the Associated Press and quoted in the Fox News report, Defonseca said in a statement that "This story is mine. It is not actually reality, but my reality, my way of surviving."

In 1998, before being exposed, Defonseca and her ghostwriter, Vera Lee, won a $32.4 million civil suit against the book's publisher, Mt. Ivy Press for breach of contract for hiding profits from the author. This led reporters and researchers to investigate her story, which turned out to be fake. Defonseca's cut of the $32.4 million was $22.5 million – the amount she must not pay back.