'Misha and the Wolves' still
Source: Netflix

This Disgraced Holocaust Survivor Lied in a Memoir to Redeem Her Parents

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Aug. 17 2021, Published 4:11 p.m. ET

Generally, people like being lied to. They don't want you to tell them how you really feel about their Instagram posts, or whether or not you think they're really charming or fun to hang around, or if their screenplay idea is great or not. Most people just want to hear compliments and can't wait to stick their own metaphoric knife in you the second you disagree with whatever delusion they've created for themselves.

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But when it comes to literature, especially books that deal with sensitive topics, folks tend to get in a lot of trouble when they add in a dash of cultural appropriation, whether it be ethnic, religious, or socioeconomic.

Take author Misha Defonseca (born Monique de Wael), who wrote the book that's the subject of Netflix's Misha and the Wolves and claimed that her memoir was based on a true story.

The 'Misha and the Wolves' book was actually a big lie.

Misha and the Wolves is a first-person recounting of a Holocaust Survivor's harrowing escape from a Nazi invasion in Belgium in 1940. In the book, Misha's parents are captured by Nazis and she is forced to take care of herself in the wilderness, where she's adopted by a family of wolves.

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misha and the wolves true story
Source: Netflix

In her book, Misha is forced to kill a German soldier to defend herself and sneaks in and out of a ghetto in Warsaw, Poland. When the war finally ends in 1945, she makes it back home by herself, an empowered young individual riddled with trauma.

Her book was published by Mt. Ivy Press in April 1997, but fact checkers who read the memoir soon noticed that there were a lot of holes in Misha's story.

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German journalist Henryk Broder published an article highlighting some of the dubious claims present in Misha and the Wolves, and it didn't take long for Misha's publisher to look deeper into the writer's personal life. It would later come out that Misha was born in 1937, making her only 4 years old when her parents were arrested by Nazis.

misha and the wolves true story
Source: Netflix
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A school enrollment certificate near her family home showed that Misha enrolled in 1943, about two years after the writer claimed she left for Brussels to travel across Europe.

Mt. Ivy prodded further into Misha's past after they lost a massive lawsuit against Misha and her ghost writer, Vera Lee, to the tune of $32.4 million.

Misha ultimately admitted that her memoir was fabricated.

In February of 2008, Misha told a Belgian newspaper that many of the experiences in her memoir had been fabricated. Yes, even the ones that she relayed to large crowds who had gathered for Holocaust Memorial Day.

The author was actually born to Catholic parents. However, what she wasn't lying about was the fact that her parents were in fact captured for resisting the Nazis.

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misha and the wolves true story
Source: Netflix

Her father, Robert, was interrogated and gave in to Nazi torture so he could see his family one last time. He, along with his wife, were placed inside a concentration camp and died, and Misha was known as a "traitor's daughter" once Robert had given up the names and positions of other fighters in the resistance.

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After her parents were taken to the camps, Misha went to live with her uncle and grandparents, and this is when, she says, she began to "feel Jewish" and became fascinated with wolves. She told the newspaper Le Soir, "It's not the true reality, but it is my reality. There are times when I find it difficult to differentiate between reality and my inner world."

misha and the wolves true story
Source: Netflix
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"I ask forgiveness of all those who feel betrayed, but I beg them to put themselves in the shoes of a little 4-year-old girl who has lost everything, who must survive, who plunges into an abyss of loneliness and to understand that I never wanted anything other than to ward off my suffering," she continued.

"Yes, my name is Monique De Wael, but I have wanted to forget it since I was 4 years old," she went on. "My parents were arrested and I was taken in by my grandfather, Ernest De Wael, and my uncle, Maurice De Wael. I was called 'daughter of a traitor' because my father was suspected of having talked under torture in the prison of Saint-Gilles. Ever since I can remember, I felt Jewish."

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Misha was ordered by a court to repay her publisher a whopping $22.5 million for lying about her book, which was turned into a French film and at one point even optioned by Walt Disney.

The true crime documentary about the literary lie — Misha and the Wolves — is available to stream on Netflix.

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