Librarything Book Review: Apple: Based on the Herman Rosenblat Holocaust Love Story by Penelope Holt

Posted: June 20, 2010 in reviews

This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Once upon a time, holocaust survivor Herman Rosenblat wrote a love story. Boy meets girl. Boy is dying in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. Girl throws Boy apples over the concentration camp fence. Boy and Girl fall in love. You know, the usual. It was a beautiful story, and one that needed to be told.

It was so beautiful that one day, Oprah, being Oprah, declared it “the greatest love story ever told”. She invited Rosenblat onto her show, and he spellbound the audience with tales of his life and claimed that he had written this story from his own experience.

Now, there was just one problem in the magical kingdom of TV land – the story wasn’t true. Oprah went on the war path. And lots of Americans, having no sense of irony, got very upset about the whole thing.

The fact that a harrowing tale of life in the concentration camps had basis in truth, despite the fictional love story, was lost on people. The possibility that a person who, having just survived the holocaust, might have very good reasons for wanting to pretty things up a bit, didn’t occur to them. And as for the idea that people have artistic freedom and the right to make of their own experiences whatever they will – well, that would be like saying that Oprah was wrong!

Rosenblat’s fiction is a lie that tells the truth. And whilst I can well understand the desire to uncover the truth behind the story, Holt’s decision to then write this ‘true account’ as a novel is baffling. ‘The Apple’…bites.

What you end up with is a badly written ‘true’ work of fiction, about a beautifully written ‘fictional’ truth. What would you prefer – an ugly truth or a beautiful lie? Read them both. Make up your own mind. ( )

2 vote

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Comments
  1. Hi Pierre,

    Your points are well taken. At your suggestion, I attempted to find out a little more about you. I take it that you are Peter Kubicek, author of ‘1000 : 1 Odds: Memoir of a World War II Childhood.’ As the account of a Holocaust survivor, I sincerely hope that your memoir receives the attention that it deserves and is acknowledged as an important part of the historical record.

    Thank you for retracting the offensive allusions to my character that you made in your first comment. I can live with you thinking that my informal review was misguided, misinformed, or misjudged. But I won’t tolerate personal attacks and bristled at the suggestion that my motive was somehow “to beautify the ugly truth about the holocaust.” This couldn’t be further from the truth, but given your further comments I do understand where you’re coming from.

    In answer to your question, the Librarything Early Reviewers programme provides free advance copies of books in exchange for reviews and personal opinions. Participants are both permitted and encouraged to post these reviews on their own websites and can do so at any time. As you have a Librarything Authors account, you can of course verify this for yourself. I reposted the review along with the two other reviews I’d already written because moving forward I intend to post all of my reviews here. I assure you that they’re all likely to be just as offhanded, naive, and badly written.

    Thank you for also providing information regarding your contact with Penelope Holt during the writing of her book. In the advance reader copy that I still have she does indeed acknowledge “Peter for his help and for disagreeing without being disagreeable.” This is a personal blog, mostly about writing. If you’ll deign to be agreeable, your comments on this subject are always welcome.

    Best regards,

    James

  2. Pierre says:

    Hi, graffitiliving,

    Once again, I hardly know where to begin. Point by point.

    1. I did not know that graffitiliving was the name of an actual person. May I call you Graffiti?

    2. Happy Birthday, Graffiti! I trust you blew out the candles on your cake and wished for some enlightenment.

    3. Let me tell you where I come from. I am 80-years old; I am a survivor of six German concentration camps. I am a student of the Holocaust and, without false modesty, I am a mine of information on the subject. If you will Google my name, you will find out more about me, including the fact that I am the author of a modest memoir of my W.W.II childhood.

    4. We Holocaust survivors are a dying breed. Within the next couple of decades we will be extinct. The only thing that concerns me and my remaining fellow survivors is that we testify to the truth about the Holocaust and that what remains when we are gone is nothing but the truth.

    5. The latter appears to be a very tall order. The misinformation, the plain lies, the denials even that the Holocaust even happened bother me tremendously. So, when I came upon the Herman and Roma fairy tale about two years ago, I was dismayed that such a plainly implausible story should be so readily accepted by a gullible public. The Rosenblat hoax was not only totally implausible, but some of its elements were contrary to verifiable historical facts. I and a number of prominent scholars and researchers did not rest until the hoax was exposed at the very end of 1998.

    6. The very next month came the announcement that Penelope Holt had entered into a contract to write “the true story” about Herman, based on the fact that apart from the minor apple fib, most of the elements of his tale were credible, heart-wrenching and verifiable. I attacked that viewpoint and pointed out to her that apart from the magical apple angle his story was full of additional elements that he plainly made up. It turned out that Herman was by now totally confused about the chronology of his suffering and so he just made things up as he went along, some of them totally outlandish.

    7. Now I hit a snag. Whenever I attacked anyone connected with this story, I became used to being attacked in return. Some of the attacks on me became very personal and actually threatening. But I found Penelope to be completely different from my other antagonists. She was very respectful and most eager to learn as much as she could about the Holocaust. I fed her various relevant material. She was very sharp and a quick study. While I did not support her endeavor, I finally offered to proof-read her manuscript and basically just correct her numerous spelling errors of the German and Yiddish words Herman supplied her. (Though Herman speaks a mixture of English, Polish, and Yiddish, he is unable to speak any language properly.) As a result Penelope acknowledges me in her book for “disagreeing with being disagreeable,” a comment which I treasure. Generally, as you already found out, I make no attempt to be agreeable.

    8. You point out that your review is past history, so one has to wonder why you would post it again at this point. For the record, I do not believe that you personally are either psychotic, or anti-Semitic, or a Holocaust denier. You are just naive and you got your facts totally mixed up. So you unwittingly give comfort and ammunition to the many psychotics, anti-Semites, and deniers out there.

  3. Pierre says:

    It is truly astonishing that on June 20, 2010 — 1-1/2 years after the Herman Rosenblat has been exposed as an outright hoax — you should post this totally misleading review! There is so much wrong with the above post that one does not know where to begin. I will attempt to point out a few of your numerous discrepancies.

    “Oprah went on the war path.” I don’t know where you get this from. Oprah found herself with egg on her face, but she was smart enough not to take the matter further. Instead of going on a war path, she just simply refused further comment after the fairy tale was exposed as such.

    “Most Americans, HAVING NO SENSE OF IRONY, got upset.” When you find out that you were scammed, a sense of irony is rightly replaced by a sense of outrage.

    “The possibility that a person, having just survived the Holocaust, may have reasons to pretty things up a bit…” Herman Rosenblat was liberated when WWII ended on May 8, 1945. He started to “pretty things up” more than 50 years later! The important thing for Holocaust survivors is to testify to the truth of what happened. “Artistic freedom” definitely must not be part of the picture.

    “Rosenblat’s fiction is a lie that tells the truth.” Rosenblat’s fiction is a lie pure and simple.
    You seem to be unable to tell the difference between imagination and reality. That seems to be a pretty good definition of a psychotic. I know nothing of your reviewer, but I know a lot about Herman Rosenblat. He is not a psychotic. He is just a liar. He invented a phony, romantic tale about the Holocaust, not to tell the truth, but to achieve fame and fortune. If you look at some of his interviews, you see a ham who revels in the attention and uses the opportunity to constantly elaborate and add to his lies.

    Rosenblat’s “beautiful fictional truth” has done irreparable damage to the cause of truth about the Holocaust. Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites just love it. They keep printing his stories and showing his interviews “to prove” that Jews lie, all Jews lie… the Holocaust is nothing but a load of Zionist bullshit — these are direct quotes.

    Finally, you use your distortions to discredit Penelope Holt’s Rosenblat account called “The Apple.” The latter is an honest attempt to explain Herman Rosenblat, as far as that is possible. The book covers the real story of the long suffering of Herman and of his three brothers. But you, of course, “prefer a beautiful lie over ugly truth.” You want to beautify the ugly truth about the Holocaust. It is hard to imagine that you would wish to play into the hands of Holocaust deniers by doing the truth such a tremendous disservice.

    • Hi Pierre,

      Today is my birthday. I’ve just got back home. You seem a little angry. Would you like some cake?

      As is clearly stated both in the title and at the top of the post – this is a repost of a review I wrote of “Apple” by Penelope Holt. The book was published in 2009. It is my personal opinion on that book – not a detailed political analysis.

      This is a personal website. Comments are always welcome – personal attacks are not. You are completely entitled to your opinion. But the fact that I chose to express my own opinion about a book that I read doesn’t make me Psychotic, Anti-Semitic, or a Holocaust denier. Nor do I sympathise with any of the above.

      Well, two out of three, at any rate.

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