This press release went out last night.
December 29, 2008
CHILDREN’S BOOK FROM MARKET
MINNEAPOLIS—Lerner Publishing Group is shocked and disappointed to learn that the widely publicized Holocaust love story of Herman and Roma Rosenblat, which inspired the children’s picture book Angel Girl, is not entirely true. After investigation by The New Republic, Mr. Rosenblat and his agent, Andrea Hurst, released statements on December 27, 2008, saying parts of his story were fabricated.
Mr. Rosenblat first told his story in the mid 1990s, when he entered a newspaper contest. Over the years his story—which he consistently represented as being true—has been covered by countless newspapers, magazines, and online media. He also appeared on Oprah in 1996 and 2007.
In Angel Girl, author Laurie Friedman retold the portion of Mr. Rosenblat’s story about surviving a work camp during the Holocaust by receiving food from a girl from the other side of the fence, and then meeting this same girl many years later on a blind date in the United States and marrying her. According to Ms. Hurst’s statement, although Mr. Rosenblat’s stories from the concentration camps are true, “(he) invented the crux of this amazing love story—about the girl at the fence who threw him an apple.” Mr. Rosenblat also revealed that he made up the chance reunion with this girl on the blind date.
Ms. Friedman first read Mr. Rosenblat’s story in an online newspaper. She was so moved by the article that she contacted the Rosenblats. Over a period of several months, she spent many days interviewing the couple and gathering as many details about their Holocaust experiences as possible. “After reading Herman and Roma Rosenblat's story, I wanted to find a way to share what I felt was an important and inspiring message for children,” says Friedman. “My goal in writing Angel Girl was to communicate that even in the darkest of times, no one should give up hope.”
Based on Mr. Rosenblat’s consistency and level of detail, and the long-running coverage of this story in the media, Ms. Friedman and Lerner Publishing Group had trusted the accuracy of his story. “Throughout the development of this book, the Rosenblats reviewed my manuscript and assured me of the authenticity of the details of their story,” said Ms. Friedman. “Unfortunately, I, like many others, am disappointed and upset to now learn of Herman’s fabrications.”
“We are dismayed to learn about Herman and Roma Rosenblat's recantation of part of their Holocaust survival story, said Adam Lerner, President and Publisher, Lerner Publishing Group. “While this tragic event in world history needs to be taught to children, it is imperative that it is done so in a factual way that doesn't sacrifice veracity for emotional impact. As a children's and educational publisher for 50 years, correctly representing the facts is of paramount importance to us. We are saddened that we failed our readership with Angel Girl in this regard. We have been misled by the Rosenblats, who had given us what we had believed to be an authentic and moving account of their lives.”
Lerner Publishing Group has canceled all pending reprints and is issuing refunds on all returned books. The company is no longer offering the book for sale and is recalling the book from the market.
For additional information, please contact Lindsay Chall, senior publicist, at 800-328-4929, x385.
Many of you have now seen this story in the news and have read about the role our book, Angel Girl, plays in it. It's unfortunate all around, but I am pleased with the decision we have made to pull the book, and Adam Lerner's statement makes me proud to work here. I feel very badly for Laurie Friedman and Ofra Amit, who took in good faith the story as the Rosenblats had been telling it for years. Laurie and Ofra’s efforts were sincere. They believed they were taking an important true, first-hand story to a larger audience by making it into a picture book. And while we as publishers must take the opportunity to examine our processes for publishing this kind of book, we also remain committed to supporting our authors and illustrators and their stories.