It’s a literary brouhaha the likes of which postwar Holocaust tall tales have never seen to this degree and the stench just won’t go away.
Veteran Jewish reporter Fiona Harari in Australia has been for a long time quietly tracking Heather Morris’ tall tales of alleged sexcapades and worse among Auschwitz inmates, male and female, cavorting naked not only with each other but with brute Aryan camp leaders for whom it was forbidden to bed nubile young Jewesses.
But Morris, who is not Jewish and grew up in a Christianized rural New Zealand where she never met a Jew until she was an adult, has brought the raw elements of story she reportedly extracted — gently, patiently, of course — from an elderly Holocaust survivor in order to sell her novel to a raw rookie Australian book editor who has since left the publishing business for greener and less stressful pastures
This entire Australian brouhaha is an ugly Holocaust-era story that not only has legs, but has staying power as well. Australians themselves don’t know whether to join in the growing criticism of one of their countrymen or to take a different tack and applaud her storytelling prowess. Several top Australian TV and radio reporters have been taken in by this ruse as well, writing blurbs of high-sounding praise for a book they never even read beyond a press release that was thrust in their hands by a pushy PR. They should be ashamed of themselves.
Morris wrote the heavily edited and rewritten “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” for Meyer’s imprint in 2018 and followed it up this year with another very iffy and controversial “sequel” based on even more tall tales and hearsay than the first book in the series. And George Kovach is angry.
The Holocaust, it seems, is still ripe for literary rape by overzealous publishers and novelists who dream more of raking in the dough than getting the facts right.
“The family of a woman at the center of Australian Heather Morris’s new book has questioned her depiction by the author, saying key elements of the Holocaust survivor’s appearance suggest a case of mistaken identity,” Harari wrote in a well-respected Australian newspaper last week.
“I think that she (Heather Morris) has got the wrong person,” George Kovach, whose stepmother, Cecelia Klein, portrayed as a sex slave in the book, is the main character in Morris’s so-called ”sequel” titled ”Cilka’s Journey” said to the Australian in a series of emails.
According to Harari, Cecilia (Cilka) Klein, who died in 2004, was 16 when sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in World War II. When the camp was ”liberated” by Russian troops in 1945, she was accused by the Russians of having [had multiple sex romps with two notorious Nazi camp leaders] and sentenced to 15 years hard labor in a Russian gulag camp in far away Siberia.
After her release from the Russian gulag, Klein spent the remainder of her life in obscurity in Slovakia. But she became internationally known when she was depicted as a Jewish sex slave to two Nazi camp thugs in Morris’s debut book. And now this new one.
Both the first book and the ”sequel” have been the subject of major negative and criticial fact-finding reports by Polish and Jewish custodians of Auschwitz, alarmed at the extent of its historical inaccuracies. Holocaust historians are up in arms at the way both these novels were never vetted by responsible publishers or acquiring editors.
Morris recently told Harari that although her second book has been marketed as fiction, it was a “pretty accurate” account of Klein’s life, based on Morris’s own personal visits to Slovakia and the ”help” of alleged ”researchers,” paid researchers, who have never been identified or seen in the light of day. Just who is really behind this entire meshagus?
George Kovach says his stepmother was apparently placed in the “Cilka” sequel by mistake, in a case of mistaken identity, and that Morris has refused to talk to him about it.
Kovach, now in his 70s and a retired theater professor in California, is the late Cecelia Klein’s closest known relative. He wants family justice and he wants it now.
In April, six months before ”Cilka’s Journey” was published, Morris flew to California and somewhat awkwardly arrived at Kovach’s home, seeking photos of his stepmother to put in her book for PR purposes and asking him to write a paid ”afterword” for new book to use as PR material, Kovach told this blogger in an email a few months ago.
Neither Morris nor her PR team have responded responded to this blogger’s multiple requests for comments. In fact, all they have done since the first book in the series was published is stonewall, stonewall, stonewall.
Such hardball tactics seem to be working, as Morris is now planning a third sequel in her controversial Holocaust fictions and most likely the third book will be released without questions either. Someone has apparently written Heather Morris a blank check to write whatever she wants about the Holocaust, and she has legions of fans around the world now to back her up with book sales and reader applause on Twitter that goes on day after day.