Danny Bloom
I seek the truth wherever it lies.

‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ novel faces fuzzy future after reporter’s expose

In a blog post that ran in the October 20 issue of Times of Israel, headlined “Truth Behind Bestseller Holocaust Romance Novel Called into Question by Some,” I had no idea that the New York Times would spot this post and then, after some gentle prodding, assign a top reporter for the New York Times Australia bureau to look into the truthiness of Heather Morris’ bestselling romance novel. And yet, less than a month later, Christine Kenneally, based in Melbourne, where the novel itself was written and published, delivered a one-two punch to the book, leaving a huge hole in the novel’s future popularity.

The Times of Israel blog post can be found here, and The New York Times article published worldwide on November 8 can be found here.

Kenneally’s name might ring a bell for some readers here. Born in Australia, she is a relative of Thomas Kenneally, the famous author of the book titled “Schindler’s List” which was later made into the Hollywood movie by Steven Spielberg.

Meanwhile, with the New York Times article making waves in literary and publishing circles around the world, the fallout from the news story is sure to put the chances of a movie being made of Morris’ “novel” in limbo. There are too many questions now surrounding the authenticity of Morris’ book and she is feeling the pressure.

Morris initially wrote the story as a movie screenplay, but later turned it into a romance novel. That’s where her troubles began. She took liberties with an elderly Holocaust survivor’s memories that she never should have taken, and now the criticism over the novel’s truthiness is going to point the finger at both Morris and the publisher Angela Meyer. They have a lot of explaining to do now in the wake of the New York Times expose. It’s not going to be a pretty picture, either.

I tried to warn both Morris and Meyer of the trouble they were heading in, but neither of them responded to my emails, Facebook messages or tweets. Stonewalling gets you nowhere, as the two have now learned.

“In the ‘Additional Information’ section of the book, Morris writes that 34902 was in fact Furman’s number,” Kenneally reported. “But as it turns out, it’s not. In a 1996 interview with the USC Shoah Foundation, Furman said her number was 4562. Other evidence from her own account and from the archives at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum supports her claim.”

There’s more daming evidence.

“Likewise Furman’s arrival date is said to be April 13, 1942. But it’s not possible for a woman assigned the number 34902 to have arrived at Auschwitz on that date or even in that year. A woman entering Auschwitz at that time would have had a four-digit number,” Kenneally reported.

Most damning perhaps is the New York Times assertion that while much of the interest in, and marketing of, the bestselling and heavily promoted book — over 650,000 copies in print worldwide — focused on the so-called ”true story” the cover and PR material says it was  based on, there is confusion about which stories in the ”novel” are true and which are not.

“Morris said that the tattoo scene where Sokolov so momentously saw Furman for the first time really occurred. But interviews with Sokolov and Furman from the 1990s, and with their son Gary recently, provide no support for that claim,” the New York Times reported.

Morris’ book is in trouble now. It might be recalled, with no future editions printed or sold. The movie option for the book might very well be cancelled now. Telling a big fat white lie, even if it is to turn an elderly Holocaust survivor’s manipulated memories into a bestseller with the best of intentions, is to spit on the graves and memories of the 6 million Jews who died in the Nazi Holocaust. The New York Times has spoken.

About the Author
Danny Bloom is editor of The Cli-Fi Report at www.cli-fi.net. Danny graduated from Tufts University in Boston in 1971 with a major in Yiddish Literature. A newspaper editor and reporter since his days in Alaska, Japan and Taiwan, he has lived and worked in 14 countries and speaks French, Japanese and Chinese. He hopes to live until 2032, when his tombstone will read "I came, I saw, I ate cho-dofu."
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