Holocaust memoir author must repay $22m

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iol pic wld defanseca-book-court AFP A Dutch edition of Misha: A Memoire Of The Holocaust Years by Misha Defonseca is seen at the Dilbeek library. File picture: Belga Herwig Vergult

New York -

The author of a global best-selling Holocaust memoir who later admitted it was pure fantasy has been ordered by a US court to repay $22.5 million to her publisher.

US-based Belgian writer Misha Defonseca's Misha: A Memoire Of The Holocaust Years told the supposedly true tale of a Jewish girl who was cared for by a pack of wolves and killed a Nazi soldier during World War 2.

Published in 1997, it became an instant hit in Europe, was translated into 20 languages and made into the 2007 movie Surviving With Wolves.

But in February 2008, Defonseca, whose real name is Monique de Wael, admitted that most of the events were false, including that she was not Jewish, but Catholic, and that she was never forced to leave her home in Belgium during the war.

“This story is mine. It is not actually reality, but my reality, my way of surviving,” she said in 2008.

Before the story came out as false, she and ghostwriter Vera Lee took their publisher, Mt Ivy Press LP, to court for breach of contract.

Lee was awarded $9.9 million and Defonseca $22.5 million.

But in an April 29 decision, seen on Monday, a Massachusetts appeals court ordered Defonseca to return the money.

“The present case is unique. The falsity of the story is undisputed,” said Judge Marc Kantrowitz in the decision.

“Hopefully the saga has now come to an end,” he said in the nine-page document. - Sapa-AFP

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