Holocaust memoir fabricator ordered to pay $22.5 million

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The Belgian author of a bestselling Holocaust memoir who later admitted she fabricated much of her survival story has been ordered to pay back $22.5 million USD to her publisher, according to a report in The Daily Mail.

Misha Defonseca rose to fame in 1997 after publishing her book Misha, which chronicled her escape into Europe's forests to evade Nazi capture. In the book, she made several sensational assertions, including her claim that she was adopted by a pack of wolves that protected her.

The book, co-written by Vera Lee, was translated into 18 languages and adapted into a French film, and Defonseca often travelled around the world to speak at Holocaust memorial events.

Shortly after the book was published, Defonseca and Lee had a falling out with their publisher Jane Daniel and Mt. Ivy Press over unpaid royalties and "highly improper representations and activities." The pair successfully sued and, in 2005, was awarded millions.

Doubts about the veracity of the account had surfaced as long as the book has been in print, but the legal case revived interest in it. More thorough research into Defonseca's past and family history soon revealed numerous inconsistencies in her story. It was discovered that her parents weren't actually Jewish as she had claimed, and her real name was Monique De Wael. After being confronted with the mounting evidence, Defonseca confessed to making up most of her memoir in a 2008 interview. She later said that Misha was "not the true reality, but it is my reality. There are times when I find it difficult to differentiate between reality and my inner world."

As the battle with her publisher continued, the Massachusetts Superior Court (the state that Defonseca now lives in) found that the memorist had committed fraud. Defonseca launched an appeal of the decision, which failed, leading to the recent order from the court for her to pay back the money she had previously won from her publisher.