The movie poster for "Survivre avec les loups," the French movie based on Misha Defonseca's "Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust"
The real story of Monique De Wael Defonseca, whose Holocaust-survival memoir of living with wolves was proved to be a hoax last week, is pathetic enough without the fantasy she added to it. The Massachusetts researcher who found Fonseca's true identity also learned that her parents, Robert and Josephine De Wael, were resistance fighters executed by the Nazis.
In her admission last week that she made up her tale of being Jewish and wandering across Europe during the Nazi years, Defonseca said that she had always wanted to forget her real name because she had been called "the traitor's daughter." She said, "My father was arrested when I was four years old...[he was]suspected of having spoken under torture in the prison of Saint-Grille."
Today the Belgian newspaper Le Soir published what it calls the real story of Robert De Wael. Citing interviews with Misha Defonseca's 88-year-old cousin, as well as a 98-year-old resistance fighter, reporter Marc Metdepenningen writes that Robert De Wael did indeed reveal the names of his fellow fighters to the Gestapo, out of fear for his wife (also arrested) and his little daughter. He was not executed, according to the story, but was allowed to live in Germany, where he died of natural causes later in the war. When these facts became known after the war, the name Robert De Wael was chiseled off the Brussels monument to those who had died at the hands of the Nazis.
While I would not be one to excuse Defonseca's lying use of the Holocaust to make money, I do suppose that if I were Benedict Arnold's daughter, I too might go to great lengths to make myself into a new person with a happy story.
There were wolves in her childhood. But they wore uniforms.