The Girl Who Cried Wolf: A Holocaust Fairy Tale
In July, the French magazine XXI reported that Defonseca is working with her French publisher on a new book, drawing on her father’s papers and material from the Belgian archives and recasting herself as a different sort of victim. She still has supporters in Millis. Valerie Sullivan, the daughter of Defonseca’s friend Odette, continues to take Defonseca at her word. She says she spoke with Defonseca after her public admission, and that "she was essentially forced to say this is a hoax, but that’s not how it is. I’ve never known her to lie to us."
But others feel betrayed. "Where was she at, that she had to do this to so many people?" says Joni Soffron of Wolf Hollow, who a few months earlier had been promised a trip to Paris to join Defonseca at the movie premiere. "I hoped because of our friendship, she would reach out to me," Soffron says, but she never heard back. Karen Schulman, who put up the Defonsecas for two and a half years, says, "I will check on everything for the rest of my life before I ever believe a story firsthand." Joe Labriola, her imprisoned former friend, adds, "In 35 years of prison, nobody has conned me. She was that good. I have to applaud her."
Jane Daniel says she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her dealings with Defonseca. "I had 70 percent of the symptoms," she says. "Going through the legal system is like having cancer. It’s the first thing you think about in the morning, and the last thing you think about at night. It is trauma." Nonetheless, that hasn’t prevented her from heading back to court: In April her lawyer filed a complaint charging Defonseca with perpetrating a fraud on the court. Daniel has been had, and yet one wonders how much of this sh
e brought upon herself. Had she not pursued Defonseca, had she paid closer attention to the Holocaust scholars who warned her the book wasn’t a true story, she would have been spared the destructive legal fight. I asked her whether she thought it a mistake to publish Misha in the first place. "I think I made a rational choice based on the information I had at the time. I don’t think it was a careless choice." Once she began turning up documents about Monique De Wael for her blog, Daniel stopped posting new chapters of Bestseller!
But she did keep writing. "I had lost everything. The only thing I had left, in terms of assets, was this story," she says. She is publishing Bestseller! herself, available this month. And she says she still has the phone number of the Oprah producer who set up the Wolf Hollow shoot.