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The Wilkomirski Affair: A Study in Biographical Truth

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Overview

This is the definitive report on Fragments, Binjamin Wilkomirski's invented "memoir" of a childhood spent in concentration camps, which created international turmoil.

In 1995 Fragments, a memoir by a Swiss musician named Binjamin Wilkomirski, was published in Germany. Hailed by critics, who compared it with the masterpieces of Primo Levi and Anne Frank, the book received major prizes and was translated into nine languages. The English-language edition was published by Schocken ...

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The Wilkomirski Affair: A Study in Biographical Truth

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Overview

This is the definitive report on Fragments, Binjamin Wilkomirski's invented "memoir" of a childhood spent in concentration camps, which created international turmoil.

In 1995 Fragments, a memoir by a Swiss musician named Binjamin Wilkomirski, was published in Germany. Hailed by critics, who compared it with the masterpieces of Primo Levi and Anne Frank, the book received major prizes and was translated into nine languages. The English-language edition was published by Schocken in 1996. In Fragments, Wilkomirski described in heart-wrenching detail how as a small child he survived internment in Majdanek and Birkenau and was eventually smuggled into Switzerland at the war's end.

But three years after the book was first published, articles began to appear that questioned its authenticity and the author's claim that he was a Holocaust survivor. Stefan Maechler, a Swiss historian and expert on anti-Semitism and Switzerland's treatment of refugees during and after World War II, was commissioned on behalf of the publishers of Fragments to conduct a full investigation into Wilkomirski's life. Maechler was given unrestricted access to hundreds of government and personal documents, interviewed eyewitnesses and family members in seven countries, and discovered facts that completely refute Wilkomirski's book.

The Maechler report has implications far beyond the tragic story of one individual's deluded life. It explores our feelings about survivor literature and the impact these works can have on our remembrance of the Holocaust.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[The book] is a model of scrupulous, dispassionate research. Its judgment of the moral and psychological issues raised by this strange case is admirably balanced....Maechler's work reads as compellingly as a detective story."
—Robert Alter, The New Republic, April 30, 2001
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805211351
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/27/2001
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Stefan Maechler studied history and German literature at the University of Zurich. He lives in Zurich.
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Table of Contents

Foreword vii
The Story of Bruno Grosjean 3
Wilkomirski Tells His Story 22
The Origins of Fragments 84
A Global Literary Event 111
The Plunge into the Abyss--Autobiography or Fake? 129
Tracking Down the Truth--The Historical Research 165
The Truth of the Biography 263
The Truth of the Fiction 274
Afterword 309
Epilogue 310
Notes 319
Select Bibliography 368
Permissions Acknowledgments 373
Fragments 375
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