Surviving with Wolves – Misha Defonseca’s True Story

Misha Defonseca was virtually unknown when her enigmatic and sensational Holocaust memoir, Surviving with Wolves1, first appeared in French and Belgian bookstores in 1997. Despite the fact that the memoir had sold only five thousand copies in America, Misha Defonseca’s account captivated nearly three hundred thousand readers and was immediately translated into four languages.

Vera Belmont adapted Defonseca’s story of traveling across Europe with only a compass to find her deported parents to the screen and the film was released in Europe in 2007-2008: the success story continued: nearly seven hundred thousand spectators would share the tragic fate – on the big screen – of little Misha.

Rumors about the veracity of Misha Defonseca’s account first surfaced in early 2008 and by February the author confessed that her story was made-up. The book, which had been in bookstores for over ten years at the time, had never prompted any serious debate but the film, with its highly evocative images, clearly disturbed certain scrupulous individuals.

Lionel Duroy happened to be in publisher Bernard Fixot’s office, the day Misha Defonseca confessed:

“I didn’t know her at the time, yet it never occurred to me, not even for a second, that she could have imagined the entire Odyssey and, in particular, ‘exploited the Holocaust’ with the sole purpose of making money or ‘flattering her ego.’ Maybe because like so many writers, I too have felt the occasional temptation to embroider the truth, I immediately thought that Surviving with Wolves had been made up to overcome a darker, less dramatic – and undoubtedly more painful – fate. This feeling led me then and there to propose writing ‘the true story’ of Monique de Wael.”

Here is her story, pieced together from the bits of history left behind.

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