Friday, February 1, 2019

Planned 'Tattooist of Auschwitz' sequel 'Cilka's Journey' prompts more questions from Holocaust scholars

Planned 'Tattooist of Auschwitz' sequel 'Cilka' prompts more questions from Holocaust scholars

by staff writers, with agencies

Here we go again.

"[The Jews] feel protective and [feel they have] a degree of [ownership] over the Holocaust story. I totally 'get' that, but maybe there's room for both of us?"
That's Holocaust romance writer Heather Morris defending her two controversial novels in a rather offensive and aggressive manner in a recent interview. Her statement is tone deaf and borderline anti-semitic, according to one Jewish observer I spoke with.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/feb/01/cilkas-journey-the-tattooist-of-auschwitz-heather-morris

After many literary critics and Holocaust scholars attacked Heather Morris' unvetted and un-factchecked romantic sexcapade novel set in a Nazi concentration camp in the 1940s, the Australian publisher Angela Meyer has the chutzpah to completely ignore the criticism from reporters at the New York Times and The Australian and forge ahead with the planned October release of a so-called "sequel" to the first novel in what is now a two-part series.

Holocaust scholars at the Auschwitz Memorial in Poland say they already found the story of a Jewish character named Cilka, partly told in Morris’s debut novel and now set to be continued in the sequel titled ''Cilka’s Journey'' to be ''highly questionable.

https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/tattooist-of-auschwitz-writer-plans-follow-up-novel-for-2019-about-cilka/

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/feb/01/cilkas-journey-the-tattooist-of-auschwitz-heather-morris


''
British reporters Alison Flood and Kate Nicholson at the Guardian newspaper looked into the marketing plans for a sequel and came up flabberghasted. Flood had earlier reported on the the inaccuracies in "The Tattooist of Auschwitz" and now this? Yes, that's how irresponsible and amoral some editors in the publishing industry in Australia have become.

Scholars at the Auschwitz Memorial in Poland have voiced concern after Morris -- who is not Jewish and grew up in a rural New Zealand town where she never met or knew any Jews as a child or a teenager -- said a sequel to ''The Tattooist of Auschwitz'' will be published and will use the real life of a Jewish woman sent to the Nazi concentration camp as a child as ''inspiration'' for another "based on a true story" literary fabrication.

And guess what? It's another sex and romance love story and again it's aimed squarely at a female audience of non-Jewish readers of escapist romance novels. You'd think that Morris would have learned her lesson the first time out of the gate, but no, she's wants to make more money for her publishers and herself with a follow-up of questionable taste and accuracy. It is not ''based on a true story'' as the cover of the sequel will say, just as the first book in the series was also not ''based on a true story."

It's a marketing and PR strategy and in the long run, it's going to backfire.

According to the Guardian recent report, ''The Tattooist of Auschwitz'' tells a concocted story of the Slovakian Jew named Lali Sokolov, and how he fell in love with a woman he tattooed at the camp. Except that he did not tattoo her but met her in the barracks of the camp and socialized with her there. Sokolov died in 2006, and Morris his story in 2018 after getting him to say things to her that never in fact happened. She manipulated the elderly Melbourne man for her own gain -- and fame.

Not only this blogger, but ''Morris’s blend of fiction and fact'' also troubled some Holocaust scholars in Australia and Poland, the Guardian reports.

In particular, the Auschwitz Memorial Research Centrer in Poland, published a lengthy report clarifying the known facts about events in the book last December, saying the novel contained “numerous errors and information inconsistent with the facts, as well as exaggerations, misinterpretations and understatements” and described it as “an impression about Auschwitz inspired by authentic events, almost without any value as a document”.

So get ready for more fireworks in the literary world as more Holocaust scholars join in the brouhaha over ''Cilka’s Journey." The novel's proposed cover proclaims it to be “based on a true love story” -- purely as a marketing gimmick to appeal to Morris' legions of female fans. Few men have read the book.

The Guardian reports that the sequel will be based on a Jewish woman name Cecilia Kovacova, who was a character in ''The Tattooist of Auschwitz."

In that the novel, Cilka was 16 in 1942 when she entered Auschwitz, where she was allegedly forced to become the Nazi commandant’s sex slave, his Jewish whore.
But what does the Auschwitz Memorial have to say about this made-up travesty of Holocaust facts?
Scholars there have already said “the story of Cilka was one of the most questionable parts” of the novel. The memorial had previously identified Cilka’s storyline as “the major point of concern” in December, saying: “The sexual relationship described in the book between the head of the camp SS-Obersturmf├╝hrer Johann Schwarzhuber and the Jewish female prisoner Cilka … in practice, the possibility of maintaining such a long relationship … and, according to the book, a semi-explicit relationship between a Jewish female prisoner and high-ranking member of the SS hierarchy was nonexistent. The disclosure of such a relationship would have involved an accusation of race dishonour … and severe punishment for the SS man.”

But Mrs. Morris doesn't seem to care what the Auschwitz center says.  To her fans on Facebook, she shares that sjhe had “wanted to find out more about this extraordinary young woman”, so “decided to honor Cilka by using her life as the inspiration for a [second] novel”.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/feb/01/cilkas-journey-the-tattooist-of-auschwitz-heather-morris

On Facebook, Morris states that “on liberation, and still only 19, Cilka was charged by the Russians as a collaborator with the Nazis. Once again, Cilka found herself on a train, this time destined for the Siberian gulags. In this new prison, Cilka faced challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted [sexual] attention of the guards. But Cilka also began to tend to the sick and ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions. In the gulag Cilka daily confronted death and faced terror. Incredibly, she also found love.”

Yes, she found love as only a romance novelist out to make a buck can tell it.

Last year, Morris also told fans on her Facebook page that it would be “obvious what parts of her story are factual” and said she had made two trips to Slovakia to meet “several people who knew Cilka and her husband”. This blogger knows Morris said those things on Facebook because I read them on her FB page and even sent her several messages with questions which she never bothered to reply to.

“They have given me valuable information regarding her time in Siberia and my [sequel] will be based on this research and woven into a fictionalized telling of her story,” Morris wrote on her Facebook page which this blogger also saw. She told another fan, according to the Guardian's recent article: “You won’t find anything on Google, it has taken professional researchers for me to get the details and information required to write her story, she was a closed book so to speak.”

A spokesperson for Morris’s publisher in London told the Guardian: “Like 'The Tattooist of Auschwitz,' 'Cilka’s Journey' is a novel. While it has been inspired by what Heather Morris has discovered about Cilka, it is fiction, not a biography or an authoritative record of historical events. However, Morris is clear that Lali Sokolov and other survivors from Auschwitz-Birkenau spoke of the relationship between Cilka and [the SS creep] Schwarzhuber. In addition, it is worth noting that Cilka was charged by the Russians with the ‘crime’ of prostitution with an SS officer.”

It's only February. The "sequel" is coming in October. Get ready for the Heather Morris show to become more of an international literary brouhaha, as questions remain and more questions surface. This is not going to be a pretty picture. But there's money to  be made, lots of money, and the Australian and British publishers are pushing ahead come what may.

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update

Saturday, February 2, 2019

"[The Jews] feel protective and [feel they have] a degree of [ownership] over the Holocaust story. I totally 'get' that, but maybe there's room for both of us?"

"[The Jews] feel protective and [feel they have] a degree of [ownership] over the Holocaust story. I totally 'get' that, but maybe there's room for both of us?"

That's Holocaust romance writer Heather Morris defending her two controversial novels in a rather offensive and aggressive manner in a recent interview. Her statement is tone deaf and borderline anti-semitic, according to one Jewish observer I spoke with.

So here's the latest development: As this blog reported just the other day, even after literary critics and Holocaust scholars questioned the publication in 2018 of Heather Morris’ unvetted and un-factchecked romantic sexcapade novel "The Tattooist of Auschwitz," set in a Nazi concentration camp in the 1940s, the Australian publisher has decided, along with her marketing department, to completely ignore the criticism from the Auschwitz Memorial center in Poland and forge ahead with the planned October release of a so-called “sequel” to the first novel in what is now said to be part of four-part series.

New Zealand journalist Glenn McConnell, reporting from a news site in New Zealand, where Morris was born and raised, added fuel to literary fire with this headline: ''Kiwi author Heather Morris vows to keep telling Holocaust survivor stories despite fierce criticism.''

HEADLINE: ''Kiwi author Heather Morris vows to keep telling Holocaust survivor stories despite fierce criticism''

https://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/books/110317910/kiwi-author-heather-morris-vows-to-keep-telling-holocaust-survivor-stories-despite-fierce-criticism



This blog's earlier post, published yesterday and titled '''Planned 'Tattooist of Auschwitz' sequel questioned by Holocaust scholars'', is now also online and can be found at https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/planned-tattooist-of-auschwitz-sequel-questioned-by-holocaust-scholars/


So here's the follow-up:  "Bestselling New Zealand author vows to keep telling the stories of Holocaust survivors, despite vocal criticism from Auschwitz historians."

Last week, Morris announced plans to release a sequel, titled "Cilka's Journey," telling the romance novel genre story of another Auschwitz survivor.

In the face of widespread criticism from official Holocaust historians, Morris told the ''Stuff'' website that she won't stop at two books. She has more personal stories to tell, from others who survived those Nazi concentration camps, she confessed to the reporter. She might 8 more novels in the same romance novel vein.

The Auschwitz Memorial Research Center in Poland issued a lengthy critique of her debut novel, saying the frist novel contained "numerous errors and information inconsistent with the facts, as well as exaggerations".

 An earlier news article in Stuff last December was headlined: ''Auschwitz Memorial claims 'numerous errors' in Kiwi's Holocaust love story.''

Morris, however, told the Sutff reporter that she has no regrets about how her first novel and the sequel were researched, even though she doesn't say who the researchers she hired re and what their qualitifications were. She refuses to name them.

"I believe it was his version of what happened, and [my publisher had] researchers doing their best to verify what they could, but so much of this was not on documents, files were destroyed, and his story was not documented," she confesses.

So the story she based her controversial bestselling Holocaust novel on was based on so-called "research" that did not rely on archived documents or files and mainly relied on "memories" she was able to coax out of an elderly Holocaust survivor in his 80s who she befriended in Australia and the behest of his son, Gary Sokolov, who now disavows the "Tattooist" tale.

Morris claims, without naming them, that ''professional researchers'' verified the "factual parts'' of the elderly man's hazy and fuzzy memories in old age.

"She's also comfortable with the accuracy of the two novels so far, given that her aim was always just to tell the personal recollections of Holocaust survivors," she told McConnell.

Fighting back in a somewhat rude and agressive way, Morris, in her 70s now, told the New Zealand newspaper last week: "When you have someone [like Lali] who was there, saying what happened -- sorry, I'm going to write that."

''Sorry, I'm going to write that''?

What kind of person is this?

The Te Awamutu-raised author, who moved from New Zealand to Australia in the 1970s, says "Tattooist" omitted significant stories because her hired ''researchers'' were unable to get a second piece of evidence to back up Lali's claims. She says this again without naming who these so-called ''Holocaust researchers'' were or what outfit they worked for. Some say they were not professional Holocaust historians or researchers at all but just hired hands that a movie company employed to cover for any of Morris' gaffes.

Since then, she says, these researchers have found evidence to back up some of Lali's other stories, she told McConnell, adding: "I would give anything to rewrite "Tattooist' and include those."
She told the New Zealand newspaper that while she completely ''sympathizes'' with her critics at the Auschwitz center in Poland, she vows to keep telling stories from Holocaust survivors.

And here comes the worst part of the Morris interview: "[The Jews] feel protective and a degree of [ ownership] over the Holocaust story. I totally 'get' that but maybe there's room for both of us?"

So the sequel to "Tattooist," dedicated to the author's legions of female fans around the world, is due out in October, and will tell the story of Cilka Kaufmannova. As a Jewish teenager, she was imprisoned in Auschwitz and, as Morris wrote her first novel, she was raped by the SS guards and became a sex slave to the Nazi camp commandant. His Jewish whore, in other words.

But the Auschwitz center says that never happened in real life. Nazis were not allowed to have sex with concentration camp inmates and never did.

As Morris tells it to McConnell, 'Cilka's story is truly horrific. She survived Auschwitz only to be sent to a Russian gulag after the war was over -- "probably the worst Russian gulag there was" -- for having sex with the Nazis.

Like Lali Sokolov, Cilka is said to have found love even in the most horrid of circumstances in the Russian gulag. It's the story of love, and hope, which Morris says makes her romance genre novels different from other Holocaust novels.

So to sum up where things stand now:

The news of a "Tattooist" sequel was welcomed by Morris' fans, but the Auschwitz Memorial was quick to hit back.

"The story of Cilka was one of the most questionable part of The Tattooist of Auschwitz," the center said in a statement.

But for Morris, the new sequel about Cilka, titled "Cilka's Journey," is another romantic and sexy story of love, hope and survival, in the most desperate of circumstances.

Got that?

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LINK:
https://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/books/110317910/kiwi-author-heather-morris-vows-to-keep-telling-holocaust-survivor-stories-despite-fierce-criticism

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