The judge hearing the case of a Gloucester publisher seeking dismissal of a $32.4 million judgment from a writer's lawsuit questioned yesterday whether the truth of an allegedly falsified Holocaust memoir may even be a factor in the civil case now before Middlesex Superior Court.
Gloucester attorney Joseph Orlando, representing Jane Daniel of the Mount Ivy Press, filed a motion to vacate a seven-year-old judgment stemming from Daniel's 1997 publishing of "Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years" — a story told by Misha Defonseca with the help of ghost writer Vera Lee.
Last February, Defonseca reportedly admitted that she never lived with wolves as she escaped the Holocaust, nor did she ever wander through Europe as a seven-year-old girl, as the story depicts.
Judge Timothy Feeley said he viewed yesterday's hearing as "somewhat preliminary." He told the parties he planned to ask many questions to help him determine the legal issues. Feeley said he had no prior knowledge of the case until he saw the files yesterday morning.
There was substantial discussion regarding the statute of limitations, which may vary depending on which section of law may be deemed to apply. But then Feeley raised what many view as a fundamental issue.
"Is it important that it was a work of fiction or a memoir?" Feeley asked at one point during the hearing. "I have trouble seeing how this new information changes the extent of the wrong found to be inflicted," said Feeley.
The judge said he would take the case under advisement and he would notify all parties should further information be sought from them.
The Belgian-born Defonseca — who served as her own attorney — and Lee's lawyer both argued that the truth of the tale didn't even matter. They said the verdict and appeal rendered that Daniel mishandled royalties and the U.S. marketing of the book, which had been a best-seller in Europe and was made into a French film,