Wilkomirski, Binjamin

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Wilkomirski (he is not sure whether this is in fact his real name) claims to be one of the many Jewish children orphaned by the Nazi Holocaust and one of the few hundred young children to survive the death camps.

He claims that when he was three or four he witnessed his father being killed by the Nazis in Riga and was then separated from his family and sent to the Majdanek and Auschwitz concentration camps. The rest of his family supposedly died in the camps. He was abused and starved for the rest of the war, eventually liberated, sent to orphanages in Poland and Switzerland, fostered and ultimately adopted by a Swiss family who refused to discuss his traumatic past with him.

In his isolation he was not even told that the war was over and that he was no longer in danger until his last year of school.

He is now a high-school music teacher and clarinet-maker near Zürich, Switzerland and has written about his childhood.

After the publication of Fragments, controversy arose as to whether the book was in fact based on genuine memories, a construct based on false memories (recovered memory syndrome), or a conscious and deliberate fraud. The consensus now is that the book is a deliberate fabrication based on detailed historical research, although not necessarily malicious in intent. A number of literary prizes won by the book and its author have now been retracted.

It has now been established that the author's real name is Bruno Dössekker, a gentile who was born Bruno Grosjean in 1941 to a poor, unmarried woman in Biel, Switzerland, taken into care by the local social services department and spent several years in an orphanage in Adelboden before being adopted (placed in 1945, formally adopted in 1957) by a wealthy and childless gentile couple in Zürich, both of whom died in 1986.

Research has found his birth father, who is willing to take a DNA test to prove his paternity (which Wilkomirski refuses to do), his birth mother's brother, who tried unsuccessfully to adopt him, a foster brother who remembers him well, photographs of him as a happy, healthy child taken in Switzerland during the time he claims to have been in the Polish orphanage and damning official Swiss documentation.

An American who claimed to have memories of him from Auschwitz has been exposed as a serial fraudster and has vanished

now seems likely that Wilkomirski suffers from a psychological form of Munchausen's syndrome. Fears about his fraud being used by anti-Holocaust revisionists and neo-Nazis have proven to be well founded. But in spite of all this, one fact remains: the author of Fragments is indeed an adoptee, although not in the way he claims.

References

Mächler, Stefan. Der Fall Wilkomirski: Über die Wahrheit einer Biographie. (Zürich: Pendo-Verlag,

Indexes

European
Jewish
Latvia
Poland
Switzerland
20th Century
21st Century
Journalism
Music and Dance
Exile or Persecution (religious, Political or Social)
Estrangement from Adoptive or Foster Family
Formal, American/European-Type Adoption
Pre-school Years
Orphaned (Both Parents)
Child Removed from Home by Social Services
Parent(s) in Prison or Labor Camp, Executed
War or Persecution
Unmarried Mother, Single Parent (Mother or Father) Unable to Cope
Poverty
Others ("Strangers")
Institutional Care
Unmarried Mother
Tracing Impossible or Birth Family Extinct
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