Holocaust man’s claims queried
A WA author who wrote a book allegedly based on his harrowing life as a Holocaust survivor is at the centre of a row over his credibility.
UWA Press has pulled copies of Stolen Soul from bookshops after a private investigator was called in to probe the author’s background.
The book, written by Secret Harbour man Bernard Holstein — whose real name is Bernard Brougham — claims to be “the amazing true story of survival and mateship in Auschwitz”.
The publisher describes the book as “an epic read full of stories of how Bernard underwent experiments, assisted the Underground and even escaped, only to be recaptured and subjected to even greater torture”.
But this week a UWA Press spokeswoman admitted the publishing house removed the book because of doubts about the author’s credibility.
Initially, it was convinced of the authenticity of the memoirs of Brougham, who sports a tattoo of the number 111404 on the inside of his left arm, similar to those given to Jews by the Nazis.
Brougham, 69, a mining camp cook, says his story is true — but concedes he may never be able to prove it.
“It is true, it did happen,” he said, acknowledging he had little to support his claims and might never convince his detractors that his death camp experiences were real.
He has no immigration papers, no German birth certificate and no living witnesses who could verify his arrival in Sydney from a post-war holding camp in Cyprus.
“All I have is what is in my memory,” he said. “But I have got nothing to hide. This book is an account of what happened in my life.
“I am not a liar, what I have written is true. People might ask how a boy who was only nine at the time can remember what happened in so much detail but I can tell you, once you step through the gates into the barracks at Auschwitz, you instantly grow up. I remember everything. I still have nightmares about it.”
On the strength of the book Brougham was invited to talk to schoolchildren at the Holocaust Institute in Yokine.
His story was questioned when his NSW foster family called UWA Press claiming that not only was he not born in Holstein, Germany, as he said, but he was not Jewish.
By this stage the book had sold out its first print run and Brougham was already at work on a sequel, revealing how he fled to Australia after Auschwitz was liberated.
A private investigator employed by UWA Press claims that Brougham was born in country NSW, baptised a Roman Catholic in 1942, made his Confirmation in 1952 and even spent time in a seminary training to become a priest.
Brougham says he was raised as a Catholic in Australia and his step-parents never discussed his Jewish heritage.
He said he would take a DNA test to prove he was not related to his five step-siblings in a bid to authenticate his story and convince UWA Press that it was true.
“I remember that three doctors who were members of the Underground (resistance fighters) told me that `one or two or three of you boys are going to get out of this hell hole and you must tell the world what happened here’,” he said.
In the book he claims that a tearful exchange with a German tourist several years ago convinced him to write his memoirs, which cost him about $70,000 to have ghost-written and published.
The book has been selling on the Angus & Robertson website for $26.95 and Brougham has made several book-signing appearances.
Publicity for the book said Bernard Holstein “endured two years of hell” at Auschwitz. Despite his ordeal, “Bernard survived and has now fulfilled his promise to tell the story the world needs to know. Stolen Soul is Bernard’s story. His memories, his tears, his belief in the human spirit are all contained within its pages.”
Source: CATHERINE MADDEN and JIM KELLY
October 31, 2004
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