A German historian and blogger based in Ireland has been stripped of a literary prize after a genealogist showed how she lied about her family members being killed in the Holocaust.
A lawyer for Dr Marie Sophie Hingst said she had “claimed a significant degree of artistic freedom” by saying 22 members of her mother’s family died in the Shoah, and that her grandfather had been held in Auschwitz.
Hingst, whose blog has since been removed, gave Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem details of her lost “Jewish” family in 2013 and subsequently won a blogging award in 2017 for writing about it.
But that award has now been rescinded after genealogist Dr Gabriele Bergner looked into the claims for an investigation published this week by German newspaper Der Spiegel.
She found that Hingst’s grandmother was in fact a Christian married to a Protestant pastor, and that archives related to the 21 other alleged victims of the Holocaust could not be found in available collections.
Bergner trawled through records at the Digital Collections of the International Tracing Service, the Auschwitz Memorial Archive or the Memorial Book of the Federal Archives for the Victims of the Persecution of Jews in Germany.
Hingst travelled far and wide to tell the story of her fictional family, including at Jewish communal events and college campuses, and her blog attracted almost 240,000 readers.
She later won an unrelated essay competition at the Financial Times, and compared the fate of her “Jewish family” to today’s refugees from the Middle East.
However, when confronted by Bergner’s research, she said: “This is literature, not journalism or history.”