Holocaust Artist’s Legacy Is Contested in Germany

But Ms. Koczy’s husband, Louis Pelosi, an American composer who lives in the home they shared in New York state, said in emails and phone calls that he had copies of the same records the archivists found, records he says result from a conversion by the family to Catholicism to protect themselves from persecution.

After being threatened with legal action by Mr. Pelosi, Deutsche Welle, Germany’s public international broadcaster, amended an article on its website to make it clear that the recent statements about Ms. Kozcy’s past were allegations rather than facts.

Mr. Pelosi said that the psychological results of Ms. Koczy’s trauma were too severe to have been invented. He described nightmares, depression, and suicide attempts throughout her life: “Understand that to the end of her life Rosemarie would wake up screaming about the camps, the German boots crushing her and that I would be holding her and holding her to calm her down.”


Ms. Koczy at work in New York in 1978. Credit Emmanuel Yashchin

Ms. Koczy had said that she had been held in Nazi concentration camps in Germany and in what is now France from the ages of three until five, separated from her mother and forced to work.

According to her three-volume, handwritten memoir, “I Weave You A Shroud,” she was sent to an orphanage after World War II, and later worked as a maid in Geneva, where she studied art. Mr. Pelosi said the couple met at The MacDowell Colony, an artists and writers center in Peterborough, New Hampshire, and then spent time in Switzerland and the United States before moving to the United States. She became an American citizen in 1989.

Ms. Koczy is survived by a younger sister, Gisela Grob, whom she wrote was in a concentration camp with her, and a half brother who was born after the war. Ms. Grob did not reply to a request for comment, but Ms. Koczy’s memoirs suggest that her siblings did not share her memories. “They have rejected me because they don’t want to admit the Holocaust,” Ms. Koczy wrote.

According to her memoir and letters obtained by Mr. Kordes, archivist, Ms. Koczy spent years trying to find members of her family, writing angrily about being brushed off by the German Red Cross and other organizations in her search. In 1994, the Red Cross informed Ms. Koczy that it would not reply to any more of her letters.

Ms. Koczy also repeatedly petitioned the International Tracing Service, an archive and research center with an estimated 30 million documents related to the Holocaust, but according to a spokeswoman for the organization, it had no records of Ms. Koczy or her family.

Holocaust hoaxes are difficult to pull off because of the extent of documentation of the genocide. In recent years, several Holocaust memoirs have been exposed as fraudulent, including “Misha,” by Misha Defonseca, “Angel at the Fence,” by Herman Rosenblat, and Binjamin Wilkomirski’s “Fragments,” a fictitious account of imprisonment at Auschwitz.

Mr. Wilkomirski’s case, Mr. Pelosi said, frightened Ms. Koczy. “Rosemarie, when she read that, she said, you know, nobody’s going to believe me either,” Mr. Pelosi said. “She was so terrified that people would think she was faking.”

Ms. Koczy was hospitalized many times for depression, and Mr. Pelosi said she had suffered from delusions and paranoia. In her memoir, she wrote of doctors trying to “take away” her memories through medications and “sleeping cures” — long periods of drug-induced sleep, a treatment for mental illness that is now considered very dangerous. “I have been told, ‘You are lying! You’re schizophrenic, you don’t know what you’re talking about!’ ” she wrote. “Well yes, I knew my nightmares, I knew my experience of the camps, that I was a grown-up at three. These were not lies.”

The exhibition of Ms. Koczy’s works in Recklinghausen opened on Aug. 27 and runs through Sunday. The Guggenheim also retains her works, according to a statement: “The Guggenheim collection includes four works by Rosemarie Koczy. There are no current plans to exhibit the works. We actively update information about artworks in our collection and will consider this new research as it develops.”

A spokesman for Yad Vashem said, “Regardless of Koczy’s contested status as a survivor,” her artworks are “a response to the Holocaust and continue to be relevant to our collection which is where they shall remain.”

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