Woman's claim she killed Nazi as a girl & hid in forest with wolves was turned into movie but it was all a pack of lies

THE story sounded truly incredible – a seven-year-old Jewish girl was taken in by a family of wolves in the 1940s after her ­parents were arrested by Nazis.

Belgian born Misha Defonseca told how she travelled across war-torn Europe in the hope of finding her mother and father.

Along the way she killed a ­German soldier with a pocket knife and found herself trapped in a ghetto in Poland’s capital Warsaw.

To some, her tale was impossible to believe. To others it was an extraordinary account of survival that had to be shared.

Misha’s inspirational act of Second World War heroism and friendship with a pack of dangerous animals was turned into both a best-selling book and movie.

But when Misha successfully sued her publisher for £16million in 2005 over alleged missing payments, a very different story emerged.

Hidden in the depths of the legal documents was evidence that Misha had not been telling the truth.

With the help of genealogists and a Holocaust survivor, it was ­established that she had never even left Belgium during the war.

Even more importantly, she was not the victim of anti-Semitism because she was, in fact, Catholic.

Tragically, the only element which was true was that her parents had been killed by the Nazis.

Tragically, the only element which was true was that her parents had been killed by the Nazis.

Now a documentary film called Misha And The Wolves has been made about the self-confessed faker.

But Misha, now aged 84 and living in Massachusetts in the United States, refused to take part or even watch it.

Breaking her silence, she has spoken to The Sun to explain her elaborate hoax.

‘I was like the wolves – a hunted animal’

She says: “The actual story is the one of a four-year-old girl who ­suffered immense psychological ­damage because of what happened to her parents.

“It is very common for ­damaged children to retreat into an inner world — it is how they survive, especially in wartime.

“I lost my parents in terrible ­circumstances, and it was verified that I was ill.

“As a sick child, I had every right to try to escape from what was going on.”

Misha first told others her incredible tale at a Massachusetts synagogue in the early 1990s.

Publisher Jane Daniel heard about the story and thought it would make a great book.

Misha claims she was “reluctant” to get involved but relented because “I was pushed”.

According to Misha: “I cooperated with people who wanted me to tell the story.”

In the book Misha recounted how at the age of six in 1941 her parents were arrested in Belgium and deported to Germany.

She was saved from that fate and went to live with a foster family who did not treat her well.

Desperate to be reunited with her parents, Misha travelled through war-torn Europe, becoming trapped in the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw.

After escaping over a wall, she travelled thousands of miles to Ukraine, Romania, Yugoslavia, Italy, France and back to Belgium.

During her arduous journey Misha said she stayed with a pair of wolves she named Maman Rita and Ita.

She wrote: “I was like the wolves — a hunted animal, and one that would be killed on sight.”

Later she said she joined a pack of six adult wolves and four pups.

But dates and places were sketchy, with Misha unable to say how many months she spent in the wild.

In 2008 Misha finally admitted she had made the story up.

Prior to publication, the book was sent to some Holocaust experts to see if they would provide a preface.

At least one warned against going ahead, saying they believed Misha was making it up.

For example, deportations from Belgium to Germany did not begin until a year after it was claimed her parents had been taken.

Despite those misgivings Misha: A Memoire Of The Holocaust Years did go into print in 1997 and was ­translated into 14 languages.

Disney expressed an interest in turning the story into a movie and Oprah ­Winfrey wanted Misha on her show.

But Misha’s apparent greed pulled defeat from the jaws of success when she successfully sued Jane for lost income in 2005.

Both Oprah and Disney lost interest and instead it was turned into a French film in 2007.

Horrified by the huge sum she had to pay, the publisher discovered something strange in the legal documents.

Hidden away was the name of Misha’s parents — even though the survivor claimed she could not remember that detail.

There was no record of the family in any of the files of deported Jews and, on a hunch, one expert decided to examine old Catholic Church documents instead.

They were able to establish that Misha’s real name was Monique de Wael and that her dad Robert De Wael and mum Josephine Donvil had been part of the Belgian ­resistance.

Misha was enrolled in a school in Brussels at the time she claimed to be traversing the continent.

In 2008 Misha finally admitted she had made the story up.

‘These things are not easy to live with’

But in defence of her actions, she said in a statement: “They called me ‘The Traitor’s Daughter’ because my father was suspected of ­speaking under torture. These things are not easy for any daughter to live with.

“This does not prevent me from trying to make sense of what ­happened by talking about it.”

War records show that her parents were executed by the Nazis in 1945.

A court ruled in 2014 that Misha had to pay her millions back to Jane because she had broken her contract by not giving a truthful account.

Her duplicity was used by right-wing groups who deny that millions of Jews were killed by the Nazis.

These things are not easy for any daughter to live with.

Yet there was no cover-up. It was Jewish Holocaust survivor Evelyne Haendel who toiled away to bring the truth to light.

The new movie’s director, Brit Sam Hobkinson, who also made acclaimed 2014 film The Hunt For The Boston Bombers, believes Evelyne is the “film’s centre of good . . . the one person with no ulterior motive”.

More than a decade on from her confession, Misha admits that what she did has been troubling.

She concludes: “My story has been fought over many times, but it is only me who can really tell what happened.”

  •  Misha And The Wolves will be in ­cinemas from September 3.

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