The Historian Who Invented 22 Holocaust Victims

Spiegel – by Martin Doerry

The three men from the archive were clearly uncomfortable. On an early April afternoon, they were sitting somewhat sheepishly in an office belonging to the Stralsund City Archive. Files and large format copies with family trees and biographical information had been laid out on a table in front of them for the journalist visiting from Hamburg. 

Archivists spend much of their time silently sorting documents and other materials — and they typically try to avoid these kinds of public encounters. But these archivists haven’t had much rest since the case emerged of a Ph.D. historian at Dublin’s Trinity College — a colleague of theirs, so to speak. Marie Sophie Hingst, the “lady from Dublin,” as one of the archivists said right at the beginning of the conversation, had been fabricating stories about the people of Stralsund. “It’s a horrible story,” he said, giving “people a false identity.”

The men at the archive didn’t want to be quoted by name in DER SPIEGEL and instead spoke to the magazine as an institution. In the semi-official verdict of the archivists, “Dr. Hingst” adopted a fictitious family history. “With the exception of a few names, it’s all completely made up.”

It may not have been such a big deal if the historian had merely been engaging in a bit of harmless speculation. But Hingst did more than that: She reported the names of 22 alleged Holocaust victims, eight of them from Stralsund alone, to the archives of the Israeli Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem. Most of the 22 people never even existed. The documents from the city archives and other sources show that only three of the people had actually been real. None of those three, however, were Jewish nor had they been murdered.

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