Holocaust denier sues survivor, calling Auschwitz memoir 'vicious lies'

Posted: 10/21/2009 6:52:00 PM
Author: Tonya Alanez
Source: This article originally appeared in the Bardenton (Fla.) Herald on Oct. 21, 2009.

Holocaust denier sues survivor, calling Auschwitz memoir 'vicious lies'
by Tonya Alanez

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A notorious Holocaust denier convicted of attacking Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel in an elevator has now set his sights on an 80-year-old Pembroke Pines, Fla., woman whose memoir recounts her ordeal in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

In a lawsuit filed in Broward Circuit Court, Eric Hunt alleges that the "The Fifth Diamond: The Story of Irene Weisberg Zisblatt" is full of "vicious lies" and "fantastical tales" that turn Jews into haters and torment non-Jews.

Zisblatt's son-in-law, who is a lawyer, called Hunt's lawsuit "absurd" but expressed concern for his elderly relative's safety.

"This lunatic has assaulted a survivor in the past," Stuart Mermelstein of Miami said, "and is posing a danger to my mother-in-law simply for speaking out and writing a book."

Zisblatt's autobiography recounts how she, five siblings and their parents were packed into a boxcar for the trip from Hungary to the extermination camp.

Her mother gave Zisblatt, 13, four diamonds. (In her book's title, Zisblatt herself is the fifth diamond.) To keep the gems safe, Zisblatt relates, she repeatedly swallowed them during her time in captivity.

Zisblatt, who appeared in director Steven Spielberg's 1999 Academy Award-winning documentary "The Last Days," was the only member of her family to survive World War II. The precious stones she hid are still in her family.

Hunt, 25, of Archbald, Pa. filed the libel suit in Broward Circuit Court on Oct. 6 and is demanding a jury trial and punitive damages of "not less than $60 million."

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Peter Weinstein.

"In terms of the hatred spewed in this complaint, it clearly has no legal or factual bearing whatsoever," Mermelstein said. "It's a ridiculous pleading, and our concern is really directed not to the complaint, but to the motives and intent of Eric Hunt."

Also named as defendants in the suit are Spielberg; Zisblatt's co-author, Gail Ann Webb; Authors & Artists Publishers Inc. of New York; and its CEO, Joan Mayor.

"Zisblatt blatantly stole other Jewish people's experiences during World War II and passed them off as her own in order to further the Jewish political agenda and profit off of these fantastical tales," Hunt, who is representing himself without an attorney, wrote in his lawsuit. "The defendants must not go unpunished for tormenting Gentiles and instilling hatred in Jews using such hideous lies."

In 2007, Hunt accosted Holocaust survivor and scholar Wiesel, 81, in a San Francisco hotel elevator in an alleged attempt to force Wiesel to recant his own recollections of the Holocaust.

Hunt was convicted in 2008 of false imprisonment, battery and elder abuse. A judge sentenced him to two years in prison but gave him credit for time served and good behavior. The judge ordered Hunt to undergo psychological treatment.

At sentencing, Hunt apologized and said he had suffered a "severe mental breakdown."

"I had been sucked into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on the Internet," Hunt said in August 2008. "I don't believe any of that garbage now that I'm taking my medication."