The Fifth Diamond: A Special Jewel in the Genre of Holocaust Horror Stories, part 5 (of 5)

Published: 2010-01-18

Irene Weisberg Zisblatt writes of swallowing the same diamonds over and over again for a year in order to save all she has left of her family. What else does she say—and why is it not believable?

Apophenia: the phenomenon of seeing things that aren't there. People will see, and believe, what they expect to see, what they want to see, or even what they are told they are seeing, as often as they will see, and believe, what they are actually seeing.

By Carolyn Yeager

Part Five

(ST=Shoah Testimony, FD=The Fifth Diamond, LD=The Last Days, RI=Radio Interview. See Part One for further explanation.)

Displaced Persons camp

(ST) She only says “They took us to Salzburg, Austria … I was with people from Poland, from different countries, waiting for borders to open up, waiting for papers to come through to go to different countries. Most of the people were hoping to go to Palestine, but that was closed too.” (@3hr3min) She says (Jews) had to be smuggled in and “we tried that also, we did get to Italy and laid on the beaches for 5 days and nights waiting for a ship to come get us … but there was no ship.”[24] When asked by the interviewer—“Who did you go with?”—she remained vague by answering, “Just, uh, kids that, uh, well, there were a couple of leaders that were very devoted, uh, Haganah[25] people and Zionists … they came one night” and recruited the residents to try to get to Palestine illegally. She says, “Most of the people, we didn’t even know each other.” She stayed in the DP camp until 1947. She had information placed in newspapers in the States and an uncle in the Bronx answered her “article” in The Forward.[26]
Remarks: When she says ‘us’ followed by ‘people from Poland’, it indicates she was with mostly Polish people. I suspect Zisblatt changed “Sabka’s” identity from Polish to Lithuanian because, as time went on, she wanted to distance herself from every Polish association, not least because she is hiding her early marriage to the Pole Alter Lewin, along with other Polish ties she may also be hiding. I note her failure to put names to any of the “we’s” and “us’s” she is so fond of using. She spent two years in the DP camp, was never alone, and not one friend or helper is mentioned by name. Two years versus one year in Nazi camps—the one year is filled with events and experiences worthy of an entire book, but the two (in spite of her marriage) are devoid of anything worth talking about.
(FD) When she was “strong enough to leave” the hospital she was assigned a guardian to help her get situated in the DP camp. Although she says he became a friend to her, he is not named. According to her statements in FD, she would have arrived in the DP camp in early July 1945—not, as she tells in her ST, “at the end of summer … close to 1946. Otherwise, she tells essentially the same story but adds a period of time living with other Jewish refugees in the home of an elderly Salzburg widow, who she takes great pains to describe as a hateful German Nazi whose husband had been in the Gestapo.[27] We’re only given the poor woman’s first name—Herta (pp. 101-2)
She writes: “Staying in this camp I made new friends,” but she doesn’t give a single name or describe a single friend, including any mention of Alter Lewin.
(LD) None of these experiences are in the Spielberg film.

Voyage to America

(ST) On November 8th, “I arrived on the Marine Flecher [phonetical] in New York and met my family that I never knew before.” (@3hr5min) She says nothing more about the trip or about her new family and gives only a sketchy outline of her early time in the US: she went to school at night, taking high school equivalency in English, and worked during the day in a bakery. When she finished school, she went to work for RCA as what sounds like an assembly line worker. She was active in B’nai Brith and president of BBYO (its youth organization), and an enthusiastic seller of Israeli war bonds.
(FD) In October 1947, she received her official papers to travel to the US on the ship “Marine Fletcher.” Now she tells us how “Chana” became “Irene” when an immigration official handed her a passport with the name Irene Seigelstein. (p. 103) “‘I panicked … this is not my name … I have never heard of that name,’ I cried. ‘From this day forward, you are Irene,’ he replied. ‘That is a nice name. That is an American name.’ I was ecstatic. I was so honored to have an American name.’”
Remarks: From this we can fairly conclude that “Chana” is a fictional representation of “Irene,” and that when she left Europe for America, the fiction ended and reality began. Or did it?
She writes little of the voyage, saying only the ocean was rough and she was seasick. Though she was 10 days on the ship, a brand new type of experience, she doesn’t mention a single person she met or a single event that took place. Her uncle Nathan met her at the dock and drove her to New Jersey to meet the rest of the family (p. 104). On page 111, she says, “I became a member of B’nai Brith Women. As chairman of the Israeli Bond Drive, I organized all the events to try to sell bonds. I really think that was my way of starting to give of myself.” Give of herself—very particularly to Jews only, and so it continued throughout the rest of Irene’s story, even until today.
Remarks: Here again, did Zisblatt ditch her first husband, Alter Lewin, as soon as she landed, or was she not really met by “Uncle Nathan” at the dock and taken to meet the rest of her family?

Concluding Remarks

There is much more in her book and on the videotape that is unbelievable and insults the reader’s/viewer’s intelligence which I have not even touched on for the reason that she is reasonably consistent in her telling. But what can we conclude about all the major and minor differences between Irene Zisblatt’s archived Shoah Testimony and her later autobiography?

The first thing that comes to mind is that between 1995 and 2008, she thought of a way of telling her story that she liked better. She realized that some things she had said in 1995 didn’t make sense or they didn’t align with what other survivors said, so she corrected or changed these things. She also took the opportunity to add even more drama and “Nazi sadism” to her incarceration (for example, Dr. Mengele as the doctor who used her for experiments; her punishment holding the bricks for 12 hours as she observed new Hungarian and Ukrainian arrivals being abused; and, of course, swallowing and retrieving the diamonds from her feces over and over) to increase the suffering she experienced firsthand, while she also toned down some others. She put herself in the center of just about everything she had ever read of the Holocaust! All in all, this makes The Fifth Diamond a calculated exercise in pushing her anti-German agenda rather than a truthful record of her experience.

Was Zisblatt ever really at Birkenau? I believe it’s possible she wasn’t because her account of it is so filled with inaccuracies, yet I’m willing to accept that she was. Another question is: if she was, for how long? A Red Cross Tracing Service document made available by her shows an Irene Segelstern was incarcerated on 28 Sept 1944, which could possibly be a contradiction of her story that she arrived during the mass deportation of Hungarian Jews in the spring of that year. Zisblatt’s own dating in her narrative(s) would actually have her at Birkenau around April 20; yet according to several sources, the very first two trainloads left on April 29th and 30th, both arriving at Birkenau on May 2nd, carrying a total of 3800 Hungarian Jews.[28] The Jews from Munkacs were not on these trains, meaning they arrived after May 2nd.

The fact that the birth date and nationality matches Zisblatt’s indicates the misspelling of the name is probably a mistake, UNLESS Irene Zisblatt is not and never was Irene Seiglestein and is a total fraud. It is possible.[29] Her birth year is given as 1928 or 1929 on all holocaust-related listings—never 1930.

Above: A Red Cross document is held up to the camera by Irene Zisblatt. She received it in response to her inquiry, sent as Irene Zisblatt Lewin, about Irene Seigelstein (notice it reads "Segelstern"). Ironically, it lists her at places after A-B different from where she says she was. Schutzhaft means protective custody. This document creates more questions than it answers. (credit:

Above: Displaced Persons refugee card for Irene Lewin, traveling with Alter and Elias; notice the original first name is crossed out. On the Ship’s Manifest for the Marine Flasher, the three are marked as traveling together, with Irene being Alter’s wife and Elias his brother. (credit:

Identity confusion

I have doubts about her identity, since she traveled to the US as a married 18-year-old named Lewin, and used the name again to inquire into Irene Seigelstein’s holocaust records. I have doubts about her family and their supposed perishing in “gas chamber #2.” The only confirmation that her mother and father, Rakhel and Moshe Zeigelshtein of Polena, died at Auschwitz is a registration form made out by Tzipora Erbs, a niece of Moshe, in 1957 to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum database—where anyone can submit a name. The Yad Vashem database is not proof of anything. Additionally, Zisblatt’s four brothers and sister do not come up on that database and you would think the relative who registered the parents would have also registered them. There are no official records of the Zeigelshtein/Seigelstein family deaths at Auschwitz that I have been able to find. But how does one go about proving that someone was murdered at Auschwitz? One doesn’t; there is no proof.[30]
There are several records for Irene Seigelstein (with slightly different spellings), but they don’t match the story she tells in The Fifth Diamond or in her talks on the lecture circuit. She says flat out, “I survived Auschwitz, Birkenau, Majdanek and Neuengamme, and a death march.”[31] Yet her records say she was an inmate at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Gross Rosen and Flossenbuerg/Helmbrechts (which she entered on March 6), and was liberated from a civilian hospital in Volary, Czechoslovakia, not alone in a forest and then taken to a hospital. Why does she refuse to mention Gross Rosen and Flossenbuerg [32] in her ST, her book and her talks? Is it because she could not then say she was on a 3-month death march? From Birkenau she went to another camp (she says in December, but probably in October), and by the first week of January she embarked on a death march. While it is possible that she was on a couple of shorter marches between the abovementioned camps, it’s just as possible she was not. Since her account is untruthful from start to finish, there is no reason to believe her about a “death march.” I think she read about them and decided to put it in her own story, as she did with so many things. Her death-march account sounds amazingly similar to the story of Szewa Szeps.[33] As to “surviving Majdanek,” the only time she spent there was either 24 or 48 hours waiting for Ilse Koch to show up - another piece of fiction.
Another, perhaps more persuasive reason for Zisblatt to misrepresent the camps she was in is because they were not “death camps.” She may be hiding the true reason she never got a tattoo: that she was “in transit” at Birkenau and was soon sent to another camp to work. Especially if she were really 14 or 15 years old, rather than 13, she would have been useful labor - not wasted carrying rocks back and forth in Birkenau for no purpose other than sadistic, or for “experiments.” Auschwitz-Birkenau was the only camp where inmates were tattooed; her lack of a tattoo is therefore a problem for which she invents her cover-up story of tattoo removal. Recall that the tattoo number she gives herself does not fit the numbers that were used at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944; that number was her prisoner number at Gross Rosen.

Spielberg’s documentary and Shoa Library undermined

Does she think no one will notice all these glaring discrepancies in her narrative? Up until Eric Hunt took a look at it, no one did! That’s how it can be that holocaust fictions are passed off as fact—people won’t use their critical faculties when they listen to “holocaust survivors.” One reason for Zisblatt’s complacency is probably her close association with Steven Spielberg, an “untouchable” figure among contemporary global elites. As one of the “stars” of his award winning documentary, she can understandably feel protected under his broad wings. But if her holocaust narrative is widely exposed as a work of fiction, this can also expose Spielberg as a perpetrator of fictions, and seriously undermine the entire credibility of The Last Days—the cover and advertising of which states: “Everything you are about to see is true.” If put in legal terms, it may be that what you “see” filmed is true-to-life, even though the relationships, context, and the words that are put with what is shown visually, are not. This is the way clever lawyers help the rich and famous to lie without really lying.
Not only is The Last Days undermined, but the entire Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation Library, under Spielberg’s executive directorship and now housed at the University of Southern California (USC), becomes suspect. The original interview of Zisblatt conducted by Jennifer Resnick in 1995 is one of those “soft-ball” sessions in which contradictory and otherwise incredible statements are not questioned. There are many red-flags thrown up by what Zisblatt says, and at times Resnick has a hint of surprise in her voice, but all is accepted at face-value. It may even be proper for the interviewer not to interject or interfere, but the producers/directors of The Last Days had a responsibility to be sure that their witness’s testimony panned out. Instead, it seems they were more interested in a memorable angle—such as swallowing and retrieving the diamonds—and a personality that was willing to indulge in untruths with a convincing, sympathetic manner. Considering what I have revealed in this article, the producers/directors of The Last Days are guilty of manipulating the public’s beliefs and feelings to fit an agenda—just as I said that Zisblatt had done in her autobiography—rather than giving a truthful rendering of what really took place during those days. The musical sound track and film clips that are interspersed with the speaker’s words are clearly there to create emotional reactions that will overpower critical thinking.

Inspiration for the diamond story

In light of the above, some further reflections on Zisblatt’s diamonds are in order. On the last page of her book (p. 167), there is a photograph of the teardrop pendant with the four diamonds. Someone pointed out to me that they appear to be two matched sets, with two larger and two smaller diamonds—suggesting they may have come from two pairs of diamond earrings that Zisblatt may have owned. In The Last Days she shows the pendant, but waves it around so that the diamonds cannot be seen clearly while she says, “See, they are all different sizes and shapes.” From what I see, this is not so; they are surprisingly regular.

Considering the timing, it’s fair to ask: Did someone from The Last Days come up with the idea of featuring the diamond-saving, diamond-swallowing story? This is where the full-blown diamond story, and the pendant, first appeared. In the Radio Interview, Zisblatt said they asked about the diamonds that she spoke of in her testimony, but in her testimony she only said she swallowed them when she arrived at Auschwitz. So where did they get the idea, from what she said in her testimony, that she still had them? I go over this again because I think it is a key to some important discoveries that I may develop in a future article.

I’d like to close with a few comments on Zisblatt’s personality as I have come to see it. One character trait that stands out to me is her strong desire to be the center of attention. This crops up in several places. One is in making herself a favorite patient of Dr. Mengele, and even in being selected for “experiments” to begin with. As Dr. Mengele’s patient, she’s in a privileged position to know all about this famous, but shadowy character, and speaks about him as an expert (but she never describes what he actually looks like). Another is her insistence that she and her imaginary friend “Sabka” were liberated all by themselves in a forest by American soldiers who made a big fuss over them. Then “Sabka” disappeared and she was alone with the soldiers in the military hospital where she was the only female—she is not just another Jewish girl with all the other Jewish girls in the civilian hospital that was created for them. And while in the military hospital, none other than General George C. Patton himself came to her bedside and was so touched by her story that he pulled buttons off his uniform and took the scarf from around his neck to give to her!

As I asked at the beginning: What kind of a person can come up with such outrageous lies, and should such a person be given free access to influence America’s schoolchildren? This is an important question that every responsible individual reading this should ask, after which they should come up with an agenda of their own.


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[24] This sounds a lot like the equally vague trip to Majdanek to meet with Ilse Koch who never arrived.
[25] Haganah was the underground Jewish militia in Palestine during British rule from 1929 to 1948 that became the national army of Israel after the partition of Palestine in 1948.
[26] A well-known Jewish newspaper in the US.
[27] Zisblatt, another girl, two married couples and two boys (8 in all) were “moved into the upstairs of a home owned by an old woman. (She) was forced to share her home with victims of the concentration camps […] for the first few days we didn’t even realize she was there.” They used the kitchen downstairs—I truly can just imagine what shape they left it in! “In the first week we were there, I played her piano, which was in the living room. She instructed me to never touch her piano again. […] Herta was not a gracious host.” After a couple months, the group decided to go back to the DP camp. Taking over the homes of Germans to house Jewish refugees was a common practice of the Allies for several years after the war.
[28] "The Holocaust Chronicle," Louis Weber, Publications International Ltd, Lincolnwood, Illinois. Also, "Auschwitz, a New History," Laurence Rees, 2005.
[29] ) The correct spelling for this common Jewish name is Siegelstein, the way Nathan Siegelstein of New York, who she claims is the uncle with whom she lived upon entry into the US, spelled it. Yet she has always spelled her name Seigelstein, which is a misspelling and would be pronounced Sigh-gel instead of Say-gel. Some records for the holocaust survivor Irene spell the name Segelstein, which is actually a more phonetic way of spelling Siegelstein. This gives some credence to the speculation that Zisblatt got the spelling wrong when she “took” the name/identity of this holocaust survivor. This would not be the first time it was done. Elie Wiesel, for example, has been accused by another Buchenwald survivor of stealing the identity of a real Buchenwald survivor who was this man’s friend. He has written a book about it.
[30] There are official German records, released from Soviet custody, that show all deaths at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the nationality of the deceased and cause of death. The numbers are very low. The million that are claimed to have been killed/gassed at Auschwitz-Birkenau are said to have not been registered, so there is no way to prove their deaths.
[31] and FD, p, 120.
[32] The Helmbrechts camp population was mainly non-Jews, but in March 1945, a group of over 500 Jewish women arrived on foot from the Gruenberg subcamp (of Gross Rosen) in Poland. There is NO source for this information at wikipedia, not surprisingly, but the page goes on to state that in April the women of Helmbrechts were set out on a march to Dachau, but were turned toward Czechoslovakia instead. The march ended in a small farming village with an Allied air raid on the group on May 8, 1945. The US Army found them the next day.

For the other parts of this article please click on the links below

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

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Author(s): Carolyn Yeager
Title: The Fifth Diamond: A Special Jewel in the Genre of Holocaust Horror Stories, part 5 (of 5)
Published: 2010-01-18
First posted on CODOH: Jan. 18, 2010, 7:47 a.m.
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