Rosemarie Koczy's drawings displayed at the Guggenheim and the World Holocaust Remembrance Center are haunting—not at all surprising given that Koczy described them as "burials for those I saw die" in concentration camps as a child. And yet the authenticity of that statement, and of the German-born American artist's greater tale of Holocaust survival, is now being called into question. Archivists in Recklinghausen, Germany, where the late Koczy was born in 1939, say they've uncovered documents showing Koczy's family was Roman Catholic, not Jewish, per the New York Times. Koczy's surname is also missing from records of residents taken to camps. What's more, a concentration camp in which Koczy said she was held was actually "exclusively for men," archivist Matthias Kordes tells Deutsche Welle.
Even Koczy's claim that her grandfather's jewelry shop was destroyed during 1938's Night of Broken Glass was false, says Kordes. "Her life, I'm sorry, it's a fake," he tells the Times. Koczy, who died in 2007 at age 68, was apparently no stranger to such claims. "I have been told, 'You are lying!'" she wrote in a 2009 memoir, which suggested even her siblings rejected her story. But "I knew my experience of the camps," Koczy wrote. "These were not lies." Koczy's widower—who says Koczy's family converted to Roman Catholicism in the hope of protecting themselves—argues the same to the Times. Koczy was "so terrified that people would think she was faking," he says. But "to the end of her life, Rosemarie would wake up screaming about the camps, the German boots crushing her." (More than 1 million Holocaust victims are "missing.")