Netflix‘s acclaimed documentary Misha and the Wolves tells the incredible story of Misha Defonseca, who perpetuated a now-notorious literary hoax surrounding her survival during the Holocaust in the company of a wolf pack. The new film, directed by Sam Hobkinson, provides a thrilling look at Defonseca’s tale and features firsthand accounts from the figures at the center of the fraud. However, despite the extensive array of interviewees and detailed testimony, the movie is just part of the narrative around Defonseca’s story.
When Defonseca released her supposedly authentic memoir in 1997 titled Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years, the book became an instant hit. The story was published in 18 different languages and found a huge audience in Europe. In particular, the tale struck a chord with French readers, leading to the publication of a derivative retelling Survivre avec les Loups, or Surviving with Wolves. This particular version proved so popular that a French film of the same name followed in 2007. Given the subsequent revelations around Defonseca’s deception, the French film adaptation – which everyone assumed was based on a true story – becomes an even more fascinating watch.
Finding a copy of Survivre avec les Loups is not straightforward. However, for fans of the new Netflix documentary, the French biopic makes for compelling viewing. The film currently has a listing on Amazon Prime Video, although it is only available to stream from certain geographical locations. There is also a full-length bootlegged copy of the film available on YouTube, complete with English subtitles. In addition, customers can order a Blu-ray disc of the feature from Amazon.
Just like Defonseca’s original hoax, Survivre avec les Loups tells the story of a young Jewish girl who journeys across Europe during the height of the Second World War. With nothing but a compass and a pocket knife to assist her, she sets off in search of her parents, stealing and scavenging food from farms and surviving on a diet of earthworms, insects, and dead animals. During the course of her trials, she journeys into the Warsaw ghetto in Poland and becomes an adopted member of an Eastern European wolf pack. This mirrors the story as told in the original 1997 memoir.
The 2007 film was presented as autobiographical upon release and was generally well-received by critics. Defonseca’s subsequent 2008 confession has understandably changed the narrative around the production. However, given the context of the new Misha and the Wolves documentary, Survivre avec les Loups is still a compelling story.