Jerzy Kosinski (born Jozef Lewinkopf, 14 June 1933 – 3 May 1991) was a Polish Jew, whose family managed to get through the war by assuming the fake Catholic name “Kosinski.” He emigrated to the U.S. in 1957. In 1965, his first novel, The Painted Bird, appeared, which he claimed for many years was autobiographic in nature. It describes a boy during World War II separated from his parents, roaming through Poland from one temporary shelter to another, where he experiences all sorts of cruelties to him and others. Elie Wiesel praised the book, and it opened Kosinski’s path into U.S. high society.
In 1994, Polish journalist Johanna Siedlecka exposed the book as pure fiction by proving Kosinski’s real, rather mundane wartime experiences in Poland. This was later confirmed in a Kosinski biography written by James P. Sloan (see Sloan 1997).