Diana Nyad’s Unspeakable Lie, part 1

Diana Nyad often tells the story of meeting a Holocaust survivor who underwent horrifying sexual abuse during World War II. Nyad fabricated the whole thing.

part 1 | part 2

Please understand that I am not questioning whether or not sexual abuse occurred during the Holocaust. It did, and it was probably much worse than I could ever imagine. I am, however, questioning the facts of one particular story, the one Diana Nyad invented and now exploits for her own benefit. 

The following paragraph summarizes Nyad’s story. It includes details common to most or all of the six versions I’m familiar with:

At dinner after one of her talks, Nyad meets an elderly woman (never named) who is originally from Krakow, Poland. Nyad identifies the woman as a survivor because she has numbers tattooed on her arm. The woman tells Nyad her story: When she was three years old, the Gestapo came to her home in Krakow, killed her father, and forced her, her mother, and her six-year-old sister onto a train to Dachau. At Dachau, they were separated. The mother and sister went to the right, the three-year-old went to the left and never saw her family again. The Nazis then sent the three-year-old girl to serve as a sex slave to the camp’s SS officers. At war’s end, a French family adopts the little girl. She goes on to live a life seemingly unaffected by her trauma.

(This spreadsheet provides links to all six versions and highlights differences between them.)

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Over the last month, I’ve struggled to write about Nyad’s story. Then I received a message from Dr. Barbara Distel, former director of the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. Her email contains just about everything you need to know about Nyad’s tale. By permission of Dr. Distel, here are the pertinent parts (lightly edited for readability):

1. Dachau was a concentration camp for men only, there were never families or mothers with children. Jewish families in Poland were sent to Ghettos and from there to the death camps, or directly to the death camps in Poland, never to Germany. The description [Nyad gives] refers to Auschwitz. The way she tells it is completely fictional. [my emphasis]
During the last years (1943-1945), a large number of subsidiary
camps were established where Dachau prisoners worked mostly for the German armament industry. There were some subsidiary camps and work detachments where also women prisoners worked. Shortly before the liberation on April 29, 1945, there were about 67,000 inmates in Dachau and its subsidiary camps, 4,600 of them were women (4,000 Jewish women). There were a number of babies who had been born shortly before the liberation.
2. There were no three-year-old children in Dachau. [Unlike] Buchenwald concentration camp, there was no children’s barrack in Dachau. 

I have never heard of sexual abuse of children in Dachau concentration camp.

(Complete email exchange here.)

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“Diana Nyad Self Made Story” repost

What follows is a lightly edited version of a recent Facebook post. That version did not meet the high visual standards that the Annex demands (i.e. it looked really ugly), hence its reappearance here.

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“Meet Diana Nyad: Epic Adventurer Who Refuses To Accept Defeat” (Self Made)

Have I mentioned that Diana Nyad occasionally stretches the truth? She gave it a real workout in this recent interview with Nely Galán. Below the video, you will find an accounting of Nyad’s Self Made fictions.

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Early Manhattan Women Swimmers on Film

As part of the festivities surrounding the 5th anniversary of Diana Nyad’s Cuba-Florida crossing, this open letter to the most reputable historians revisits one of Nyad’s biggest lies.

15 September 2018

Dear Reputable Historians,

You’ll recall that, back in 2011, CNN caught Diana Nyad lying about being the first woman to swim around Manhattan Island. In response, Ms. Nyad posted (then deleted) a disingenuous non-mea-culpa. You can still find it here.

An excerpt:

The history is unclear. The dissemination of accurate information has not followed an empirical path. I am waiting for the most reputable historians of the sport to dig further and publish their research as to their collective best versions as to who did in fact circle Manhattan, when and how.

Still from “Swim around Manhattan–outtakes” (via MIRC) showing Anne Priller Benoit joking with an unidentified competitor before the start of the 1930 race around Manhattan. Benoit finished 5th overall and 1st among the women.

I write to you, most reputable historians, in the hope that you’ll grab your shovels and resume digging.

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Caveat Scriptor: 5th Anniversary video #2

Diana Nyad again demonstrates her abysmal kindness and generosity while talking about all of the good that she does in the world.

In Tuesday’s installment—“SHARE with us YOUR Xtreme Dreams! Are you fulfilling your potential? What do you imagine doing with your next five years? Inspire us all by commenting below…”—Diana’s followers did not let her down. Check out the torrent of reverential responses.

Here in the eye of the Cult of Diana storm, Nyad continues to construct a levee against the flood of those who know her to be a charlatan. How could Diana—she who causeth the waters to part, the sitters to walk, and the smokers to smoketh not—ever lie? Wouldn’t happen in a million years, or so her believers can’t help but believe. (C.f. Lance Armstrong and LiveStrong.)

Here’s my favorite part of the video:
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Nyad’s 5th Anniversary Facebook Live Video — a Quick Look

Diana Nyad got through this paean to herself with a few well-worn fabrications, a warning about a future endeavor, and one horrifying episode of insensitivity.

Diane Strubel whispering to “I’ve Got a Secret” host Garry Moore,  4 Nov 1959. (Full episode here.) Diana Nyad swam around Manhattan in 1975 and still claims to be the first woman to do so. She was the seventh.

Yesterday’s Facebook Live Video — “Join us in celebration, today, the 5th Anniversary of the Cuba Swim Expedition…”—mainly involved Diana Nyad, before a small audience on the deck of a boat, talking about herself. She also introduced friends and family who, when they spoke, talked about Diana Nyad.

She couldn’t get through her part without a nod to the backlist:

The best men, women, fast, strong, young swimmers in the world have tried this swim. It’s the Mt. Everest of the earth’s oceans.

To review: Only five people besides Nyad have attempted solo crossings of the Florida Strait: See “Everybody’s Doin’ It.” And the Florida Strait is NOT the Mt. Everest of the earth’s oceans. Only one person claims that it is. See “p. 244.

Earlier, Nyad had enumerated her bilge-bucket list of what “the next things are.” Here’s the final entry:

I want to perform on stage and bring this story to life in a dramatic, storytelling way, and be known as one of the better storytellers of our time.

In other words, she’s gotta be storyteller #1, and she’s not going away any time soon.
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Diana Nyad and the Case of the Vanishing Video

To verify her 2013 Cuba-Florida crossing and protect herself from skeptics, why didn’t Diana Nyad film the entire 2013 attempt? Because she was protecting herself by NOT filming the crossing.

Members of Nyad’s crew filmed parts of the swim. But, within a few months of her 2013 conquest, almost all video from the event disappeared.

For example:

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Liquid Sisters: Comparing the Con Artistry of Diana Nyad and Elizabeth Holmes

Wall St. Journal investigative reporter John Carreyrou, in his recent book BAD BLOOD, writes about a charismatic, driven woman who professes that nothing is impossible if you only just believe hard enough. No, he wasn’t talking about Diana Nyad, he was talking about Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of the disgraced medical technology firm Theranos.

Turns out it takes a bit more than that.

In March, the SEC charged Holmes with “massive fraud.” Last month, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California indicted Holmes for wire fraud and conspiracy.

Besides charisma and drive, Holmes and Nyad share other characteristics of accomplished con artists. Here’s one: the ability to convince people of the supposed purity of their motives. Former Secretary of State George Shultz on Holmes:
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Say it Ain’t So, Diana!

We can now prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Diana Nyad lied about being in every book of aptonyms. Also: It appears that there may have been another wife in the life of Diana’s father, Aris.

Let’s review. In Find a Way, Nyad writes:

Today I’m listed in all those books where people live out the meaning of their names, a phenomenon referred to by the term “aptonym.” (p. 44)

In a previous post, I wrote that I could only find one such book: Steven Busalaachi’s Wacky News Names. I recently bought a copy and learned that not only did Busalaachi leave Nyad out of his book, he described why he left her out, naming her specifically. From the introduction:

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Another Day, Another Interview, v. 2: “My Lord, Will You Leave the Woman Alone?!”

Another Day, Another Interview returns with a closer look at Diana Nyad’s 2013 Super Soul Sunday interview. It’s all here: the lies, the hyperbole, the obsequiousness, my dog.


Ever on the lookout for opportunities to pander to her enablers, Diana Nyad wrote on Facebook a few months ago:

Oprah Winfrey has turned her television series SuperSoul Sunday into a podcast.

Podcasts are the platform du jour and Oprah, per usual, leads the pack. [May 31, 2018]

A brief history of podcasting may be in order:

Oprah may lead the pack in some areas, but podcasting is not one of them. The new incarnation of Nyad’s interview, however, prompted me to have another listen, and what a special listen it was. Hang onto your swim caps because, as Oprah says:

Your journey to become more inspired and connected to the deeper world around us starts right now. (:16)

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Another Day, Another Interview: TEAM NEVER QUIT

Two former US Navy SEALs interview Diana and discover, among other things, that she grew up in Paris and that she has set her sights on Broadway.

I’ve got a backlog of Nyad interviews to examine. Starting with this one, I’m going to try to move through them quickly, listing the lies while commenting only briefly.

Why bother looking for more of Nyad’s deceptions after listing so many already? The higher the pile of lies, the more evidence that Diana Nyad is a compulsive liar and a fraud. And maybe, at some point, the pile will get so high that it will be impossible to ignore.
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