This past April, Dr. Joseph Hirt spoke at DeSales claiming to have escaped Auschwitz as a Holocaust survivor. However, earlier this month, The Minstrel received a letter to the editor from history teacher Andrew Reid. He reached out to several media outlets that had covered Dr. Hirt’s presentations and shared with us why Hirt’s claims were false.
8 June 2016
It gives me no pleasure to inform you and your readers that Mr. Joseph Bernard Hirt – who recently gave a presentation in Lowville on the night of 15 April 2016 in which he told of his alleged experience of being a survivor of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp – is a Holocaust imposter and historical fraud.
I attended Mr. Hirt’s presentation that evening. As a local History teacher, I also encouraged my students to attend. However, as a trained historian and teacher, several of his claims did not sound quite right. I believed I had a duty to my students, the community, and the truth, so I began researching Mr. Hirt’s claims and in doing so accumulated a vast amount of evidence that proves the majority of his story is false, including all of his alleged experiences related to the Auschwitz concentration camp.
The following are some examples of Mr. Hirt’s untrue claims and the historical facts (all of which can be easily verified by the public online) which prove they are false: (1) Mr. Hirt was never at Auschwitz during World War II – the Auschwitz prisoner list is available online at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum website and there is no record of a Joseph Hirt. The number he has tattooed on his arm – which he claims was his prison ID – is the real number of another prisoner from 1944. Camp records show only one escape in the months surrounding Mr. Hirt’s alleged date of escape, and that person was not Mr. Hirt; (2) Mr. Hirt claims to have come “face-to-face” with Dr. Josef Mengele while a prisoner at Auschwitz concentration camp before escaping 31 March 1942 – it is well-documented that Mengele did not arrive at Auschwitz until May 1943; (3) the picture of an emaciated man on a stretcher that he claims is him right before he escaped is, in fact, one that was taken by a soldier in the U.S. Army, Mickey Martin, a member of the 42nd Infantry “Rainbow” Division of the U.S. Army which liberated the Dachau concentration camp in 1945. All of this and much more is laid out in over 20 pages of evidence I have amassed as a result of my research. I have provided the editor of this publication (which unknowingly advertised and covered Mr. Hirt’s presentation) with a digital copy of this research – please feel free to contact the editor and request a copy.
Lastly, I want to be clear – I am not a Holocaust denier. In fact, the man who hired me for my first teaching job many years ago was a survivor of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, and it is partly in his memory and for the preservation of the truth of what millions of people endured that I have taken upon myself the task of exposing Mr. Hirt’s shameful deception. It is my hope that Mr. Hirt will voluntarily recant his fraudulent claims and cease his public presentations.
Andrew R. Reid
3087 State Route 12D
Boonville, NY 13309
In response to Reid’s letter, Hirt has admitted he was never a prisoner in a concentration camp. He apologized to Reid over the phone and also wrote a letter to LPN.
“I am writing today to apologize publicly for harm caused to anyone because of my inserting myself into descriptions of life in Auschwitz. I was not a prisoner there. I did not intend to lessen or overshadow the events which truly happened there by falsely claiming to have been personally involved,” wrote Hirt.
“It wasn’t about me. I was wrong in using an untruth (my presence) in an attempt to enhance the important truth of the suffering and death of so many – not only Jewish people, but also others held is disdain by the Nazi movement. I was wrong. I ask forgiveness. I used poor judgement and faulty reasoning, risking a sullying of the truth I was trying to share.”
Hirt’s nephew Michael Hirt said that his uncle’s story is correct until he says he was kidnapped and taken to Auschwitz. According to him, his uncle was born in Poland in 1930 to Jewish parents. He and his family fled before World War II began and fled west. They first headed to Belgrade, Yugoslavia where they stayed until it was bombed by the Germans and eventually ended up staying in Italy until it was liberated in 1944.
Additionally, in Hirt’s letter, he states he is seeking help from his pastor and medical professionals to help him understand how his presentations swerved off path. He also explains his tattoo is to commemorate Primo Levi, an Auschwitz prisoner and survivor, who wrote many holocaust-related books. Hirt read most of them and said Levi was an inspiration to him and broadened his perspective.
Hirt read a wide variety of Holocaust literature and had unanswered questions about his own relatives who had died in concentration camps. He also spoke to many survivors living in the United States.
“But the more I learned, the more real the images became, and the more intense my feeling of responsibility for keeping the memories alive,” wrote Hirt. “How could I assure that the message of the Holocaust would be heard and understood?”
“Fear is still with me, expanded to include the possibility of that I may have interfered with a strong and important message by using faulty methods to keep it powerful and unforgettable.”
Hirt closes his letter with this:
“I ask that you forgive me if you can, forget me if you feel you must, but keep the truth and the memory of the Holocaust always in your heart and mind.”