Jewish Holocaust “Survivor” Who Claimed to Have Escaped Auschwitz Admits He Lied for Years
A Pennsylvania Jew who claimed for years to have escaped from Auschwitz, met track and field star Jesse Owens and Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, confessed that he had fabricated the entire story.
“I am writing today to apologize publicly for harm caused to anyone because of my inserting myself into the descriptions of life in Auschwitz,” Joseph Hirt, 86, wrote in a letter sent to his local paper, LNP, this week. “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.”
“I was wrong. I ask forgiveness,” he added. “I determined at that moment to do everything in my power to prevent the loss of the truth about wartime life (and death) at Auschwitz.”
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For years, Hirt gave public speeches about his experiences in the second world war, including his Jewish family’s flight from Poland to Belgrade. But he also told people that he was arrested by the Germans, sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, and met doctor Joseph Mengele. Hirt claimed to have escaped under an electric fence at the camp.
He added an extraordinary prologue and epilogue to the story, saying that he saw Adolf Hitler turn his back on Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and that he met Eleanor Roosevelt and Owens after his arrival in the United States.
In his letter, Hirt said that he realized “it wasn’t about me”, and that he was motivated to lie by his fears that the history and horror of the camps would be forgotten. He said that he was shocked to find that Auschwitz, now a museum and memorial, had become a “clean and polished tourist destination” where visitors laughed and joked about “propaganda”.
“Flagrant denial and ignorance of the truth made me determined to keep the memories alive,” Hirt said. “I used poor judgment and faulty reasoning, risking a sullying of the truth I was trying to share.”
Earlier this year, New York history teacher Andrew Reid became suspicious of Hirt’s story and wrote a refutation of many of Hirt’s points.
The names of concentration camp victims and survivors are publicly available, and there is no record of Hirt at Auschwitz or elsewhere. Hirt admitted in his letter that he had tattooed the camp number of Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi, the acclaimed author and chemist, on his left forearm – “in no way an attempt to take on his identity, but in an effort to incorporate his symbol as a way of remembering him”.
Reid also found that Hirt’s escape story did not fit with camp records, that Mengele did not arrive at the camp until after the alleged escape, and other lies, errors and far-fetched claims in Hirt’s account. He was a six-year-old Polish boy and extraordinarily unlikely to be anywhere near Hitler at the Olympics, for instance, and Owens’ biographer found the snub was likely a fabrication, possibly conflated with another black sprinter’s story.
“I want to be clear – I am not a Holocaust denier,” Reid wrote in his own letter, noting that he got his first job from a concentration camp survivor. “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.”
Hirt is not the first to fabricate or exaggerate a Holocaust story, worrying historians who fear these voices encourage people who deny the deaths of six million people. Herman Rosenblat, a Polish survivor, embellished his 1993 memoir and made up some parts entirely, including the love story at its heart. At the time, historian Ken Waltzer wrote in the New Republic that he was alarmed by how quickly people accepted the story.
“This was not Holocaust education but miseducation,” he said. “This shows something about the broad unwillingness in our culture to confront the difficult knowledge of the Holocaust. All the more important then to have real memoirs that tell of real experience in the camps.”
Herman Rosenblat about his holocaust lies on ABC TV
Herman Rosenblat is a Jewish man who told a fake story about how he survived the holocaust. He is not the first, and probably not the last person to fail with his lies supposed to maintain the holocaust myth. The question that comes up: what if the gas chambers also only existed in some people’s mind? Facts show that…
Germany commits to additional $800 million for home care for Holocaust survivors
Jewish Telegraph Agency
The German government agreed to significantly expand its funding of home care for infirm Holocaust survivors and relax eligibility criteria for restitution programs to include Jews who spent time in so-called open ghettos.
The agreement, reached after negotiations in Israel with the Claims Conference, will result in approximately $800 million in new funding for home care for Holocaust survivors from 2014 to 2017. This is in addition to $182 million for 2014 that already has been committed.
In 2015, the amount will rise by 45 percent, to approximately $266 million, and then to $273 million in 2016 and $280 million in 2017. Because the sums are set in euro, the actual amounts may change depending on currency fluctuations.
The $84 million increase in funding between 2014 and 2015 will represent the largest year-over-year increase since the program began with 30 million euro (approximately $36.6 million) in 2004, though a bigger percentage increase took place in 2010, when funding doubled from 55 million euro ($68 million) to 110 million euro ($136 million).
“With this new agreement, the Claims Conference will be able to both increase the number of beneficiaries, thus eliminating waiting lists of survivors for home care, as well as increase the number of hours per person to a minimum level of dignity,” Claims Conference board chairman Julius Berman wrote in a letter to the board.
Some 56,000 survivors are now receiving home care through the Claims Conference.
The announcement of new funding comes amid controversy for the Claims Conference over revelations related to bungled investigations in 2001 that failed to detect a broad fraud at the Holocaust restitution organization. A document obtained last week by JTA showed that top Claims Conference officials were involved in the botched probes, including then-executive vice president Gideon Taylor and Berman, who in 2001 served as outside counsel to the Claims Conference.
Claims Conference employee Semen Domnitser, a director of two restitution funds who was at the center of the 2001 inquiries, was found guilty earlier this month in federal court of masterminding the scheme, which ran up more than $57 million in fraudulent claims from 1993 until 2009. The cost of the fraud was borne entirely by Germany.
In his letter to the Claims Conference’s board announcing the result of the latest negotiations, former U.S. ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, who leads negotiations with Germany for the Claims Conference, hailed the work of executive vice president Greg Schneider, who along with a senior Claims Conference staffer discovered and stopped the fraud scheme in 2009.
“The lives of tens of thousands of Holocaust victims will be made easier in their old age due to Greg’s skill and vision,” Eizenstat wrote in his message to the board.
“This unprecedented amount of funding means that we can give Nazi victims around the world the aid that they desperately need as they grow more frail,” he said. “That the agreement encompasses funding through 2017 underscores the German government’s ongoing commitment to Holocaust survivors. It is all the more impressive because it comes at a time of budget austerity in Germany.”
In last week’s negotiations, which took place in Israel, Germany also agreed to relax eligibility criteria for the Central and Eastern European Fund and Article 2 Fund, through which the German government gives pension payments of approximately $411 per month to needy Nazi victims who spent significant time in a concentration camp, in a Jewish ghetto in hiding or living under a false identity to avoid the Nazis.
Until now, only those who were interned in closed-off ghettos were eligible for pensions. As of Jan. 1, 2014, pensions will be available also to those forced to live in any of 300 specific open ghettos, such as those in Czernowitz, Romania, where Jews lived under curfew, lost their jobs and were subject to persecution.
Germany in negotiations to take place this fall also agreed to discuss possible special aid for child survivors.
The session that just concluded was the first time since restitution negotiations with Germany began in Luxembourg in 1951 that talks were held in Israel. For decades, the negotiations were held only in the German capital. In recent years, sessions also were held in New York and Washington.
Before they began negotiating last week, German representatives met with survivors in Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak and Jerusalem, visiting private homes where survivors are receiving home care, a senior day center and a soup kitchen. They also took a guided tour of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem. The negotiations were held in a classroom at Yad Vashem.