News

Tale of midstate Auschwitz survivor a hoax?

Written by John Latimer/Lebanon Daily News | Jun 10, 2016 4:49 AM
joseph_hirt_auschwitz.jpg

New York school teacher Andrew Reid claims that Joseph Hirt's tales of escaping from a Nazi concentration camp are untrue. Hirt, of Lancaster County, speaks to students at Cedar Crest Middle School in this photo taken in May 2015. Reid also debunks Hirt's claims that the photograph he is holding, of an emaciated concentration camp prisoner, is him.(Photo: Lebanon Daily News File)

New York school teacher claims to debunk Joseph Hirt's story of surviving Nazi concentration camp

(Lancaster) -- A Lancaster County man who speaks at schools and other assemblies about his escape from a Nazi concentration camp in 1942 is a hoaxster, according to a New York school teacher.

Andrew Reid, a middle school history teacher from Turin, N.Y., details his accusation that Joseph Hirt's story is fabricated in a lengthy and well documented argument posted online Wednesday and shared with several media outlets.

Hirt, 90, has long held he was captured by the Nazis when he was 16 and imprisoned for eight months in Auschwitz concentration camp, where he became a 60-pound "skeleton with skin," only to survive by climbing beneath an electric fence to escape.

He shared his story with eighth graders at Cedar Crest Middle School in the Cornwall-Lebanon School District in Lebanon County last year and was scheduled to appear there again on May 31 but canceled due to illness. He was replaced by Hilda Mantelmacher of Harrisburg, who told her own harrowing tale of surviving the holocaust, which no one is questioning.

Reid explained that he started his research into Hirt's story shortly after hearing him speak on April 15, and became skeptical about the many incredible aspects of his life, including coming face-to-face with the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele and witnessing Hitler turn his back on Jesse Owens after the track star won a gold medal at the Munich Olympics in 1936.

In an academic fashion, footnoted with historical data and other sources, Reid debunks many of Hirt's claims, most notably that he was in Auschwitz from July 1941 to March 1942.

Reid's research included contacting the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, which has Nazi records listing the concentration camp prisoners' names and the numbers tattooed on their arms, to verify that a tattoo on Hirt's arm was actually received at Auschwitz, as he claims.

The reply, which is included in Reid's document, states that no Hirt is mentioned in the record books and his tattoo number 194517 belongs to a Polish man who was brought to Auschwitz from Warsaw in September 1944.

Reid also provides historical proof that a photo of an emaciated man on a stretcher in a Nazi concentration camp, which Hirt claims is him and which he shows at his presentations, is in fact an image of a man at another concentration camp.

"The image Mr. Hirt claims is him lying on a stretcher at Auschwitz is actually one of the well-known photographs taken by Mickey Martins, a member of the 42nd Infantry 'Rainbow' Division of the U.S. Army which liberated the Dachau concentration camp in 1945 during World War II," Reid states.

Despite the many inconsistencies in his story detailed by Reid, Hirt is maintaining its veracity, according to the Reading Eagle, which contacted him by phone twice on Wednesday.

"You tell him to get a life and leave me alone.I don't care for his questions. I'm sick and I'm tired and I'm old and I don't need this crap," Hitz told the newspaper before hanging up.

When reached the second time, Hitz said, according to the newspaper, "There's nothing to defend. I was there, and I don't need to defend it. This is like being forced to defend being raped."

But even Hirt's own relatives do not believe him.

Reid claims to have contacted a nephew of Hirt, who said his uncle's stories about surviving the holocaust are not true, and he and his family remained intact during World War II, eventually settling in Italy after escaping from their home country of Poland prior to the Nazi invasion.

"Regarding my [relative] Joseph. Yes, I am aware of his recent story-telling crusade," Michael Hirt wrote in an email to Reid. "I first became aware of his speaking engagements several years ago, and I confronted him about it. The stories ... are complete fabrications with regard to the Auschwitz stuff. When I confronted him, he basically claimed that the stories were taken out of context, or that the authors fabricated the stories.

"Of course I do not believe this. As a result of his behavior, he has been ostracized by his immediate family -- none of his three children will have anything to do with him."

Cornwall-Lebanon School District Superintendent Philip Domencic released the following statement regarding the news reports about Hirt: "If these allegations are true, it's very sad, very unfortunate. We are proud of the opportunities that we try to provide for young people to learn about history not just from a textbook but by connecting students with living history. However this situation ends up being resolved, we are still going to continue to provide our students with meaningful experiences."

Read Andrew Reid's document claiming Hirt's claim to be an escapee from Aushwitz Concentration Camp are a hoax.

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between WITF and the Lebanon Daily News.

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