A Pennsylvania man, who had claimed for years to have had survived the Auschwitz, has apologised for lying on Friday (24 June). Joseph Hirt, 91, in his 15-page letter has admitted he was never a prisoner at the notorious death camp.

His confession letter came after his story was questioned by a New York history teacher, Andrew Reid, who attended an April presentation by Hirt with his students and realised his death camp survival account was riddled with inconsistencies.

"I am writing today to apologise publicly for harm caused to anyone because of my inserting myself into the descriptions of life in Auschwitz," Hirt said in his letter.

"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," he added.

Man apologises for fabricating story of his first-hand experience of Auschwitz camp
A woman stands near an exhibit of photographs of victims of the Holocaust called the "Klarsfeld Pillars" at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in New York (File photo). Hirt, 91, had claimed for years that he was one of the survivors of Auschwitz death campReuters

For years, Hirt had given speeches at public events about his experiences and meetings with the track and field star Jesse Owens and Nazi doctor Josef Mengele in the camp and how he was captured by the Nazis, and his escape story from the camp.

He even got a prisoner identification number tattooed on his left arm to authenticate his story; however, an investigation by Reid found that the number was that of another prisoner. In his confession letter, Hirt has written that the tattoo number, 174517, was of author Primo Levi, who committed suicide in 1987.

"To commemorate his life and as a constant reminder to myself of his influence on my thinking, I had his camp number tattooed on my 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 and mourning his loss," Hirt said.

Hirt has also mentioned in his letter that he was seeking help from his pastor and medical consultant "to try to understand how I swerved off in my presentations in a direction should not have been taken".

"I ask that you forgive me if you feel 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," he concluded.