Just four days before the end of the war in Europe, a unit of Canadian soldiers was advancing through a thick forest in the north-east of Holland. Accompanying them was a member of the highly secret British Special Service Unit, a man called Joe Corry.
By any measure, Corry had had an eventful war. He had assassinated a Nazi scientist with a crossbow, watched D-Day from a house on the landing beaches, rescued the nuclear scientist J Robert Oppenheimer (the so-called father of the atom bomb) from Holland, attached limpet mines to U-boats, been shipwrecked off Newfoundland, and had even worked with the future James Bond author, Ian Fleming, himself an intelligence officer.
But despite everything he had seen, nothing could prepare Corry for what he would witness that day. For hidden deep in the forest was a Nazi ‘experimental’ extermination camp, the sight of which would remain with him for ever.
‘The living and dead evidence of horror and brutality beyond one’s imagination was there,’ wrote Corry years later. ‘People were lying, crawling and shuffling about, in stinking ankle-deep mud and human excrement.’
A young girl came up to him, crying for help, but there was little that Corry could do. A rabbi then approached and kissed the back of Corry’s hand, mumbling what Corry could only assume was a prayer.
As Corry walked around the camp, he was presented with increasingly horrific sights, including heaps of corpses and rows of ‘living skeletons’ crammed into blockhouses.
A few days later he returned, and saw two inmates tearing flesh from a long-dead horse and ‘gulping huge bites’.
What Corry saw that day nearly seven decades ago was an all-too-vivid example of the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were murdered on the orders of Adolf Hitler.
No wonder that earlier this year publishers Simon & Schuster
The new edition, out in 2014, has been described by Corry’s editor as ‘everything you’d want to read in a World War II memoir — it’s a gripping, rollercoaster account of extreme bravery and resourcefulness, that also packs a powerful and emotional punch’.
There is, however, just one problem: it simply isn’t true.
There were no such ‘experimental extermination camps’ in Holland, and the concentration camps that had been on Dutch soil had been discovered well before May 4 — the day of the German surrender in Holland.
In fact, nearly everything Corry claims about his wartime experiences is fictitious. There was no ‘Special Service Unit’; Professor Oppenheimer was in the U.S. throughout the war; there were no British troops hiding in houses on the D-Day beaches.