Broadcaster Chris Tarrant has said he “cannot comprehend the depth of evil” of those who perpetrated the Holocaust, and has denounced Holocaust deniers.
The TV and radio presenter more usually makes light-hearted programmes relating to train travel, but on Sunday (October 28) he fronts an unprecedented 90-minute long programme on Channel 5, Railways of the Holocaust.
Tarrant, a trains and railways fanatic, was making a programme in Lithuania last year when he and his producer came across a cattle truck which had been used to transport Jews. A plaque beside it showed that the “passengers” had been sent to Siberia.
“We filmed inside the truck and I began to imagine what it must have been like, everyone on top of each other… and then I wondered how relevant the railways were”. His conclusion, that Hitler would not have been able to conduct the war without the trains, moving his troops across Europe, nor perpetrate the Holocaust without the trains, moving Jews to the death camps, makes for an extraordinary programme.
“We had so much material”, says Tarrant, “that I asked the head of Channel 5 for more time”. He has three survivors as central witnesses, including Leeds-based Arek Hersh, who accompanies Tarrant to Auschwitz.
“The only place Arek would not go with me was inside the gas chamber, so I went with my cameraman”.
A clearly devastated Tarrant, looking at the cavernous structure, said this week that he wanted to be sick after comprehending what had gone on inside, “hour after hour, day after day.”
He learned, to his horror, that “you could be off a train and be reduced to ashes in 20 minutes”.
His central message that he took from making the film, he said, “is that we must keep re-telling this story. People like Arek and Helga and Zuzanna will not be around for ever, and it is now more relevant than ever”.
He was very proud of the programme, he said, but agreed it was “a painful watch. But what I can’t get my head around is why on earth Hitler hated Jews so much”. And every atrocity related to him by his survivor witnesses made him wonder even more.
- Railways of the Holocaust will be shown on Channel 5 on Sunday October 28 at 9pm.
Watch the trailer for the show here:
Listen to this week’s episode of the Jewish Views Podcast: