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EddieB

Hitler's Holocaust Railway with Chris Tarrant

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I guess many of us saw the trailer for this programme before this evening's GMRC - a single episode, screening on C5 on Sunday evening.  It's a painful subject, which I hope (and expect from the link) to have been treated sensitively.

 

There's some information here: https://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/factual/hitlers-holocaust-railway-with-chris-tarrant-channel-5/5133986.article

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Railways and Nazis together in one show. Narrated by Chris Tarrant.

 

We have reached peak Channel 5.

Not quite. They need to somehow get a repeat of a CSI spin off into it.
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I guess many of us saw the trailer for this programme before this evening's GMRC - a single episode, screening on C5 on Sunday evening.  It's a painful subject, which I hope (and expect from the link) to have been treated sensitively.

 

There's some information here: https://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/factual/hitlers-holocaust-railway-with-chris-tarrant-channel-5/5133986.article

It'll probably migrate to Yesterday to join their rotating stable of WW2 pieces.

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Reminds me of a column in the Metro. They've already done a Bookazine on the subject...

 

https://metro.co.uk/2013/06/21/richard-herring-studies-magazines-on-the-top-shelf-3849770/

 

 

 

Jason

I find this quote to be quite telling;

"The subheading on the cover reads: ‘The trains that shamed the world.’ As if the whole situation was the fault of the method of transport used, rather than the people who carried it out. The implication seems to be that those trains have let down all other less genocidy trains by agreeing to take part in all of this. It’s the trains that are to blame, not Hitler and his willing executioners."

 

I do hope the C5 programme has a realistic view. I find it hard to stomach that some people actually blame the equipment used rather than the people who directed such vile actions.

John.

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Didn't watch it looked to be a very interesting topic, but the choice of presenter turned me off.

Bloody clever if you did watch it, it’s not on until Sunday night

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Bloody clever if you did watch it, it’s not on until Sunday night

I didn't see the repeat either. "Railways that shamed the world" sponsored by Southern?

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I'd assumed it was on later that evening. I did ponder thats an interesting topic, buf I find Tarrent seems really insincere when he's trying to be grave.

Am.I right in thinking there are murky stories such as the Swiss allowing the trains to travel through their borders from Italy at night.

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I watched the programme last night and given the subject matter it would be wrong to say I enjoyed it, however despite Chris Tarrant's tendency to exaggeration it was fascinating, and the testimony of the survivors of the holocaust was both horrifying and moving. Other than that the two things which most stood out for me were the memorial at Grunewald station in Berlin, and the statue of Nicholas Winton at the station in Prague.

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The programme filled in some gaps, that haven't been covered before ( I loved the railway Rabbi).

However, as one who has lived in Poland, his pronunciation could have done with some help.

Several times he quoted 'Lodz' as 'lods'. It's not - it's pronounced 'woodge'. The Polish 'L' with a slash through it has the 'w' sound - as in Wroclaw - pron. 'vrostwav'.

 Sorry to be a pedant.

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I dont know if its mentioned in the film but to a further insult to their tragic  cargo the cattle cars used were condemned as unfit to carry livestock  and were replace by more modern ones ,

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When Chris was in Berlin and said he was going to chat with a rabbi that is a railway historian I was saying to the TV before he named Walter Rothschild his name. He is an interesting guy who was born in Bradford. Many UK railway magazines have had letters and articles by him. Think he might still be a member of the Middleton Railway.

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Walter Rothschild is the editor of HaRakevet magazine, http://harakevet.com, and a regular contributor to the Bulletin of the World War Two Railway Study Group. Some years ago when I edited the Bulletin, I was in regular contact with him and found him a constant source of information. I must find this programme online, and see Walter again.

 

Tony

Edited by TonyA
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Having started the thread, I must confess to not having watched the programme.  However, if the railway Rabbi is in it, I need to take a look!

 

To my best knowledge, I haven't met him, but have corresponded with Walter Rothschild both directly and through other fora several times as we share many interests.

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Railways aside, it was a fascinating programme as to human endurance and history, amazing to see the infrastructure that remains in Poland , and drone shots of the camps I never quite realised their size, I have visited dachau where what is left to visit is tiny by comparison ... but then that is in the domain of the perpetrator!

I would recommend all to watch the programme and with family members.

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I've finally watched the programme and found it very hard going.  I think the production team have done an excellent job of putting together a travelogue, a journey tracing the Holocaust from Nuremberg in the mid-thirties, right the way through to the final death marches out of the camps just prior to liberation and bringing each stage to life with eye-witness accounts.  In places the historical backdrop was a little light-weight, but the personal stories were just incredibly moving, and at times deply harrowing.  Quite a lot of things that were new to me - the memorials (some already mentioned) and I never knew that the yards at Gniezno were constructed for Hitler's Eastern Front ambitions.

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I haven't watched the program but the role of the railways in the holocaust is a matter of historical record and parts of the railway administration were complicit in what happened. For anyone interested in the subject of the destruction of the European Jews I would recommend Raul Hilberg's book on the subject which remains the definitive work.

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I haven't watched the program but the role of the railways in the holocaust is a matter of historical record and parts of the railway administration were complicit in what happened.

Parts of the administration may have been complicit, but recent news has it that NS have agreed to pay compensation to the descendants of Jews it transported whilst under German occupation. Apparently SNCF did likewise a few years ago.

The Holocaust was a tragedy, horrific on a scale hard to comprehend. But I'm unsure how the national railway systems of two countries who were under occupation can be held responsible for the actions of 75 years ago (yes, not all of France was technically occupied, but I suspect there was little option for non-cooperation in vichy France, or indeed any other occupied country). I also find it difficult to see how a payout to the grandchildren of those who were murdered generations ago fixes anything? The railway systems pay up because it isn't worth the negative publicity of it going to court. Apparently the NS's official apology issued in 2005 isn't good enough, only cash is.

 

Whatever pain or wound that has been felt for 75 years is unlikely to be closed now by a brown envelope with a cheque in it.

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I can't imagine how the Leaders of the Railway Systems in question could actually have said to the Nazis "No" and lived to tell the tale.....

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Parts of the administration may have been complicit, but recent news has it that NS have agreed to pay compensation to the descendants of Jews it transported whilst under German occupation. Apparently SNCF did likewise a few years ago.

The Holocaust was a tragedy, horrific on a scale hard to comprehend. But I'm unsure how the national railway systems of two countries who were under occupation can be held responsible for the actions of 75 years ago (yes, not all of France was technically occupied, but I suspect there was little option for non-cooperation in vichy France, or indeed any other occupied country). I also find it difficult to see how a payout to the grandchildren of those who were murdered generations ago fixes anything? The railway systems pay up because it isn't worth the negative publicity of it going to court. Apparently the NS's official apology issued in 2005 isn't good enough, only cash is.

 

Whatever pain or wound that has been felt for 75 years is unlikely to be closed now by a brown envelope with a cheque in it.

 

You are mixing up several things there. The fact that some have used the holocaust to promote a financial shakedown is irrelevant to the historical event and the motivations and behaviours of the perpetrators, or the suffering of the victims. Would pain be eased by a cheque? Probably not, but what might have eased the pain was seeing more of the perpetrators brought to justice, it's another matter of record that if people in the West at any rate survived the initial years after wars end they had a pretty high chance of going free and if brought to justice they faced penalties in no way commensurate with the crimes committed. Nobody has ever said that the modern NS or SNCF is responsible for the crimes of that era, but what is true is that the administrations in both countries co-operated in a way which went well beyond minimal co-operation to avoid  bringing sanctions upon themselves and that the DR (and Ost Bahn in particular) were deeply complicit.

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Jjb1970,

 

I agree, there were those who escaped justice by hiding, and it would appear that post Nuremberg only Israel could find the motivation to search for and discover the guilty. Several of those likely with deeper involvement than admitted were not investigated too thoroughly as it was convenient (eg. Operation paperclip and operation osoaviakhim).

 

On the other hand, whilst I do not in any way wish to be an apologist for those complicit in genocide, I wonder what you or I would have done if we'd lived in Germany in those times?

I find it hard to sit in judgement of the railway clerk who organises the wagons and route for a special train that has been ordered to move Jews east. He has his own wife and kids to worry about. He'd be risking an awful lot to resist just because they're cattle wagons. Whatever we might think or hope we'd do in those situations, I suspect most of us (and I'd include myself) might act in the same way as the majority of the population in Germany and occupied countries did (look at the channel Islands). Just keep your head down - you don't want it to be you and your family getting taken away. We sit in judgement in far more comfortable circumstances today, it's easy to think we'd never stand for this or we'd be the hero and fight evil. I suspect like many things it's easier and clearer in hindsight when you're removed from the event. But I agree that amongst all that was going on during the war there were those who were somewhat more enthusiastic in their collaboration than just doing what they felt they had to to survive.

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The question of who committed the holocaust and why is one of the more disturbing questions of history. If looking at Germany there was an effort after the war to make a distinction between the Nazi's and ordinary German people but the truth isn't that simple. There were certainly people who resisted Nazism and assisted the Jews and other victims of oppression, there were others who were enthusiastic supporters who were fully with the program, the majority of people appear to have been in the middle and accepted what the regime did so long as their own lives remained tolerable. Most of those people were probably somewhere on a spectrum varying from very anti-Semitic but with no desire to kill or hurt Jews (just as in our own society there are plenty with unpleasant views but who have no inclination to actually act out the ultimate conclusion of such views) to not at all anti-Semitic however they accepted the regimes various unpleasant facets as a price of order and economic prosperity without complaining much and doing what they were told when necessary. That attitude may be understandable but it is also what allowed the holocaust to happen and it is interesting that the euthanasia program did result in unrest and kick back which caused the Nazi's to suspend it and push it deeper out of sight to avoid scrutiny. Despite the image of Nazi Germany as a totalitarian dictatorship the regime paid close attention to public opinion and sentiment and despite the bombastic propaganda the Nazi regime enjoyed general support and popularity either despite of or because of its politics. The regime never disguised its anti-Semitism and started to remove Jews from the professions almost as soon as taking office with the classification and expropriation policies being open. Which is all a long winded way of saying that the destruction of the Jews didn't happen because of some abstract group of persons within Germany but because it was the policy of the German government, a government which enjoyed popular support and which was very open about its anti-Semitism and which was carried out for the most part by ordinary people. The book "Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland" by Christopher R. Browning is well worth reading. Browning studied one reserve Police battalion, few of its members were committed Nazi's or even Nazi's at all and their commander was far from being an ardent Nazi or anti-Semite but despite some initial squeamishness the battalion did its work and progressively became de-sensitised. The interesting aspect of the study is that anybody not willing to kill Jews was given the opportunity to opt out and contrary to the excuse often given for these people those who opted out suffered no adverse consequences other than some opprobrium from their colleagues.

If looking beyond Germany is is more varied. For example in Italy until the overthrow of Mussolini in 1943 the Italian Fascist regime indulged in anti-Semitic rhetoric and some behaviour that would be unpleasant on the normal political spectrum but prohibited the sort of expropriation and extermination measures of Germany. Unfortunately that changed when Germany installed a puppet regime after rescuing Mussolini. The Romanian's indulged themselves in an of extermination which shocked even the German's (whose objections were based more on the disorderliness of it all than the actual mass killing of undesirables) yet were far less keen to kill their own Jews. Ditto Hungary which despite a lot of unpleasant rhetoric and measures stopped short of extermination until their government collapsed in 1944. The picture in Western Europe is varied but in certain countries there was undoubtedly collaboration in the final solution which went well beyond minimal co-operation to avoid worse things, and some of these same occupied countries were quite willing to risk German reactions by objecting to other policies.

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