Chris Tarrant makes 'traumatic' Auschwitz visit for Channel Five show about trains' role in the Holocaust

The TV presenter explains how trains played an essential role in the slaughter of millions, in a show to be aired next weekend


Television presenter Chris Tarrant has said that filming in the gas chambers of Auschwitz for a programme that will be shown next weekend was “the most traumatic experience of my life”.

The broadcaster  stressed the importance of teaching children about the Holocaust, and expressed his pride in making a special episode of his Channel Five Extreme Railways series telling the story of the role of trains in the Holocaust. 

The programme, Hitler’s Holocaust Railways with Chris Tarrant, airs at 9pm on Sunday October 28. 

“I think we have to tell the story over and over again,” Mr Tarrant told the JC. “We must never forget it. We must tell our children and grandchildren. It’s so important.

“I knew the story but I didn’t know the detail. It really beat me up, it was harrowing. I haven’t been able to watch it since filming it. 

“It’s essential that children learn about this in school. I can’t believe it when I hear that schools don’t want it on their curriculum. “

The idea for the film came when they filmed in Lithuania about a train which took Jews to labour camps in the Soviet Union. For the latest film there was so much material that Channel Five agreed to make the running time longer than usual. “A professor told me that without the railways there would have been no Holocaust,” said Mr Tarrant. 

Survivor Arek Hersch travelled from his home in Leeds to show Mr Tarrant the orphanage in the Lodz ghetto where he lived as a child, and the journey from there to Auschwitz. “I was amazed by his story, I loved him,” said Mr Tarrant. 

Mr Hersch recalled the journey with 100 other people in a small goods wagon. “There was no toilet, just a bucket and a cover. We were there for two days.” At Auschwitz, he lied and told guards he was 17. “That’s why I am here today.”

Mr Hersch devotes his life to telling his story, at schools and on the March of the Living. “I lost 80 members of my family,” he told the JC. “Only 40 Jews survived from my town.” At 90, he gives an average three talks a week. “I just carry on regardless,” he said. 

The gas chamber was the only area in Auschwitz that Mr Hersch did not revisit. Mr Tarrant and his cameraman went on their own, early one morning. “I thought I was going to throw up, “ said Mr Tarrant. “ It was spine chilling.”

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