Auschwitz witness: Incredible, important radio which must be documented

May 5, 2015 — Leave a comment

Henry Ferster, Auschwitz survivor, gives his first live broadcast interview aged 92

At the time of writing, a former Auschwitz guard/bookkeeper (Oskar Groening) is standing trial in Germany for his part in the Holocaust.

In covering this somewhat controversial trial for The Jeremy Vine Show, on BBC Radio 2, one of our guests was Henry Ferster. He is 92-years-old. He was a prisoner in Auschwitz all those years ago. And he’d never been interviewed about it live on radio or television.

Henry Ferster talks to Jeremy Vine. Photo: Angela Epstien

Henry Ferster talks to Jeremy Vine. Photo: Angela Epstien

On the programme we have spoken to a great number of holocaust survivors. But Henry’s account was somewhat different. I want to document his interview online, because his story has been captured less that other survivors who have chosen to speak about their experience. And it’s so important that we, collectively, have access to these remarkable and painful testimonies of unimaginable horrors.

This interview passed many people by. But it was exceptional (above and beyond Henry’s powerful words), and here’s why:

      • Again: Henry had never done a live broadcast interview. Think about that for a moment. He’s spoken in schools, he’s spoken to students with microphones, but he’s never told his story on a major programme. And he’s 92-years-old.
      • The vast majority of recorded interviews with survivors of the Holocaust are ‘measured’. Often those directly involved have taken perhaps fifty years to even begin to be able to tell their story. And so difficult is the story, it seems that they are only able to recount the events in a manner which doesn’t involve too much emotion. Involve emotion, and the story becomes impossible to tell, so overwhelming is the tragedy. But Henry – we really heard his feelings. Which is so important in telling his story. So many years on, we can hear how raw and vivid those memories are.
      • There are very, very few interviews on this subject which are ‘live’. It’s not the easiest of subjects for someone who has lived through it to condense into just a few minutes. This interview was live, and more powerful for it. And importantly so – students today are taught about the Holocaust, but without people like Henry it’s difficult to relate fully to the inhumane mass-genocide which occurred so very recently.

I’m incredibly grateful to Henry for sharing his story. Please have a listen below, if you have five minutes.

Thanks also to Angela Epstien, who made this whole thing possible.


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