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The Current Transcript for November 10, 2017
Host: Piya Chattopadhyay
STORIES FROM THIS EPISODE
Listen to the full episode
The global scalping business is now worth more than the entire recording music business. In my mind, fans are getting screwed. And I think that that's despicable.
PIYA CHATTOPADHYAY: And he should know. That's the manager of the wildly popular British band Mumford and Sons. And if you've ever gone online to get tickets to one of their shows or virtually any other big concert or sporting event, you know how frustrating it can be to see tickets sold out within seconds of them going on sale. Somebody is making big money buying up all those tickets and reselling them to eager fans, for inflated prices and new details about one of the biggest players in the scalping game has come from a surprising source: The Paradise Papers. The CBC's Dave Seglins will be here in just a moment to talk about super scalpers. Also today it is not your typical science lesson.
Hey we have dinosaurs and Adam and Eve all living happily together. And I have boys and girls say, “Mr. Ham, how long ago was that?” Actually if you add up all the dates in the bible, you only get a few thousand years, like six thousand years.
PC: That's Ken Ham a well-known creationist and proponent of home schooling. After an Alberta Association of home-schoolers invited him to speak at their conference, questions are being raised about just what's being taught inside Canadian home schools and how well the curriculum is regulated. Some lessons in home schooling in half an hour. Plus, Toronto historian Max Wallace has some blockbuster findings about what really happened behind the scenes to shut down the deadly Auschwitz gas chambers. But there were even more surprises in store for him after his new book came out.
Miriam Ziegler marched up to me during the book signing pointed at the cover and said, “That’s me in the photo.” It was a very poignant moment.
PC: Max Wallace will be by in an hour to discuss his book that reveals how people like Miriam Ziegler managed to survive Auschwitz. Hello. I'm Piya Chattopadhyay and this is the Friday edition of The Current.
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Paradise Papers reveal scalpers making millions off unsuspecting music fans
Guest: Dave Seglins
VOICE 1: When we see someone buying a huge number of tickets we realize “just the second, now. Does this person have a lot of friends? What is this person doing?” So we do a bit of research.
VOICE 2: I believe that scalping is a kind of parasitic business.
VOICE 3: And then they are ripping off genuine music fans, genuine theater fans. It's hugely unfair.
VOICE 4: It is somebody saying “hey we can screw your life because we are greedy.” This is what this is about. It's about greed. Money.
PC: This week the Paradise Papers leak has revealed the financial secrets of the world's wealthy elites from the Queen to the U.S. secretary of commerce. But the same documents have also prompted discussions from a fifth estate documentary that is airing tonight, about ticket scalping because ticket scalping is big business. And the Paradise Papers have revealed records from one of the world's biggest ticket scalpers, a Canadian. The CBC's Dave Seglins has been looking into this and he is with me here in our Toronto studio. Hi Dave.
DAVE SEGLINS: Good morning.
PC: Okay, so over the past week or so we have been hearing a lot about the so-called Paradise Papers. When it comes to ticket scalping any particular ticket scalper, what do you find out?
DAVE SEGLINS: Well there's a long list of Canadians in these papers and so what do we do is start googling names. And this name Julian Lavallee, never heard of him but he comes up in the Scottish newspapers. He's got a few headlines. I thought: “Hmm. Ticket scalper. That's interesting.” So we dug into the papers and lo and behold, and we find his business records.
PC: Business records? What kind of records are we talking about?
DAVE SEGLINS: Well to start with, a resume. I mean if you've ever thought of a scalper having a resume. But he describes himself as a ticket broker. And we learned that he registered a company in Quebec where he lives, in a suburb of Montreal Boucherville. He's now 30. He clearly states in his resume that he buys and sells tickets for concerts, festivals, sporting events in the U.S. and Canada and he uses Web sites like Stub Hub, Vivid Seats and Ticket Master to resell his tickets.
PC: Okay, I mean people don't generally have this on a resume but lots of people sell tickets. With this guy, how many tickets are we talking about?
DAVE SEGLINS: Well we almost fell off our chairs because the reason he shows up in the Paradise Papers is that in 2015 he was doing so well he wanted to set up in the Isle of Man, a tax haven. He was expanding his operations from North America into the U.K. in Europe and in the process he submitted some accounting records that show his Quebec business grow sales, 2013, $6.8 million. And the next year, $7.9 million.
PC: Million dollars.
DAVE SEGLINS: Million.
PC: Okay. Before we go any further, I just want to clarify, is ticket scalping illegal in Canada?
DAVE SEGLINS: Okay. So this is a question that drives me crazy because it's really unclear. In Ontario, there are laws you can't scalp a ticket on a street corner or outside you know the A.S.C. in downtown Toronto. But if you resell using a website like StubHub, in Ontario that's fine. In Quebec, where Julien Lavallee is from, there is a law that aims to outlaw scalping but it's unclear whether it even extends to somebody if they're buying and selling over the Internet in a country outside Quebec.
PC: Okay you and I are here in Toronto there are lots of concerts and theatre productions, just how ubiquitous are scalped tickets in a city like ours?
DAVE SEGLINS: Well it's a bit of a guess. I know that you know the Tragically Hip tour, the farewell tour last year; I actually went to StubHub because I was desperate to get tickets and couldn't get them. There's no real info on where my ticket came from. When you look at it on StubHub, there's no requirement in Canada for StubHub to tell you where your ticket is coming from. For people in the theatre world, they find this whole practice insidious. I spoke with John Karastamatis, he is with Mirvish Productions here in Toronto, where he's in charge of communications marketing and he does not mince his words when it comes to tickets scalpers.
I don't like what they do. I don't like what they stand for and I don't like how they affect the marketplace of theater tickets especially because I think of them as kidnappers. They take tickets and they hold them ransom until their value increases and then they charge exorbitant prices for those tickets, and then they're so righteously priced that they become not for the real theatregoer, but for someone who has a lot of money.
PC: John saying he clearly feels that the real fans are the ones that are hurt by this. So is Mirvish Production, as a big huge theater company, trying to track down any of these scalpers?
DAVE SEGLINS: Well they do. But it's a near impossible task. I mean they do it by monitoring their online sales records. They run their own independent box office. When they do find a suspicious ticket buyer, they can act.
When we do catch someone selling tickets, we cancel the tickets which we have the right to do. They usually become very very upset. They starts you know swearing at us then they start threatening us. Some of the threats are pretty harsh. You know “I know where you live. I can come after you. I have resources that you don't have.” You know it's pretty ugly.
PC: So their people are being threatened?
DAVE SEGLINS: Apparently. I mean that's a surprise to me. But there is a lot at stake here. I mean the global online industry of scalping and reselling through these resale websites now worth an estimated eight billion dollars a year. That's according to some of the experts.
PC: You said millions earlier at this time you're saying billions.
DAVE SEGLINS: Billions. Yes. Think about it. I mean you've got the U.S. market is one of the big components of this, beyond music concerts and theater, you've got the NFL you've got hockey tickets. Think of the demand for a ticket to the Super Bowl.
PC: Yeah I can imagine. But they're probably going for thousands of dollars for the best ones anyway.
DAVE SEGLINS: Absolutely.
DAVE SEGLINS: Okay. I want to get back to this Canadian ad Julien Lavallee. What do we know about his operations here in Canada?
DAVE SEGLINS: Well as far as who he's preying on, not a lot, because the laws don't require this transparency on who's reselling tickets. And that's actually why we originally went to John Karastamatis Mirvish Productions. We asked him, “Can you check your records for any trace of Mr. Lavallee?”
We didn't know who he was. And we found out that in fact he, through his name and through his wife's name had purchased 20 tickets to the Book of Mormon, when it was first here a few years back, through various methods because we handled a limit of six tickets per order on that show. We were told that the average resold ticket for Book of Mormon in Toronto was trading about $400. And he's keeping it from the general public, who are the people that really want to see this stuff. And it's difficult though to get anyone in the government to pay attention to this. And as I said they really think it's a victimless crime.
DAVE SEGLINS: Now, Piya, I want to say that those 20 tickets that Lavallee got, we don't know if he actually resold those. But just 20 tickets on that show, our investigation which we did with Radio-Canada Toronto Star and The Guardian newspaper, we uncovered sales records from some huge concerts in the U.K. when tickets went on sale for Adele’s London concerts last year. You can witness in the records an army of resellers attack the online ticketing site and we can see Julien Lavallee’s name. We've got his wife's name, his father's, other friends and relatives making purchase after purchase. It's all happening - by the time codes you can see - in rapid succession sometimes seconds apart. And what's more they're using different IP addresses for each purchase, multiple credit cards. The records show them buying somehow, simultaneously, purportedly to be in different cities; Los Angeles, Chicago, London, Montreal. In the end, on Adele, we could see that they scooped up 310 tickets in under 25 minutes.
PC: Which is so interesting because anyone who tried to get tickets to Adele, or any of these other big concerts, it's even hard to get on the site. So the fact that him, allegedly, and a bunch of his family members were all getting on to get the tickets.
DAVE SEGLINS: They get on and they're shutting out other fans.
PC: So it is quite sophisticated at least to my ear. Is Julien Lavallee then making a name for himself elsewhere, in the U.K. for example?
DAVE SEGLINS: Well he is on the radar of a guy named Reg Walker. He's the operations director for something called the Iridium Consultancy. They provide security for big events, concerts, sporting events and big venues. They also look at these ticket sales records and the attacks on systems by scalpers, or what in the U.K. they call them ‘touts’. So here's what Raj Walker told me:
Lavallee early on was very easy to spot, given he was using these nine family names, family addresses. A year later, he started branching out and using non familiar identities and non-familiar addresses in the USA and now he's using UK addresses that are simply not linked to him that we can see in any discernible way. Every evolution in his activity makes it increasingly more difficult for us to spot, to the point where unless some action is taken we will lose our ability to track the damage he's doing so the ticket systems. And eventually it will become impossible as well.
PC: Does he know that he is being tracked?
DAVE SEGLINS: I think he does because Reg Walker actually has the authority to cancel tickets as well. And if he thinks you know they've been bought up illegally he just cancels Lavallee, and he's done it to his tickets, Lavallees’s tickets in the past.
PC: Is it anything being done by governments?
DAVE SEGLINS: In the UK, they really are starting to take this very seriously. We went to London, our investigation took us there. Picking up on what John Karastamatiswas saying, this perception of it being a victimless crime, Nigel Adams does not think it is.
Does the Prime Minister agree that when tickets to a teenage cancer charity gig, by Ed Sheeran, are being resold on the Viagogo ticket website for over a thousand pounds, with none of that money going to the charity. And tickets to the hit musical, Hamilton, are touted for upwards of 5000 pounds. When Viagogo know only too well the tickets that are resold are invalid for entry. It's unfair, and not indicative of a market that works for everyone. What will the government do to ensure...
DAVE SEGLINS: So Adams he's a British Conservative Party MP. He's a music fan. He's on a bit of a mission. He mentioned Viagogo, that a ticket resale site just like StubHub. Many people believe that these platforms are actually complicit and actively encouraging scalping.
PC: Okay, so let's talk about StubHub for example. Lots of people use that sign is probably the most popular one at least here in North America. This is where you can sell a couple of tickets if you can't use them. I have done that.
DAVE SEGLINS: That's the marketing.
PC: Yes. Or pick some up. It's pretty simple. I can't go to a concert next Friday night, I can put them out there I like my money back, right.
DAVE SEGLINS: That's their tagline that you know where fans buy and sell tickets. They presented as you know fan to fan kind of platform.
PC: I guess it seems like fans can buy tickets and they are guaranteed, as a buyer, you are guaranteed to get them.
DAVE SEGLINS: Well that's right because there's been fraud in the past and that's StubHub a big pitch, that if for some reason you wind up with a bogus ticket, StubHub will give you your money back. But there is a whole bigger story to StubHub that our investigation uncovered. Nowhere on their web site do they say where they're getting their mass inventories of tickets. And they have thousands, you know. So is it just fans who couldn't make it? Or were sick or broke a leg, couldn't go to the show? Our investigation discovered they have a whole separate web site that you've probably never heard of for what they call their top sellers.
DAVE SEGLINS: This is people who are rewarded by StubHub if you can sell more than a quarter million dollars’ worth a year.
PC: A quarter… $250,000?
DAVE SEGLINS: That's right. And that's just a start because they've got these - what are called Selfie incentives. The way they make their money is they take 10 percent from every ticket resold on their site. Now if you're a top seller and you move a quarter million, they'll drop that fee percentage by one point. If you move half a million it becomes a sweeter deal and then it keeps going. They advertise to their top sellers, they'll reduce the percentage again at a million or even people who are moving five million dollars’ worth of tickets. So you get the idea.
PC: Okay. I have to say I probably haven't read all the fine print on StubHub, but if I were to use this information on their website?
DAVE SEGLINS: Well it's not on the website but all we did was Google. I mean just google: StubHub top seller handbook. You'll be amazed.
PC: Handbook, okay. You googled this? Is this how you found this out? As simple as that.
DAVE SEGLINS: Yes.
PC: Okay. So are the StubHubs of the world encouraging the practice of scalping?
DAVE SEGLINS: Well that's the question. And plenty of people including Red Walker in the UK believe that StubHub and these other resale sites are complicit and enabling scalpers. One of the documents that we found in the Paradise Papers was Julien Lavallee’s expansion plan. This is where he says look he's going to expand into the U.K. market in what he describes as a partnership - that's Lavallee's word - a partnership with StubHub. We showed this document to read Walker.
I think we need to know exactly what that relationship is between Lavallee and StubHub. Hayes quite clearly asserted that he's in a partnership with StubHub. We know he's one of the – globally one of the biggest resellers. It would also explain why when I told StubHub the Lavallee was suspected of acquiring tickets criminally, that they didn't want to know. And just by mail from law enforcement that explains that reaction which was extremely shrine, compared to all the times when I've reported people to them where they have taken action. Why was Lavallee the exception?
PC: Okay, Dave so Reg Walker said I look I went to StubHub and I said I've got concerns over this guy, Julien Lavallee.
DAVE SEGLINS: Yes he did. And he says he was totally blown off, and the UK parliament is also interested and in StubHub - I mean StubHub had to appear before a committee, the Culture Media and Sport Committee on Ticket Abuse that was held in the House of Commons last year. The company's lawyers called to testify. I am going to let Nigel Adams the MP pick this up’
I think StubHub were very professional and very slick in the way they answered the questions on the hearing on one particular issue. I believe we questioned them on is how they felt responsible for the policing of what is sold on their sites. The answer did surprise me slightly that they didn't seem to really care about the policing. It was very much an attitude of “well just a vehicle for people to trade”. Closing your ears to a problem you know it's not a professional way of running a business.
DAVE SEGLINS: So the UK is taking this very seriously. They're even passing legislation. Here's Nigel Adams again.
It's just about to become illegal here we've had a law change. The government accepted my proposal. I was delighted they put that into the digital economy bill. It takes a few months to get the process in place but that's a step forward. Banning bots for the use of purchasing tickets is a great step forward.
DAVE SEGLINS: So this is banning bots as aggressive software that industrial scale scalpers use to go in and harvest all those tickets. It's the kind of thing that's leaving fans in the dust. But it's unclear whether that law could apply to people who are located outside the UK, like Lavallee, who are buying and selling tickets online.
PC: And of course, as you said, Lavallee's from Montreal. So what are we doing here in Canada when it comes to ticket scalping?
DAVE SEGLINS: Well Ontario is about to pass an anti bot law. The problem is who's going to enforce it and how. I mean if the guy scoops up all the tickets you know, and is on the other side of the world, how do you how do you police that?
PC: Sure. Now did you try and talk to the person who's at the center of all this, Julien Lavallee?
DAVE SEGLINS: Yes we called, we e-mailed, we tracked him down. He wouldn't answer our questions. Only later did his lawyer send us an e-mail a statement saying that Lavallee’s Quebec firm abides by all the laws in all the jurisdictions where he operates or he's selling. StubHub also declined our request for an interview. They won't say what the relationship is with Julien Lavallee. The company wouldn't discuss how many of these top sellers it has. StubHub in an email said it holds all of its sellers to the very highest standards.
PC: We know that this happens. Do most people know how far what's going on?
DAVE SEGLINS: Many of us are waking up to this fact. Many of us are stuck in this situation because we want to go to the big concerts.
PC: What about the creators of all of this, the performers, artists and musicians? How aware are they on what goes on with the tickets to their shows?
DAVE SEGLINS: I spoke to the long-time manager of Mumford and Sons. The manager Adam Tudhope; he says scalping is a huge concern for him and the band, even their smallest shows get hit. This is what happened at one of their charity shows this fall.
We did a show in New York City, about 3000 people; all of the proceeds from the tickets were to go to charity to War Child. We checked to see how many of the tickets had been scouts and put onto secondary sites, and there were about 300 tickets, so bout 10 percent of the tickets. Those people come in they've spent money on a secondary site and a vast proportion of that money has come to a scalper not to a child in a conflicts. It is opponents. It is despicable. It is immoral.
DAVE SEGLINS: I have to agree. I mean that's the worst of the worst hitting a charity show. This summer Bruce Springsteen, he set up a bit of a complicated process to verify that buyers are indeed fans, when they show up for his Broadway show, included a lottery to get tickets. But even with some safeguards and new tricks in place, tickets for Springsteen going for as much as ten thousand dollars on StubHub.
PC: Oh! Hamilton like prices.
DAVE SEGLINS: That's right. So even those trying to snuff it out. It's a bit like you know whack a mole.
PC: All right Dave. I'll say thanks but you're going to make me very skeptical next time I go on this ticket resellers to pick up a pair of tickets. Thank you very much sir.
DAVE SEGLINS: Thank you.
PC: The CBC's Dave Seglins. You can watch Dave's full TV documentary it is called The Super Scalpers. It is on tonight at 9 p.m. 9:30 in Newfoundland and parts of Labrador on the Fifth Estate.
PC: You are listening to Mumford and Sons and their song I Will Wait. All right. The CBC News is next and then after that, an Alberta association of home-schoolers invited a controversial creationist to speak at their conference. There are questions though just what's on the lesson plan in Canadian home schools. We'll be talking about that. I am Piya Chattopahyay. You're listening to the Friday edition of The Current.
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[Song: I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons]
And I fell heavy into your arms
These days of dust
Which we've known
Will blow away with this new sun
But I'll kneel down
Wait for now
And I'll kneel down
Know my ground
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
Creationist speaker at Alberta homeschooling conference prompts controversy
Guests: Paul Ens, Judy Arnall, Robert Berard
PC: Hi I'm Piya Chattopadhyay and you're listening to the Friday edition of The Current.
PC: Still to come, why did the gas chambers at Nazi death camps one day suddenly come to a halt. It's been one of the Second World Wars and unsolved mysteries for decades. Historian Max Wallace has some answers about secret deals. He joins me in half an hour. And we'll also hear a touching story from an Auschwitz survivor living in Canada with the surprising connection to max Wallace's new book. But first the curriculum questions in home schools.
Is creation a viable model of origins in today's scientific era? I said we need to define the terms and particularly the time science and the time evolution. And I believe we need to understand how they're being used to impose an anti-god religion on generations of unsuspecting students.
PC: Well you may have heard of Ken Ham before as the president and founder of The Creation Museum in Kentucky and the nearby Ark Encounter, where you can visit a full scale model of Noah's ark from the Bible. Ken Ham is a creationist and, as you heard him say there, he believes there are drawbacks to teaching science to students and that's why there has been some controversy since it was announced that Ken Ham would be speaking at a home schooling convention here in Canada. The Alberta Home Education Association invitation has sparked questions about what kind of oversight provincial governments should have in regulating home schooling. Approximately 100000 students are home schooled in our country today. Paul Ens is a Calgary father of three. He also runs a YouTube channel dedicated to debunking the myths of creationism and the teachings of Ken Ham in particular. Paul Ens is in Calgary. Hello.
PAUL ENS: Good morning, Piya.
PC: What was your reaction when you heard Ken Ham is coming to Alberta to address the home schooling conference?
PAUL ENS: Well certainly my heart sank. Given that I've spent so much of my time trying to minimize the effect that he can have on children, my children, anyone's children. So the fact that he's come into my home province was pretty devastating.
PC: And just to be clear. Paul you used to follow Ken Ham and you taught his ideas to your very own kids.
PAUL ENS: That is actually correct. I was once a very Bible literalist believer with a very narrow view of what I thought the scripture taught and I was a follower of everything you would have said, at one point in my life. But I have since turned around.
PC: And what changed your mind?
PAUL ENS: I was really suffering a lot of cognitive dissonance as an adult, when I kind of came into my own. I was doing some research for a graphic novel I was writing regarding dinosaurs and I started needing to check them to what real science said, and not just what my Bible and my pastors told me. And as I learned the gap between reality and what I was taught became wider and wider. So I thought I would solve this cognitive dissonance by looking up Ken Ham's work and now he has the leading selling books on convincing Christians that the science of the Bible is true. But as I read it just became more and more ridiculous and I came to understand, through his works, that what I believed was wrong and it's a very devastating thing.
PC: And Paul for some years you had taught your own children the teachings of Ken Ham, and then you realize no I don't want to do that anymore. I mean how do you undo the teaching, unteach something that once you pass it on to your kids? What's been your experience?
PAUL ENS: Unfortunately you know I haven't had a lot of success in doing it. They continue to remain believing what I originally taught them. They are skeptical now of my new changed opinion although fortunately actually even this week in discussing Ken Ham's coming, I've been able to open some of those discussions a little broader. So I guess that's one good thing that's come out of this. But I fear what it will do to other kids.
PC: How old are your kids?
PAUL ENS: My oldest is 19 and I also have 14 the 16 year old.
PC: And they still believe some of these things that you once taught them and then tried to unteach them.
PAUL ENS: They do indeed. They would deny evolution. They would deny long age of the earth for example. And fortunately they are a little more moderate on things like climate change and some of those things that can deny it.
PC: You, just to be clear, your kids went to public school in Alberta and you also went to public school growing up. So you learned this stuff in your own home after school hours so to speak.
PAUL ENS: That's correct yes. And actually I was fortunate to live in a home of two teachers. My parents were teachers so I valued public education very much, even though they believed very much what a typical homeschooled Christian family, at least, might believe. So I learned it at church and in the evenings and at a Bible school setting and all that kind of thing.
PC: And so Paul Ens what would you say to parents who say they have the right to teach their children how they want fit, home school or not?
PAUL ENS: I absolutely respect everyone's right to any religious beliefs they want to hold. But in this country we actually hold some things above the rights of religion. So for example if your religious beliefs endanger the health of your child we don't allow that. So, in the same way I believe that the education of a child should be held up at the same kind of standard as their physical health. Their mental health is equally important. And we have provincial and national curriculums that we have decided as a country that we value. We value science education for the future of our country and our technology and our viability of our economy. So your right to religious belief shouldn't extend past the basic things that we really value that we want our kids to learn.
PC: I want to play a tape for you. We spoke to Marlin Arnall. He's a recent engineering student graduate from the university Victoria. He was home schooled, where you are in Alberta and here's what he had to say about his experience.
I really like the freedom that entailed and it allowed me to deeply and creatively look into subjects of my interests. Like it allowed me to do things that a lot of people hadn't done like the computer club that was for me and some friends, I got an introduction to coding back when I was 12 years old. For me I was able to put a lot of time into it and I got a solid foundation. So when I got to post-secondary and I was doing these classes I was a lot more comfortable doing coding and computer stuff than my classmates.
PC: Paul Ens, Marin Arnall says the freedom home schooling gave him an edge. What's your reaction to what he had to say?
PAUL ENS: Certainly I don't deny that were some children that homeschooling is an excellent way to learn. And I'm not debating either the right of Ken to come speak to these groups or the right of anyone to homeschool their own children. What I really am fighting for is the minimum standards and for not science [unintelligible] and by bringing Ken in, I really think that it signals a bit of a lack of a judgment and or even a deliberate defiance of parental curriculum. Because what Ken is teaching is so opposite to what we would say is normal science education. Like that individual experience he experienced computer science and that's great. That's the kind of thing I would definitely be fighting for.
PC: You mentioned you know what the role of government. I just want to say that we did invite David Eggen Alberta's education minister to be on the show. He declined. We did receive a statement from his office and I want to read part of it which says “all students no matter what format of education they receive are expected to learn from the Alberta programs of study” by which he means from the current Alberta curriculum. Paul Ens in your view is the government doing enough to ensure that all kids being home schooled are getting an education on par with kids in our public school systems?
PAUL ENS: I don't think they're doing enough. Here in Alberta we do provincial testing every three years but is very limited in its scope, and also there is very little oversight in terms of how that stuff is called. I believe that how one learns it is almost as important as what they learn. Critical thinking is what I think we need to value even more and more in this culture that we have with the Internet and everything else. Fake news out there. Critical thinking is the exact opposite of the kind of indoctrination that Ken Ham and his opponents would want to teach their children. They want them to not question authority and not learn on their own. They want to just be handed the answers up front and that's, in my view, that's the wrong way to teach a child.
PC: Paul Ens, thank you for your time.
PAUL ENS: You're very welcome.
PC: Take care. Paul Ens is a Calgary father of three. He also runs a YouTube channel dedicated to debunking the myths of creationism and the teachings of Ken Ham. Paul Ens is in Calgary. We also request an interview with a representative from the Alberta Home Education Association that is the group that has invited Ken Ham to their convention. No one was available. The group did however send us a statement. It says that their group is not exclusionary and that its convention is simply offering parents a wide variety of educational resources. Judy Arnall is president of the Alberta home education parent society it is a home school advocacy group. She homeschooled her five children including Marlin who we just heard from, three of her children went on to graduate from university. Judy Arnall joins us from Calgary. Hello.
JUDY ARNALL: Good morning.
PC: What do you think do should homeschoolers be allowed to teach creationism to their children if they deem that to be what they want to do?
JUDY ARNALL: Well according to our Alberta, homeschoolers have the right to teach their children any curriculum they want. They can choose to teach the Alberta program of studies but they - contrary to what Minister Eggen said - they don't have to. They can follow a separate schedule of learning outcomes which cover a basic education.
PC: So, you don't have to follow any curriculum.
JUDY ARNALL: No you don't actually and that's a really good thing. I think if you follow the government curriculum your children are going to be very lacking in a lot of skills. The curriculum doesn't get change for about 15 years. Our math curriculum now is 10 years old. When you look at what's missing in the curriculum, there's no formal instruction in computer coding, in personal finance, in developing robotics and apps, in development. Handwriting is no longer taught. These are skills and knowledge that children need to succeed in life and to prepare them for postsecondary. And these are things that if we have to teach the Alberta program of studies we wouldn't have time to teach what we think kids need.
PC: And Judy Arnall, why do you think parents such as yourself who aren't qualified teachers are better equipped than Alberta’s Education Ministry to decide what and how to teach our children?
JUDY ARNALL: Parents know where their child is academically every second of every day. They have lifelong experience of knowing their child's personality, their temperament their learning style. They have lots and lots of time for discussions to develop that critical thinking that Paul Ens was talking about. The kids have time to read. They have time to travel. And parents are not teaching a classroom of 30 people’s other kids. They are only teaching their own child. And yes you know there are worries that some children may fall through the cracks, not get an adequate good education but in Alberta kids are adults at age 18 and they still have two to three years of funded education to follow the Alberta program of studies if they want to.
PC: Meaning that you can get in Alberta, everyone who homeschools gets 850 dollars of taxpayers money to home school their children, right.
JUDY ARNALL: That's right. Yes it's to offset the costs. It doesn't fully fund a home education program but it's to purchase resources. And when you compare what kids in school get, they get about $15,000 a year to educate. So we're saving taxpayers a lot of money.
PC: And Judy Arnall, how does that compare to other provinces? Alberta, you say you don't have to teach the provincial curriculum you also get money to homeschool your children. What's happening in other provinces?
JUDY ARNALL: Alberta is the most regulated province in that we don't have to teach the provincial curriculum but we do have to follow the government's scheduled outcomes for home educators. Other provinces do not get any funding. They don't have to have two certified teachers come out a year and do evaluations. They can pretty much be left alone which is kind of nice.
PC: I'm trying to understand the discrepancy. The Alberta education minister is saying you have to teach the provincial curriculum. You have to follow those guidelines. You're saying no we don't.
JUDY ARNALL: No, we don’t know. It's not correct. We follow a different program.
PC: I want to play a bit of tape for you as well. We spoke to a woman named Bari Miller. She was home schooled in Alberta. She doesn't look so fondly back on her education at home.
Well for me it went particularly negative. I don't feel that I received inadequate education to prepare me for entering the workforce going to university. I also reached out on a number of occasions to the whole school organization that I fell under for help because I was in a situation of abuse in my family and they basically just swept me under the rug.
PC: Judy Arnell, what would you say to someone like Ms Miller who felt she was unsupported while home schooled and that her education left her ill prepared for adulthood?
JUDY ARNALL: There are gaps everywhere. There are gaps in public school. There are gaps in home education and I feel sorry for Ms. Beri’s case. But when kids become teenagers their executive function develops, they develop their critical thinking. And many kids go online and see what the entrance requirements are for post-secondary and they think oh I'm not getting this. And luckily when they're 18 they can choose their education. They can pick up high school requirements and they can do it themselves.
PC: But you cannot just learn everything when you're 18. There was a gradual progression over the years you. How does the province determine if children are progressing adequately in their education?
JUDY ARNALL: Every child progresses at different rates. And yes they are learning, even though they're not workbook learning. Children are learning everything. In fact many kids are self-taught. They don't do any workbooks textbooks. They learn in different ways through the Internet and they can challenge that diploma exams in Alberta, and they can get marks and credits to validate the knowledge they've acquired through different ways. It doesn't have to be school delivered. It doesn't have to be through paper.
PC: Do you think that all children, all parents are well suited for home schooling in our country?
JUDY ARNALL: I think everybody home schooled from age zero to five. And if some parents want to continue they can.
PC: We also know that a lot of people from ages zero to five are left in front of screens and not taught a lot of things by their parents.
JUDY ARNALL: Yes, but they're still learning.
PC: All right Judy Arnal, we'll have to leave it there. Thank you.
JUDY ARNALL: Thank you very much for having me.
PC: Bye bye. Take care. Judy Arnall is the president of the Alberta Home Education Parents Society. It is a home school advocacy group. She is in Calgary. Now let's go to someone who has been studying homeschooling in Canada for two decades and says there are some myths about it that could use some debunking. Robert Berard is a professor of education at Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax and we have reached him there hello.
ROBERT BERARD: Good morning.
PC: You were listening in. What do you make of this debate over how much freedom home school instructors should have?
ROBERT BERARD: Well I tend to lean more toward the view of your second guest than the first guest, in the sense that governments I think have a certain responsibility to look into cases, if they have evidence of abuse or mis-education. But by and large I think that parents are the best qualified educators - first educators.
PC: Can you give me a little sense of the landscape of Canada because as you just heard Judy Arnall home schooling parents says I didn't have to follow any provincial curriculum if I didn't wanted. The minister of education that province says yes you do. So what is the landscape in Alberta and elsewhere in our country when it comes to having to follow a regulation or a set curriculum?
ROBERT BERARD: Right. I think that she was correct in saying that Alberta is one of the more highly regulated provinces. There are requirements as I say for school boards to send teachers out and examine children and see that they are meeting provincial outcomes. They may not follow the curriculum exactly but they're expected to meet a comparable set of outcomes, particularly if they're looking for money. You know in other words, home-schoolers can apply for a certain amount of money in Alberta, but not all of them do apply for it.
PC: The outcomes are what, tested every couple of years? How do you monitor what is being taught in our home schools in Canada?
ROBERT BERARD: Well in Alberta in fact the school boards will send assessors out to the schools to examine the curricula, to examine the children and so on. You also have high levels regulation in Saskatchewan and Quebec as opposed to, for example, in Nova Scotia with which I'm most familiar. Home schoolers register with the Department of Education and they submit an annual report on what they've done. The office of the school inspector in the Department of Education will review that report and if he or she finds anything untoward they'll look into it further. But there's been very little evidence that we've found here in Nova Scotia that anyone is miss educating their children.
PC: We know our starting point of this conversation was about Ken Ham coming to the Alberta homeschooling conference and he believes in creationism. You heard from our first guest who thinks this shouldn't be taught to children, especially those who are homeschooled. When you look across the country you, there is because in some places sort of the curriculum testing and people to inspect these things. But beyond that how much freedom is given to instructors - in many cases parents - in terms of what they can and cannot be teaching their children from province to province?
ROBERT BERARD: In general as they say, on balance, parents are relatively free in Canada compared to many other countries in the world to manage their own curricula. In the same way independent schools for example in Nova Scotia do not have to follow the provincial curriculum.
PC: Independent schools like private schools you mean like private schools?
ROBERT BERARD: Yes. So that in fact probably the most academically prestigious private school in Nova Scotia, the Halifax Grammar School, does not follow the provincial curriculum and the students don't receive a provincial certificate. When they graduate they receive a certificate from the school and they usually write International Baccalaureate exams. So in other words the parents who've chosen that independent school have chosen an alternative curriculum and they're quite happy with it. Similarly parents who may enroll their children in the Halifax Christian Academy or other Christian school have chosen a different curriculum from the public school curriculum. And those schools do certainly incorporate in their science books elements of creationism and certainly they introduce creationism as an alternative.
PC: Education is a provincial power. Do you think that we should have some kind of national standard when it comes to home schooling for our children?
ROBERT BERARD: Well not only do I not think that, but in addition to that the education is a provincial matter under the Constitution. I don't see that the provinces will want to give that up at any time soon. And if all other nine did, I'm sure that the province of Quebec would not. At the same time the council of ministers of education of Canada do talk with one another and there is a there is a kind of remarkably similar set of curricula across the country, even to some extent with Quebec. So I really don't see the need for the federal government to be involved in this at all. It's something that education I think is best left, both constitutionally and practically, to the provinces and to the local levels.
PC: In my introduction to you I you are a proponent of homeschooling also said you are out to debunk some myths about homeschooling. So let us talk about that. In your view what are some of the biggest myths about homeschooling?
ROBERT BERARD: I think that I think the biggest myth actually that still persists and I get this from my students who I'm actually working with to become teachers, is that children who are home schooled are not adequately socialized. And I can tell you from having met home school graduates and home school students for over 20 years. They are some of the best socialized young people that I've ever met. And in part that has to do with the fact that home school children learn to interact with people of all ages and conditions as they go from place to place with their parents. They're often grouped with the siblings in their own homes of different ages. Home school parents often work in co-ops and interact with other home school parents. And home school children take part in other public activities; dance and soccer. Schools socialize children in a strict age grade cohort. So that if you're in grade 7 you don't talk to kids in grade 8.
PC: And I think one of the other concerns that people have about home schooling is the expertise of the parent. In other words that teachers get an education become a teacher. They learn skills. They go to workshops and conferences to learn how to teach that. And parents are kind of just doing it on an ad hoc basis. What do you say to that?
ROBERT BERARD: I would say that parents who are ready to take the time and make the effort to home school their children look for the help that they need. One thing that's often overlooked, is that there are some studies that have been done in Canada indicate that almost 20 percent of the females who have the primary role in home schooling actually have some teacher education background. And I've taught students in the past who did education programs primarily to improve their skills as teachers of their own children. But beyond that, parents will frequently - if they're not confident in their own teaching abilities - will avail themselves of a curriculum provider, who will not only provide materials and books and so on but also provide tutoring help online. So that the people will find the resources they need or they will find resources from other home school parents.
PC: Robert Berard thank you for your time appreciate it.
ROBERT BERARD: Thank you.
PC: Robert Berard is a professor in education at Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax. I know you have things to say about this. You can get in touch with us about your thoughts and experience in home schooling and what you think about what should and shouldn't be on the curriculum. Email us from our website cbc.ca/thecurrent. Tweet us @TheCurrentCBC. We're also on Facebook. All right. Coming up getting to the bottom of an Auschwitz mystery and meeting a survivor, with a touching tale along the way. I'm Piya Chattopadhyay. You're listening to the Friday edition of The Current. We're back in just a bit.
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'That's me on the picture': How a book cover brought a Holocaust historian and Auschwitz survivor together
Guest: Max Wallace
PC: I'm Piya Chattopadhyay and this is the Friday edition of The Current. Well it was on this day 79 years ago that the streets of Germany and Austria were littered with broken glass from Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues. Kristallnacht or the night of broken glass was a turning point for European Jews. The anti-Jewish terror that infused the Nazi state exploded into an orgy of violence and the state organized pogroms saw the mass arrests of Jews, many of whom were sent off to concentration camps. The stage was set for death camps like Auschwitz and Birkenau. Miriam Ziegler was three years old when the Kristallnacht began. She was a Jewish girl living with her parents in Poland but she would not escape the pogroms horrific consequences. She spent a year in the death camps but was one of the lucky few to survive.
I lost my whole family. My mother had three sisters and a brother. And most of them except one were married and had children. My grandparents, that is from my mother's side. From my father’s, he had one two three brothers and a sister. The sister was very young and. They had - I don't know how many children they had or what they had but they all died, my grandparents. A lot of family today.
PC: Miriam Ziegler is 82 years old and she lives in Toronto. She was nine when Auschwitz and Birkenau were liberated in January of 1945. And the moment of her liberation was preserved for prosperity when a Russian soldier snapped a photograph of young Miriam. It is a photograph that's had a life of its own and it happens to grace the cover of a new book by the Canadian historian and journalist Max Wallace. The book contains surprising new findings about just why the Nazi program of industrial scale genocide came to a screeching halt one day at Auschwitz. Max Wallace’s book is called In the Name of Humanity: The Secret Deal to End the Holocaust. And he is with me here in Toronto. Hello.
MAX WALLACE: Morning, Piya.
PC: The photograph of Miriam Ziegler. It's a pretty well-known one. But just describe it for us.
MAX WALLACE: It's a group of children behind barbed wire at Auschwitz. On the day of liberation. January 27 1945. Those children, teenagers pretty well the you know the only people who survive. There weren't very many survivors. I had no idea that any of them were living in Toronto certainly, until Miriam Ziegler marched up to me during a book signing pointed at the cover and said: “That's me in the photo.”
PC: So we talked to Miriam about coming up with that book event. Here's how she described what happened.
My daughter usually picks me up on Saturdays and we go grocery shopping and whatever and we spend a day together. And we were in Costco, shopping and we noticed a sign about Max's selling his book and my picture on it. So we went over and my daughter says “Mom introduce yourself.” So I introduce myself to Max. We started talking and I said “That's me on the picture.”
PC: Max Wallace. What was that like for you?
MAX WALLACE: I was almost speechless at first. I actually didn't believe it. I thought it was a metaphor. You know I was a Holocaust survivor as well. And then when I realized that you know I saw her pointing to her nine year old self, it really brought these events home. It was a very poignant moment. And even more poignant by the fact that the events that I write about, in my book, my new discovery reveals why very likely why Miriam and many others survived.
PC: You let's talk about your book that the heroine is an orthodox Jewish woman. Her name is Recha Sternbach. Tell me about her.
MAX WALLACE: Well you know we're commemorating the anniversary of Kristallnacht November 1938. And it's actually Kristallnacht, the events around Kristallnacht, the pogroms in Germany and Austria that propelled Recha Sternbach from just that ordinary Jewish housewife to a heroine of rescue. Rescue efforts of people like Oskar Schindler really pale in comparison.
PC: What did she do? How did you rescue people?
MAX WALLACE: Well there is there's actually many phases to her rescue operations. The world had abandoned the Jews of Europe. None worse in Canada, wery shameful record. And so country after country closed their doors on the Jews and she was living in Switzerland right next door to Austria and Germany. And they started to try to pour over the borders. The Swiss were very anti-Semitic. They'd send them back and Recha activated her own one woman rescue network, this underground network. By day she had raced through the country establishing safe houses for Jewish refugees. At night she met them at the border with a thermos of coffee, sometimes with a motorcycle side car sometimes with the truck she had. She cultivated a network of helpers a lot of gentile helpers, farmers and truckers. And none more important than the Gentile police captain of St. Gallenn where she lived - a man named Paul Grueninger - who arranged for the false papers to allow these Jews to stay. So this continued until May 1939 when Grueninger was fired from his job, when the Swiss authorities discovered his efforts and Recha was arrested and put on trial for her role in this in this network. But at that time, the Jews that she was helping to escape, they were fleeing from persecution. But Recha had no idea what was to come, you know about the holocaust. Nobody knew.
PC: I want to talk more about Recha. She's remarkable. She farms this odd alliance with a man named Jean Marie Musy . Who is he?
MAX WALLACE: Jean Marie Musy was the former president of Switzerland or the president of the Federal Council. And he wasn't particularly anti-Semitic. He was president on a couple of occasions in the 20s and 30s. Yet he was a very devout Catholic and at that time the Catholics, the Roman Catholic Church, considered the Bolsheviks to be the ultimate enemy. So as a result he was very close to the Vatican. His wife's father was a papal counts. He became enamored of the Nazis in the thirties because they were intent on wiping out Bolshevism. So he's often described as a fascist. Not sure if that's an accurate description, but he certainly was pro-Nazi early on before he learned of the of the Final Solution and things change.
PC: And how to him and Recha come together?
MAX WALLACE: Recha heard that he had freed a Jewish couple in the summer of 1944 from a concentration camp. They were related to his law clients and they asked him to intervene. He writes to the SS chief in Paris and this couple was freed. He actually travels from Switzerland to Paris to bring them back over the border. The SS chief tells him never before has an Israeli come into a concentration camp and left again. So this spreads. Meanwhile Russia had had established very close ties to the Archbishop to the Papal Nuncio in Switzerland. The dean of the diplomatic corps a man named Filippo Bernardini, Archbishop Bernardini and he was very instrumental in some of her rescue efforts. He introduced her to this woman who introduced her to Jean-Marie Musy and everybody had heard that he managed to free these Jews. So she invites Musy and she says we're both servants of God. The Nazis are an affront to everything we believe in. And she implores him to do something. He seems to be the logical vehicle. He knows him Himmler. I wouldn't call him a friend of Himmler but they were very close before the war from anti-communist circles. The Nazis had a lot of respect for him. And so he writes to Himmler and he requested a meeting and that begins a series of trips. He ends up traveling to Berlin in November 1944. Meanwhile the Nazis were losing the war. Himmler knew they were losing the war. People around him were started to urge him. He was by far the most powerful person in Germany by this time. Most of the people, the army certainly, had become very disillusioned with Hitler. Himmler controlled the SS, he could have overthrown Hitler at any time and yet he had this almost pathological loyalty or fear. He seemed to regard Hitler as godlike figure and was very reluctant. He had people around him that were urging him to overthrow Hitler. But instead he decided that the best course would be to forge a compromise peace, a separate peace, with the West. Once it was clear Germany was going to lose the war, they believe that the best course would be to ally with England and the United States against their common enemy the Soviet Union. That was never going to happen.
PC: I want to go back just for a second and talk about Himmler. Much has been written about Heinrich Himmler, carried out the genocide against Jews in occupied Europe. What do we need to know about him?
MAX WALLACE: Well you know it's difficult to believe that this monster, who was known as the architect of genocide, in many ways he may have been worse than Hitler. It's Himmler that actually decided to extend the killing to children, lest they one day take revenge. So he really is a monster.
PC: So we Musy, who he is friendly with Himmler, and him in Recha Sternbuch come to work together. So together they do what?
MAX WALLACE: Well a little before Musy travels to Germany, the Nazis [unintelligible] specifically had indicated that they'd be willing to free a certain amount of Jews and quote unquote destroy the facilities at Auschwitz, if they receive tractor's. Months earlier they had been demanding trucks, 10000 trucks, that's known as the blood for goods deal. The Allies immediately nixed that. And then the bombings were happening in Germany, bakeries were being bombed, there was desperate food shortages and they needed agricultural equipment to grow food for the Army and for their population. So they needed tractors and they made it clear that if these tractors would be delivered they would end the exterminations, they would free Jews from the concentration camps. And yet this was a nonstarter. This wasn't going to happen. The Allies immediately forbad any sort of ransom. The Sternbuchs hear about this and other Orthodox Jews and they secretly engineered a deal to buy tractors in Switzerland and ship them to the Nazis in Hungary. So this deal starts to come together. It's hard to raise the funds. They finally do manage to raise the funds. And in November they secure an export permit from the Swiss government to send these tractors like men and the Nazis had said once the delivery of the tractors was begun seriously we will destroy the facilities at Auschwitz. So this is on November 1944. The permit is issued. And here's where I come in. I actually discovered an explosive cache of documents in an Orthodox Jewish archive at Yeshiva University in New York revealing, just days before the crematoria come down at Auschwitz. Letters between the Sternbuchs in Switzerland and The Agudath Isreal in New York revealing as a result of these negotiations with Musy that they've received a promise that the exterminations will cease in concentration camps and other letters. So this is November 20th 1944. Two days later they send another letter revealing that the Vatican has received confirmation that the exterminations will come to an end. Three days later, November 25th November 25th 1944, the main crematoria and gas chambers come crashing down. And ever since that day historians have assumed that the Germans destroyed the gas chambers to hide the evidence of their monstrous crimes ahead of the approaching Russian army, but never really made sense. It's just stated as fact there's no documentation to back that up. The Russians were still two months away and when the Russians did come the day that Miriam Ziegler was liberated, they left behind seven thousand six hundred inmates - those who were too sick to march, the children and teenagers including Miriam to provide eyewitness accounts of the horrors that had gone on there so.
PC: So that's the common narrative that we've all sort of been, the conventional. What did you find? Why did Himmler order the destruction of the gas chambers and crematoriums and in these death camps?
MAX WALLACE: Well the key to these negotiations, Musy arrives in early November and announces that he had come at the behest of the Grand Rabbi Sternbuch. Sternbuch wasn't a rabbi. He was pouring it on. He was working for the union of orthodox rabbis in New York and he knew how the Nazis worked. You know the Nazis assume that there was this huge Jewish conspiracy controlling the allies and Roosevelt and it was as if Musy been anointed by the learned elders of Zion themselves. He really poured it on and it became very evident that Himmler wanted this separate peace. And so that's how these negotiations began. It was clear that him or was trying to - you know maybe it was to save his skin - but he really believed that there was a chance that the Allies would just forgive these crimes, because the greater enemy was Stalin and Bolshevism. So they cultivated this delusion the Sternbuchs and Musy, with the aid of Western intelligence. So they were reporting back to the U.S. and an intelligence services who encouraged them to keep this delusion alive. And so the exterminations come to an end so that's the end of the final solution, the systematic extermination of European Jewry. I also found evidence that at the same time as Himmler orders the destruction of the gas chambers and crematoria, he issues an order prohibiting the further killing of Jews. So there's a lot of evidence that comes together that suggests that this is more than just an attempt to cover up their crimes. This is actually a result of these secret negotiations.
PC: And then there's this meeting that takes place towards the end of the war. It's an incredible meeting between to represent the World Jewish Congress and Himmler in Germany. Tell me about that meeting.
MAX WALLACE: So the final solution had come to an end but then the Jews of Europe were not safe yet. The Holocaust continued tens of thousands more died during death marches and disease and starvation started to ravage the concentration camps. Meanwhile, it was very clear that Hitler wanted to take every last Jew down with the Reich and winter-spring 1945 the World Jewish Congress and Jewish organizations discover that Hitler has ordered the remaining concentration camps dynamited before liberation. So Musy had it's almost a Shakespearean drama. There's a lot of characters too many to really get into right now. Musy had convinced him to allow the Red Cross to deliver food and relief supplies to the concentration camps and to even station themselves inside the camps until the end of the war. So there was there was a man very influential very close to him where Felix Kersten. He is Finnish osteopath. The guy that Himmler describes as his magic Buddha because he was the only one that could relieve these intense abdominal pains that have plagued them throughout his life. Kersten had been working on Himmler for quite some time to free the Jews or to soften the final solution. And he managed to convince Himmler that the best way towards a separate peace towards his dream of a separate peace - so he's one more person who is trying to cultivate this delusion that have been started by the Sternbuchs and by Musy was to end the extermination of the Jews and the idea was that the Allies would only deal with the Nazis if they ended the liquidations. So that happened then Kerstern convinces him to meet with an actual Jew. So the world Jewish Congress sends this man, this Sweed, Swedish representative named Norbert Masur to meet with Himmler. And it seems that Himmler was convinced that's who he would need to meet with the Jews face to face to convey to Truman, who was now President, that the Nazis were serious and they were willing to embark on this separate peace. So Masur, this is a very dramatic episode, the night of Hitler's birthday, Hitler's in Berlin in the Fuherer bunker watching the right crumble around him. Himmler is there briefly at the party. Himmler returns back to Kersten's estate just outside Berlin, where Masur is waiting, this representative of the hated race. And they talk for hours. And you know Himmler gives this lecture about how the Jews were responsible for their own misfortune. By the end of the meeting Himmler or agrees to free all the women from the Ravensbruck concentration camp and more. He almost promises that that the Jews will now be safe.
PC: What was the turn for him? In that meeting.
MAX WALLACE: It's a good question. There's a man I just met who was the nephew of Masur and knew him very well. And we have the report. So it's incontrovertible that the meeting took place and we have a pretty good idea of what was said because we have reports from different eyewitnesses. It seems that really Himmler believed that he was meeting with you know the all-powerful Jew who could pull Truman strings and end the war the way Himmler dream. And so hours later, we know that they meet in the middle of the night. Meeting starts at 2:30 a.m. At dawn. Himmler travels to meet with the head of the Swedish Red Cross and offers the Germans unconditional surrender on the western front. So this meeting with Masur was clearly pivotal. And so this is the last weeks of the war. Hitler is getting ready to commit suicide in the bunker. He has the Cyanide capsule stashed away. Just before he and Eva Braun swallow the cyanide, Hitler hears about this meeting, this secret negotiations where Himmler has offered the allies the surrender on the Western Front and Hitler is livid. This is the ultimate betrayal. This was his loyal Heinrich, as he called him, his faithful Heinrich. And he orders Himmler’s arrest and excommunication for the Nazi party. He sits down and writes out his political Last Will and Testament where he basically orders Himmler arrested and executed. But that was never going to happen. Himmler was far more powerful than Hitler at this point. But it was a real turning point.
PC: Then, a few months later in January 45 Auschwitz is liberated. And I just want to go back to Miriam Ziegler and play a little bit about how she remembers the last days for her in the camps.
Before the Russians came in, we were left a few days without any guards - German guards. So we decided to go to Auschwitz. We were Birkenau. We went to Auschwitz where they kept all the food. So we raid it, we took as much food with us, as many breads as we could carry and dressed ourselves and took some clothes, food back for the sick and elderly people. A few days later, the Russians arrived. We were excited. We were happy but we were stunned. We didn't know what to think. They were nice to us. They gave us chocolate bars at and things but being that young we didn't know who that was. But after a while, they you know they told us who they were and that they were liberating us. I remember everything.
PC: And Max was that's when that photo that we talked about would have been taken.
MAX WALLACE: That's right. That very day.
PC: It's amazing.
MAX WALLACE: Yes. And as a result of these negotiations, it is the reason why there were any survivors at all.
PC: How many people, how many Jews were saved by these back door negotiations the week before Germany surrendered?
MAX WALLACE: There are no accurate records because the Nazis destroyed all the records at the end. But we know that at least 300,000, little more than 300,000, Jews survived including the Jews of Hungary which you can definitely make the links between these secret negotiations. There were other rescuers and all kinds of other events going on at the same time. But clearly the reason why more than 300,000 Jews survived was because of these efforts. The Nazis could have easily taken down every last Jew and fulfilled Hitler's dream.
PC: So much has been written about the holocaust. Why do you think this story has not been told before?
MAX WALLACE: I have a couple of theories. The most logical I think is that historians have been reluctant to delve too deeply into this for fear that it will play into the hands of Holocaust deniers. You know the deniers could say “look here's evidence that Himmler actually saved Jews. He ended the final solution. So he's a hero after all” and it's a very valid fear. I can say I was a little afraid of telling the story. But so far there hasn't been a backlash. I also think it's because the Orthodox, the ultra-orthodox, who are at the center of this story have long been ignored, right even by secular Jews. I grew up as a secular Jew hearing all these stereotypes about the Orthodox. They were alien. And so I think that they really haven't got the credit they deserve. I came out of this with a huge new respect for the religious Jews. You know I'm not growing a beard and wearing black garments.
PC: Max Wallace, thank you for bringing this story to light. I appreciate very much talking to you.
MAX WALLACE: Thanks for having me, Piya.
PC: Max Wallace is the author of In the Name of Humanity: The Secret Deal to End the Holocaust. He was in Toronto. Well that is The Current for this Friday but we do want to leave you with a bit more from Miriam Ziegler. After her somewhat miraculous survival of the Holocaust, she was taken in by an orphanage. I am Piya Chattopadhyay. Thank you for letting us your ear here on the Friday edition of The Current.
I was never in a school before, so I didn't know how to write. I only spoke Polish but I asked somebody in the orphanage if they could write me a little note saying my name and my parents nam,e my grandparents names for both side, that I am looking for them and that I am in this this orphanage in Krakow. And I asked that person to put it on the train. Because at that time everybody was looking for somebody and they put it for me on the train. And then men from my mom's town read it and he was on his way to Czechoslovakia. He came to Czechoslovakia and my mother was there already with my aunt, ready to go to Palestine because they thought everybody was dead. And when he told her that my mother and my aunt came back. They didn't even know that my grandmother was alive and they found me in the orphanage. Was unbelievable. We were in the orphanage that, you know from a warehouse they made an orphanage. So we had no hot water to take a shower or bath. So they would send us to another one. And I was there and one of the children from the orphanage came and he says “go right back to the orphanage” not telling you why or what. I came in and there was my mother sitting and my aunt. Was a shock.
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