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The atrocities of Auschwitz

The Story


George Liban was interned at Auschwitz. Having survived two years of hell on earth, the Holocaust survivor and executive director of the Zionist Organization of Canada recalls his daily life as a prisoner. As he explains to CBC's Norm Perry, he was forced to work 14 hours a day on just 450 calories: a cup of dark fluid for breakfast, a plate of soup for lunch and bread with a slice of salami for dinner. He survived to tell his ordeal but many others weren't as fortunate. Liban describes seeing three or more prisoners die every day from exhaustion and beatings. He also talks about Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi SS colonel who at the time of this clip is being tried for his role in the Holocaust. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Assignment
Broadcast Date: April 10, 1961
Guest(s): George Liban
Reporter: Norm Perry
Duration: 4:24
Photo: Terminalnomad Photography, used under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Did You know?


• Those sent to work camps rarely survived more than a few months. Many toiled until they collapsed from exhaustion, working in the plants of major German companies. The IG Farben conglomerate had 83,000 slave labourers working at its plant at Auschwitz in 1944. The workers' fate made a cruel joke of the motto above the gates of Auschwitz and other camps — "Arbeit macht frei" or "Work sets you free."

• The 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann was the first televised trial in history. After a 15-year manhunt, Israeli officials found Eichmann living in Buenos Aires with his wife and three sons. Eichmann was kidnapped and smuggled to Israel to face justice.
• During his trial in Jerusalem, Eichmann sat in a glass booth, earning the moniker "the man in the glass booth." The booth was to protect Eichmann from being killed before the trial was over.

• Eichmann, who helped implement the "Final Solution" — the extermination of European Jews — defended himself saying he was just following orders.
• The word "genocide" — the extermination of an entire nation — is credited to Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jewish scholar. The first time the word "genocide" appeared in print was in his 1944 study describing the systematic destruction of European Jews by the Nazis.

• By the fall of 1944, Nazi Germany was suffering major defeats. Hoping to ingratiate themselves to the Allies, the Nazis began destroying evidence of death camps. Heinrich Himmler, head of the German police, tried to halt the Final Solution and ordered Eichmann to stop all deportations to the death camps. Eichmann ignored Himmler and continued to deport prisoners to Auschwitz.

• Prior to Eichmann's trial the world had heard few first-hand accounts of the Nazi concentration camps. Many survivors had not yet started speaking about their ordeal. During the trial, their tales began to surface. The Israeli government called over 100 witnesses to the stand. Eichmann was found guilty and hanged on May 31, 1962.


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