“They thought they had seen everything. And they had seen nothing.”
-Dr. Michael Berenbaum, Director Sigi Ziering Institute
Liberation Heroes: The Last Eyewitnesses, Discovery Channel’s hour-long special airing today about the Allied men and women who first discovered what was going on as Adolf Hitler’s Germany crumbled during the liberation of Europe, is an eye-opening look at one of World War II’s darkest twists.
Please watch this show if you can. It’s a powerful look at the horrors and atrocities that were committed in concentration camps scattered throughout Eastern Europe, told from the perspective of those who found what was left of the survivors and those who lost their lives in the genocide.
Unbeknownst to those who were fighting to break the Third Reich’s stranglehold inside and outside Germany, millions of Jews and countless others of various ethnicities were suffering and dying. What they discovered shocked, saddened and appalled the liberators.
Even decades later, the horrors these servicemen and -women had found after the Nazis were surrounded by the Red Army to the east and the U.S./British-led forces from the west and finally surrendered are difficult for them to comprehend. Their reactions after all these years – not to mention the secrets they withheld from loved ones after what they bore witness to – will break hearts.
Here’s Discovery’s press release on today’s premiere:
LOS ANGELES) – As part of USC Shoah Foundation’s 25th Anniversary commemoration, its Stronger Than Hate Initiative and in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Discovery Channel will air the documentary, Liberation Heroes: The Last Eyewitnesses, Wednesday, May 1, at 7pm ET/4pm PT.
In the one-hour documentary, heroic veterans vividly share their World War II liberation experiences in their own words, drawing parallels between the past and the present. By illuminating the powerful stories of these key eyewitnesses, the film shares their cautionary tale of what can happen when insidious hatred remains unchecked.
The film makes use of a unique portion of USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive®, a collection of 55,000 testimonies of survivors and witnesses to the Holocaust and other genocidal events. Many of the interviews were recorded since 1994 with the organization established by Steven Spielberg after his experiences filming Schindler’s List.
“Discovery is proud to shine a light on these remarkable stories of heroism, which serve as a solemn reminder for audiences everywhere to never forget,” said David Zaslav, CEO, Discovery. “Liberation Heroes: The Last Eyewitnesses is a call to action to stand against hate in all forms. These stories remind us of what can happen when religious, racial and ethnic hatred is unbridled.”
Stephen D. Smith, Finci-Viterbi Executive Director of USC Shoah Foundation and Executive Producer of the documentary said, “Our work with Discovery Communications and their team at Discovery Education for more than five years around our educational programming has touched more than half a billion people worldwide. It is an honor to continue our efforts with Discovery to share the stories of the witnesses to history and deliver our Stronger Than Hate message to future generations.”
The film is made possible with the generous support of Mickey Shapiro, a longtime Executive Board member of the USC Shoah Foundation.
The documentary is directed by award-winning filmmaker Vanessa Roth, whose work has been honored with an Oscar®, a special Emmy® Award for social impact, and the Alfred I DuPont-Columbia Award, among others. Produced by veteran Emmy-nominated TV and news producer and executive Andy Friendly, and Produced by June Beallor, a Co-Founding Executive Director of Shoah Foundation — whose films have garnered numerous awards including an Oscar®, numerous Emmys® and the George Foster Peabody Award.
“The mission of the documentary is not only a celebration and remembrance of the last heroic eyewitnesses to one of mankind’s darkest moments, but it is also their enduring final plea and message to never stand idly by – and in the face of the dramatic rise of intolerance around the world, this message is more relevant than ever,” Friendly said.
Andy’s late father, Fred Friendly, was a celebrated broadcast journalist and former President of CBS News, as well as Edward R. Murrow’s partner. The late Friendly wrote about the horrors he experienced at Mauthausen while covering the war as a Master Sergeant in the Army. Fred Friendly’s historic “Mauthausen Letter” to his family and Murrow’s rarely heard radio report from Buchenwald are included in the documentary.
Liberation Heroes: The Last Eyewitnesses is presented by June Beallor Productions and Andy Friendly Productions in association with USC Shoah Foundation for Discovery Channel. The film is Directed by Vanessa Roth and Executive Produced by Mickey Shapiro, Stephen D. Smith, Andi Gitow, and Ceci Chan.
About Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel is dedicated to creating the highest quality non-fiction content that informs and entertains its consumers about the world in all its wonder, diversity and amazement. The network, which is distributed to 100.8 million U.S. homes, can be seen in 224 countries and territories, offering a signature mix of compelling, high-end production values and vivid cinematography across genres including, science and technology, exploration, adventure, history and in-depth, behind-the-scenes glimpses at the people, places and organizations that shape and share our world. For more information please visit www.discovery.com.