01/07/2017 Witness


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There were celebrations in Auckland after the Rugby union Test match was


drawn. In the meantime, let's bring you a programme called Witness.


Hello and welcome to Witness, with me, Rebecca Jones,


here at the British Library in London.


We've got another five people who've experienced extraordinary moments


This month on the programme, a mother who took on Argentina's


military rulers to find her daughter.


Paul McCartney's brother who remembers one of the Beatles'


And an astronaut who survived a collision in space.


But first, back in 1953, American husband and wife,


Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed by electric chair


after being convicted of spying for the Soviet Union.


Our first witness is the Rosenberg's son Robert.


ARCHIVE: One of the greatest peacetime spy dramas in the nation's


history reaches its climax as Julius Rosenberg


and Mrs Ethel Rosenberg, convicted of transmitting secrets


to Russia entered the federal building in New York


The last time I saw my parents was in Sing Sing prison,


just a couple of days before they were executed in June 1953.


I have this very strong visceral sense of a warm and loving family.


My father played word games with my brother.


They were pretending like nothing was wrong,


that we'd see them, like we'd see them in another few weeks.


And he wanted them to acknowledge the terrible situation


And so he started wailing, "one more day to live."


Both my parents were children of the depression.


They grew up in poverty on the lower East side of Manhattan.


My father, Julius, was an electrical engineer.


He was a member of the American Communist Party.


My father was arrested in July of 1950, in New York City


Both were charged with conspiracy to commit espionage.


The government said Julius Rosenberg was a master spy who led an spiring


The government said Julius Rosenberg was a master spy who led an spy ring


that stole the secret of the atomic bomb and gave it to


Julius was guilty of espionage, but it didn't have anything to do


It's hard for me to believe that my mother didn't know


But there is no credible evidence that my mother


This was the great red scare, the McCarthy period.


The government was saying there was this international


Communist conspiracy that was out to destroy our way of life.


Fear makes powerful people do very dangerous things.


The trial at which they were convicted was a travesty.


We now know the judge secretly communicated with the prosecution,


The chief prosecution witnesses perjured themselves.


The government of the United States use the death penalty,


The government of the United States used the death penalty,


The purpose, as one of the FBI agents put it,


we didn't want them to die, we wanted them to talk.


There was a worldwide movement and mass movement,


even within the United States at the height of the McCarthy


They were executed on June the 19th, a month after my sixth birthday.


My brother just kind of hung his head.


And I came in and I knew something was wrong,


Even a month after the execution, I was saying, "when are we going


And he'd have to remind me they were dead.


My parents should not have been executed and we took


My brother and I, we are marathoners.


Robert Meeropol, remembering his parents Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.


Now, back in 1967, the BBC organised a live international television


They invited The Beatles to play and they came up with a new song


Paul McCartney's brother Mike was in the studio


This is Steve Race in The Beatles recording studio in London,


where the latest Beatles record is at this moment being built up.


Not just a single performance, but the whole montage of performances.


None of us knew what the hell was going on, but everyone went


along with it and it was just a magic thing.


It was that ridiculous three, two, one...


In 1967, I was in a comedy group, it was a satirical comedy,


poetic word imagery group called The Scaffolds.


And I used to stay with my brother in his house.


So he said, there's this big thing coming up,


The Our World broadcast was this extraordinary idea to link


For the first time we can see right round our world from sunset


In 43 control rooms all around the world, production teams


are monitoring and selecting the hundreds of pictures and sounds


from five continents which will combine to make


And so, how do you wrap up what was happening in London


John had written this thing called All You Need Is Love,


We'd had the Vietnam War, Kennedy had been shot and it seemed


to sum up the hopes and positive thinking of that era.


That will do for the vocal backing, very nicely.


Everyone was rather polite, very quiet because it was such a big


Here then is final mix track take one of the song


And then to actually experience the slow and the format of the song,


you heard all the little bits fitting in and then


It was getting better, and better and people


# Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.


The whole thing built slowly, slow and apprehensive at first.


And then into it and then John and our kid delivering the harmonies


and delivering the song and then building up to the crescendo


All our friends are there, Mick Jagger from the Stones,


Marianne Faithfull, his girlfriend, all the cream of pop society.


Everyone is on such a high, the placards are going round,


the balloons, the confetti is like snow, you are


And this atmosphere was electric and beautiful.


And it goes to another country and then this beautiful


Mike McCartney in the Beatles home town of Liverpool.


For almost 20 years, the Nobel prize-winning author,


Ernest Hemingway, had a house on the Caribbean island of Cuba,


where he wrote some of his bestselling novels.


As a young boy, Alberto Ramos worked on the estate and he later


Alberto Ramos, speaking to us from Hemingway's house.


Remember, you can watch Witness every month on the BBC News channel


or you can catch up on all of films along with more than 1000 radio


In the late 1970s, thousands of young men and women were detained


in Argentina for their opposition to military rule.


Among those who went missing was Ana Maria Borivali.


ARCHIVE: They are called the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo,


the square in the centre of Buenos Aires where


they hold the same sad demonstration every week.


They've all had at least one relative who's disappeared.


Merta, in the offices of The Mothers Of The Disappeared.


And finally, in June 1997, an unmanned supply vessel crashed


The station quickly began to leak air and the astronauts on board


He spoke to Witness about surviving a crash in space.


Mir was a space station built by the Russians.


The impression you got when you opened up the hatch


and went into Mir for the first time were two fold.


It was a smell, a bit like an oily garage.


Maybe a little bit of must, because we did have mould on the Mir.


And then the other impression is clutter.


As you go through, it's basically like going into the oesophagus


After about six weeks of being on the station,


I'd been doing my experiments, I'm very happy, I get up on June 25.


The commander and the flight engineer had been using radio


control equipment to fly a cargo ship called Progress that


weighs about seven tonnes into the Mir station using a TV,


As I look at the TV screen, I can see the orientation


is all wrong for a proper docking to take place.


And Sasha, the flight engineer, says to me...


And he means, the spacecraft which was joined on to the end


of the station, which was at that point our lifeboat.


But I understood because of the emergency in which he said it,


that he meant go there to save your life.


And as I float through, I feel the whole space station


I'm pretty sure this may be my last breath,


because I'm looking at the thin three millimetre thick


aluminium walls, just waiting for them to pass.


aluminium walls, just waiting for them to part.


Klaxons go off when there is a pressure leak.


Then I felt my ears popping, which meant in this case,


the air was leaving the space station and there was a whistling


After 23 minutes, if we did not think we would start


Sasha comes to me and doesn't say a word.


He just starts trying to remove cables


Sasha looked around for a large hatch that could be put in place. As


it went on, it sucked in. Because the station had been hit by the


Progress, we were rolling. The batteries had given out, none of the


carbon dioxide removal was working, no auction regeneration and no


communication with Moscow. It was a totally dead station. This is not


something you see in the movies where it gets solved instantly by


some brainy chap. It probably took about six hours. We use the


spacecraft fibre jets to stop the space station tumbling and rolling


wonderfully, somehow after this, all of sudden the fans started to come


on and the lights came on. And I said, we'd done it. How ever, the


next month, the station was inoperable in any normal sense. It


could just sustain our lives and nothing else. When finally the


shuttle came in October, I was really, quite happy to see them. As


we backed away from the Mir station, I looked at it and thought, I don't


really mind if I don't ever see that again. Michael Foale, safely back on


Earth. That is it from Witness this month. , Lucy will be here at the


British library to guide you through another five moments in history. But


from me, Rebecca Jones and the rest of the Witness team, thanks for


watching and goodbye. The latest live upstate will take


you to the rest of the weekend, give you a look at the start of next week


which is looking unsettled, which means if you want rain on the


garden, there is


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