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Hello and welcome to Witness, with me, Tanya Beckett. I'm back at the
British library in London with more remarkable insight into history from
people who were there. This month we will hear from one of the scientists
who tried to contain the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. A Cuban who fought
at the Bay of pigs. And, the owner of the pooch that saved the day at
the football World Cup. First, we are going back to 1961, when the
Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was put on trial in Israel. Gabriel Bach
helped to prosecute the man known as the architect of the Holocaust.
In the ninth week of his Jerusalem trial for the murder of 6 million
Jews, Adolf Eichmann takes the stand in his bullet-proof dock.
Eichmann was head of what is called the Jewish Department in the SS,
In many German documents it was called Operation Eichmann,
Hitler and Himmler and these people, who actually made the order to kill
all the Jews in 1941, they of course were more guilty.
But Eichmann was in charge of the whole of the carrying out
Eichmann, in 1960, was caught by Israeli agents in the Argentine,
Two days after he arrived in Israel, the Minister of Justice called me,
and he said Mr Bach, I imagine you will be one
But would you be prepared also to be in charge of the investigation?
The whole world spoke about it, and all the newspapers.
You could see that Eichmann was proud about anything he did
in order to prevent the saving of a single Jew.
TRANSLATION: And then they took my mother,
I put him on the stage as a witness, and then I asked him,
He said, well, I had no idea what Auschwitz meant.
And he said, my wife, when we came there, was sent to
the left, which was shown afterwards to the gas chambers.
And I had a little daughter, two and a half years old, and of
Then they asked me, what was your profession?
I said, well, I was an engineer in the army.
So they said, to the right, because they wanted to keep me to do
So the SS commander said, well, I have to talk to
So it took a few minutes, and then he said to the boy,
And I saw the witness, he was back there, with his...
I could see his eyes, and he said, I couldn't see my wife anymore.
But my little daughter, she had a red coat.
And that little red dot, getting smaller and smaller, this is how
At that time, my little daughter was exactly two and a half years old,
and I had bought her a red coat two weeks before that.
So when the witness said that about the red coat, it suddenly cut
Until this very day, I can be in a restaurant,
I can be in the street, and I suddenly feel my heart beating, and
I turn around, and I see a little boy or a little girl in a red coat.
Former Israeli prosecutor Gabriel Bach. In that same year, 1961, there
was an attempt by a Cuban exiled to end the Communist revolution on the
island. With help from Washington they sent a small army of volunteers
to land at the Bay of pigs and try to invade Cuba. Our next witness was
one of the supporters of Fidel Castro lying in wait.
Cuban revolutionary troops such as these have invaded Castro's leftist
island fortress. The rebels have struggled along the coast within 90
miles of Havana. In 1990, after the fall of the
Berlin Wall, journalists were allowed to report freely in Romania
for the first time. They discovered that thousands of children had been
living in terrible conditions in orphanages set up by the notorious
Ceausescu regime. Our next witness was one of those orphans.
So in 1989 Communism fell, and the world went to Romania to
There were some medias that actually found institutions, institutions
that weren't meant to be discovered by the public and the outside world.
It left the world in shock that such conditions even existed.
Those of us who visited these institutions
built by the Communist regime are unlikely ever to forget them.
Hundreds of children, not so much cared for, as contained.
Well, at the age of six months old I became ill,
and my parents took me to a hospital to be treated for my illness.
But instead of finding healing at the hospital, I actually ended
My parents took me to a different hospital, in Sighetu Marmatiei.
So the state put me in an institution
for handicapped children, an orphanage known as a hospital
What's in this room, no-one could prepare for.
These boys are the most difficult cases.
From the moment that we can remember for ourselves, that's all we knew.
We didn't have compassion, we didn't have feelings or emotions.
We were just wild animals that needed to be caged up, is what
I grew up there until I was 11 years old.
Romania has precious little that the world wants, accept its children.
These are the children soon to start a new
Some orphanages have been emptied already.
I was adopted by a family in southern California, in San
It was difficult pretty quickly, actually.
I could not adapt into a family environment.
My mind was just so used to living in the institution, I was desperate
I even wrote letters asking the workers if they would let me stay
Each and every single one of them said no.
I went to meet my birth family, to search for answers.
We also went back to the institution where I grew up.
I tried to get to know her, but unfortunately not every parent
If I had never come to America, I would either be
There are so many kids who are just kicked out of the system.
Every city I went to, to Romania, or every county, when you see a grown
adult, sitting or standing, rocking back and forth, or doing something
that only an institutionalised person would do, you can instantly
recognise that person grew up in an orphanage. I do miss
the institution sometimes, and people don't understand that,
It's what we're used to, that's where we grew up.
Remember, you can watch Witness every month on the BBC News channel,
or you can catch up on over 1000 radio programmes in our online
archive. It is 30 years since one of the units at the Chernobyl plant in
the Soviet Union exploded, causing the worst nuclear accident in
history. Our next guest was a young chemist who joined the thousands of
so-called liquidators sent in to try to clean up the area. He told
Witness his story. Everything was huge, everything was
epic, a huge nuclear power plant, a huge exploded unit. Workers at the
Chernobyl nuclear power plant, near Kiev, took pictures of a thick plume
of smoke coming from one of the reactors. It was the first
indication of what was to become the world's worst civil nuclear
accident. Everyone living within a 20 mile radius of Chernobyl was
evacuated. The first information about the disaster appeared several
days after the disaster. It was pre-empted in the main Soviet
newspaper, and it was a small announcement, like two x two inches,
and then nobody could imagine that this is an event of such global
scale. When I read in the newspaper about this event, I was not worried
at all. Nobody was worried at all. Because the nuclear energy was
considered as absolutely safe. At the time of the disaster, I was a
senior chemist. I joined the regiment, the 25th Brigade of
radiation and chemical detection. Only 2.5 miles after the explosion.
The first priority was to make the reactors safe. A small army of
helpers was recruited and brought in to help with the immediate task of
sealing off the plant. The first shift of the mitigation workers did
the most crucial efforts of not letting it to increase in its scale.
I consider them real heroes, I don't consider myself a hero, what they
are real heroes. Because they were exposed to very large doses of
radiation. A noticeable share of them developed acute radiation
sickness. My job was to lead the quorum of armed reconnaissance
patrol vehicles into the zone in the morning, then to do my own mission
with my own crew. After dinner, me and my officers were to sit in the
tent and to do piles and piles of paperwork, to sum up as a result of
the day. Our crews were the last to make the final check before the
government commission was to decide whether to evacuate the village or
not. And you can imagine, you know, this crying and suffering and pain,
and you know it, and you can do nothing about it. And you can... You
cannot help these people. The overall health effect on the health
of the population is enormous. And of course, it is negative. The
acknowledged effect of Chernobyl radiation is an increase of their
cellular cancers in the children of Belarus and most of Ukraine. And it
pained me a lot. It's still pains me. Sergii Mirnyi, who now runs
tours of Chernobyl for visitors. And finally, the early 1966, when
excitement was building in England about the foot or World Cup. The
organisers decided to put the famous Jules Rimet Trophy on display in
London. But, to their consternation, it went missing. Enter Pickles
mongrel, and this owner David Corbett. We were told when the cup
went in Hill that the most stringent security precautions were being
taken to protect it. Today, somehow, they failed. It was top news, and in
the morning the paper's headlines, World Cup stolen, and some critics
say the best police force in the world had lost the cup. We found out
that the security was really sparse. It was 170 odd-year-old guard
looking after it, and he had gone to his dinner break. -- one
70-year-old. I'm afraid that this present moment I am unable to make
any statement. I'm sure you appreciate the amount of pressure I
have been under. Once I have had the chance to gather my faculties, I
will talk with you and tell you everything I possibly can. Low back
the general feeling that the people had, that the police were not going
to find this cup. I took my dog Pickles out for a walk, and he
scooted round the front of the house, and he went over to the front
of my neighbour's car, and he was sniffing around. So I walked over to
put the lead on him, I noticed there was a package on the floor, wrapped
in newspaper, very tightly bound with string, all the way up. So
curiosity obviously, I bent down and picked it up, and I saw a bit of the
newspaper off, and I saw Brazil, Germany... Being a football fan, and
all the publicity going on about the cup, my heart started thumping,
bang. It is the World Cup! I said I'll take it up to the police
station. I jumped in the car, I've got these lax on in the top, and
slippers, I can remember pushing the doors open and going straight
through, and there is the sergeant standing behind the big, polished
desk, and I say to him, I think I have found the World Cup. And this
boss comes, and he says Wright, take up to Scotland Yard. And suddenly it
dawns me that I am number one suspect. After a couple of days, the
police came down, questioned me again, after that it stopped and
then I became a witness when the prosecution was brought against the
guys that stole it. It's all a bit bewildering for Pickles. For the
suddenly world-famous pooch, there is more glamour to follow. The
National sporting cloud honoured the finders, David Corbett and Pickles.
David Corbett uncovered a special treat for Pickles, but it is Turkey
or nothing these days. To honour David Corbett, a reward check for
?1000, resented by the cloud to Pickles and this owner. After the
game when we won the cup, we were invited to the reception in London,
and we drove up to the hotel, the road was completely blocked with
people, and there was a sort of big alchemy out the front of the team
out there. We went out with them, and Bobby Moore picked him up, and
the crowd was really, really excited for me. I think it's really exciting
for the whole country. Pickles helped me by this house, and he is
buried out of my garden, and a nice summer nights I go out there with a
nice glass of white wine and have a little talk to him, and cheers,
thanks, Picks. And that's all from Witness from this month. We will be
back with more stories of our Times told by people who were there. But
from me and the rest of the Witness team, goodbye.
With plenty of dry, occasionally sunny weather to come this weekend,