As surreal moments go, they don’t come much stranger than this. Jerry Springer, one of the planet’s most famous talk show hosts, is gazing deep into my eyes and singing a very heartfelt — if not pitch perfect — version of the Elvis Presley classic, Love Me Tender.
Springer is the undisputed King of Trash TV. He reigns over the utter chaos of shows with unforgettably unique titles such as “I’m Pregnant by a Transsexual”, “Invasion of the Little People” and “I Married a Horse”.
TV viewers will also witness Springer’s soft side this month when he becomes the latest celebrity to be featured in the BBC1 genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? During the hugely personal and deeply moving film, Gerald, who is Jewish, embarks on a mission to uncover his grandmothers’ fates.
Maria Kallman and Selmar Springer both perished during the Holocaust. However, the precise details of the final chapters of their lives have been shrouded in mystery until now.
“The genealogist, Petje Schroeder, shows me a record card with ‘weider besiedelt’ on it — the German word for ‘resettled’,” he explains. “Then she gently breaks the news that it was a euphemism for ‘ausgerottet’ — exterminated. To see this official card, with such ruthless information on it, was just chilling. It was just a job to the Nazis — like stacking shelves in a supermarket.”
Springer then retraces Maria’s last journey to Poland’s Chelmno death camp — the first Nazi extermination camp — where she was forced into a gas van. These vehicles were the terrible precursors of the gas showers; passengers died slowly during an agonising, 15-minute ride into the woods.
By Rachel Roberts