Witness

Witness

Australia

The story of our times told by the people who were there.

Episodes

The German American Bund  

In the 1930s, a group of German-American Nazi sympathisers known as the German American Bund held rallies and summer camps across the US. In Feburary 1939, they held a meeting for 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden in New York. Lucy Burns speaks to Skip Eernisse, who remembers the Bund summer camp Camp Hindenburg in his home town of Grafton, Wisconsin. We also hear from Arnie Bernstein, author of Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German American Bund. PHOTO: Library of Congress

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The Lost Manuscript of Huckleberry Finn  

In February 1990 half of the original manuscript of one of America's best loved books, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, was found in an attic in Hollywood. The handwritten document had laid undiscovered for a century. Rachael Gillman has been speaking to Pam Lindholm, whose sister made the discovery.

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The Trial of Slobodan Milosevic  

In February 2002 the former Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, went on trial for war crimes committed in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. The man once known as the 'butcher of the Balkans' would die in prison before the trial had concluded. Louise Hidalgo has been speaking to two lawyers, Zdenko Tomanovic and Steven Kay QC, who worked on his defence. Photo: Slobodan Milosevic in the courtroom at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, The Netherlands, February 2002. (PAUL VREEKER/AFP/Getty Images)

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The Silver Ring Thing  

In 1995, a Christian campaign started in America to encourage teenagers to promise not to have sex before marriage. It was known as the Silver Ring Thing - and it soon caught on across the country. Lucy Burns has been speaking to its founder, Denny Pattyn. (Photo: A member of the Silver Ring Thing arrives at Holy Trinity Church in Claygate, England, 2004. Credit: Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

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Uganda's War on Homosexuality  

In 2006 a Ugandan newspaper began printing the names of professionals believed to be gay. It foreshadowed a range of strict laws prohibiting homosexuality and a sharp increase in violent homophobic attacks on LGBT people. One prominent Ugandan doctor tells Rebecca Kesby how he battled homophobia at home before finding love with a Zimbabwean man and living happily ever after in South Africa. (Photo: Ugandan men hold a rainbow flag reading "Join hands to end LGBTI (Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Intersex - called Kuchu in Uganda) genocide" as they celebrate on August 9, 2014 during the annual gay pride in Entebbe, Uganda. Getty Images)

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Italy votes for divorce  

In May 1974, Italians defied the Catholic Church and overwhelmingly backed divorce in a referendum. The vote is now seen as a watershed in modern Italian history. Alice Gioia talks to two women involved in the campaign. PHOTO: A rally in support of divorce in Italy (Getty Images)

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The Birth of Speed Dating  

In 1998, Rabbi Yaacov Deyo and his students came up with a new way for single people to meet each other - they called it "speed dating". It started as a programme for Jewish singles in Los Angeles, but soon spread all over the world. (Photo: Men and women take part in an evening of silent speed dating in a bar in east London on 23rd September 2015. Credit: Jack Taylor/AFP/Getty Images)

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The Conman Who Married His Victims  

When Giovanni Vigliotto went on trial for fraud and bigamy in the USA, he claimed he'd married more than a hundred women. Dave Stoller was the Arizona prosecutor who brought him to trial. He's been telling Ashley Byrne the story of the man who would first charm women, then marry them, then cheat them out of their savings and possessions. Photo: a man wearing two wedding rings. Credit: Alamy.

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Sanctuary Cities in the USA  

Mayors across America have vowed to resist efforts by President Trump to crack down on so-called Sanctuary Cities, which offer refuge to illegal immigrants. Simon Watts looks at the history of one of the most prominent Sanctuary Cities - San Francisco. PHOTO: Supporters of Sanctuary Cities demonstrating in San Francisco in January 2017 (AP)

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The True Story of "Whisky Galore"  

In February 1941, a ship carrying nearly 30,000 cases of whisky was wrecked off the Scottish island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides. The islanders began to salvage the bottles from the wreck. Lucy Burns presents material from the BBC archives about the incident that later became the inspiration for the film "Whisky Galore". Photo: An assortment of bottled whisky is displayed at Glenkinchie distillery March 13, 2008 in Edinburgh, Scotland

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Kenya's Hit Record: Jambo Bwana  

The story of a 1980s Kenyan pop song which became an unlikely global hit. The song, Jambo Bwana was recorded by the veteran Kenyan band, Them Mushrooms, and first proved to be a huge hit amongst tourists on the Kenyan coast. We hear from members of Them Mushrooms, Teddy Kalanda Harrison, and his brother Billy Sarro Harrison, who recorded the song in February 1980 Photo: Teddy Kalanda Harrison and the Kenyan band Them Mushrooms presented with their platinum record for Jambo Bwana (Teddy Kalanda Harrison)

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The Killer Whale that Killed  

On February the 20th 1991, the captive bull orca, Tilikum, drowned his trainer, Keltie Byrne at Sealand of the Pacific in British Columbia, Canada. It was the first recorded killing of a human by an orca whale. 19 years later - almost to the day - Tilikum killed another trainer, Dawn Brancheau. Rebecca Kesby has been speaking to Corinne Cowell, an eye witness to the first killing, and biologist Eric Walters, the whale trainer who warned the authorities 2 years before that keeping orcas in captivity could be fatal. (PHOTO: SeaWorld orca Tilikum performs at SeaWorld Orlando in Florida, in 2009. REUTERS)

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Rosalind Franklin DNA Pioneer  

In 1951 the young British scientist began one of the key scientific investigations of the century. Rosalind Franklin produced an x-ray photograph that helped show the structure of DNA, the molecule that holds the genetic code that underpins all life. The discovery was integral to the transformation of modern medicine and has been described as one of the greatest scientific achievements ever. Farhana Haider has been speaking to Rosalind Franklin's younger sister Jenifer Glynn. Photo: Dr Rosalind Franklin. Credit: Science Photo Library.

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1995 Peru-Ecuador Border War  

In early 1995 Peru and Ecuador went to war over a strip of land that both claimed to be theirs. The "Cenepa War" was the last time that two armies from Latin America fought each other. As many as 500 people were thought to have died in the brief conflict. Mike Lanchin has been hearing from (retired) Lt. Col. Juan Alberto Pinto Rosas, who led his troops in the cross-border fighting. Photo: Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori poses with soldiers in the Cenepa River at the border with Ecuador. (AFP/Getty Images)

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The End of Apartheid  

On February 2nd 1990, the South African president FW de Klerk surprised the world by announcing in parliament that he was dismantling apartheid - the system of institutionalised racial segregation which had denied black South Africans their basic rights for forty years, including the right to vote. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to Adriaan Vlok, FW de Klerk's law and order minister, about that day and about coming to terms with the crimes committed in apartheid's name. Picture: Anti-apartheid protestors demonstrate in Cape Town on the same day that President de Klerk announced the lifting of the ban on the ANC and the release of all political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela (Credit: RASHID LOMBARD/AFP/Getty Images)

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Battle of Mogadishu: Black Hawk Down  

In 1993, the United States launched a disastrous raid against the forces of the Somali warlord General Mohamed Farah Aideed. During the operation, two American Black Hawk helicopters were shot down, 18 American troops were killed, dozens more were injured. Somali casualties were estimated to be in the hundreds. The disaster would have a major impact on US foreign policy in Africa and was made famous by the film Black Hawk Down. We hear a Somali account of the operation, and from one of the American helicopter pilots who was shot down during the raid. (Image: UH60 Blackhawk US Army Gunship patrolling Mogadishu. Credit: AP)

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Crossing Antarctica Alone  

In January 1997 Norwegian polar explorer Borge Ousland became the first person to cross Antarctica alone. It took him more than two months to ski across the frozen territory. He spoke to Louise Hidalgo about the highs and lows of his dramatic journey. (Photo Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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Sexual Harassment in India  

In 1988 a woman in India accused the Director General of Police in Punjab, KPS Gill, of sexual harassment. It was the first case of its kind to reach court and the country was forced to confront the taboo. Claire Bowes has been speaking to Rupan Deol Bajaj about the incident she couldn't ignore and why she spent 17 years of her life trying to convict KPS Gill. Photo: Rupan Deol Bajaj (courtesy of Rupan Deol Bajaj)

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Desert Island Discs at 75  

In January 1942, the BBC broadcast the first edition of its longest-running radio programme: Desert Island Discs. The idea was simple: persuade a well-known person to imagine they were marooned on a desert island and ask them which eight records they would like to take with them. Simon Watts introduces highlights from over 3,000 interviews with film stars, musicians and public figures. PHOTO: Long-time Desert Island Discs presenter Roy Plomley (BBC)

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The 'Aboriginal Tent Embassy'  

On January 26th 1972 four Aboriginal men began a protest for land rights in Canberra, Australia. First they erected a beach umbrella on the grass outside Parliament House and labelled it an 'embassy'. Soon they were joined by other activists with tents. Ashley Byrne has spoken to Gary Foley, an aboriginal activist who took part in the demonstration which lasted until July 1972 when it was broken up by police.

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