Hello everyone and I must start by saying this week's walk back into the past is a bit bleak but I offer no apologies for it. I have recently returned from visiting the German concentration camps in Poland, named Auschwitz and Birkenau, on the 70th anniversary of their liberation. It has always been on my bucket list of things to do and after 14 years without a holiday it may seem an odd choice. However, I am glad I went, even though I am not Jewish, Gypsy, Russian or related to any other group who suffered at those appalling places. It is hard to believe you are visiting a place where up to one and a half million people were murdered, a figure greater than the total UK and USA military and civilian losses throughout the Second World War.

I do recommend visiting once in your life and it can be very cheap to fly to and stay in the nearby city of Krakow. I found the experience a bit surreal and perhaps a bit clinical as the camps are now museums and look tidy, smart and clean thus perhaps making it hard to visualise what happened there. You can stand in a gas chamber, stand by a wall where 12,000 prisoners were shot in the back of their heads and on the spot where a German officer would meet an incoming train and with a wave of his hand decide on life and death. We walked the gravel path that took only ten minutes to the gas chambers and stood inside huts where people starved to death.

In film and television terms this subject seems to have remained a taboo although occasionally a major Hollywood studio has tackled the subject as with Schindler's List, which Steven Spielberg directed years ago. I doubt the film would have been made without Steven's box office power.

Personally, I am surprised many of my younger friends have never heard of Auschwitz and when I was there I was told often young German visitors assume the camps were set up by the Polish government. I guess the reality of life is that few of us now have parents, grandparents or relatives alive who were around then and memories fade. However, an amazing 1.5 million visitors went there this year between January and August, so the interest remains.

Years ago, I met a man who hanged many German war criminals after the war, including some who served at Auschwitz, although the vast majority were never brought to trial. His name was Albert Pierrepoint, who from the 1930s until the 1950s was Britain’s most famous hangman and apparently dispatched 435 people during his career. Albert told me he was proud to see such people brought to justice but was scornful of his fellow American hangmen. He said: “They tended to let the convicted person strangle on the rope whereas I ensured they died instantly. My main aim was to achieve the task as quickly as possible and in the UK we had a formula to ensure a painless death."

Albert was a very down to earth man and was proud of his profession. In the 1950s, he was called upon to hang Ruth Ellis, the last woman to suffer the punishment in the UK. Her case caused a media storm at the time as it was considered what the French call a crime of passion as she shot her lover outside a London pub, where the bullet holes remain in the wall to this day. The verdict had to be guilty and Albert told me: "She went to her death as if resigned to it and it was very quick.” However, not long after Albert resigned and many thought it was due to this case. He recalled: “It had nothing to do with it. She was guilty in law and I carried out the sentence. I fell out with the Home Office who paid me £15 for each hanging but refused to pay me if I had travelled to the prison, prepared but then the person was reprieved."

Albert became a publican and died in 1992 in an old folk's home with no regrets about his career.

At Elstree Studios in 1956 they produced a film which was based on the Ruth Ellis case but with a fictional murderess played by Diana Dors in her best film role. It was called 'Yield to the Night' and was directed by one of the studio's contract directors J Lee Thompson, who was also responsible for Ice Cold in Alex and later in his career The Guns Of Navarone and The Planet Of The Apes sequels in which he owned an interest.

I admit this week's walk down memory lane has not been a very happy one but such is life. Anyway soon we will learn the winner of Celebrity Big Brother currently shooting at Elstree Studios at the time I write so until we meet again enjoy life.