Late Night TV Producer: Trump’s America Reminds Me of What It Was Like Living in Concentration Camp

Longtime late night television producer Peter Lassally sat down with CBS News correspondent Mo Rocca on CBS’s Sunday Morning March 11, to discuss his illustrious life and career in Hollywood. Somehow along the way, Lassally found a way to insert President Trump into the somber conversation about what his life was like as a boy living in a concentration camp under Nazi rule.

The short but interesting segment started with Rocca asking Lassally about his decades long career in television, as an executive producer, most famously for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and the Late Show With David Letterman. He talked about the different hosts’ personalities, which host was his favorite (Carson), and how he tried to stay out of the spotlight while working for and finding new comedic talent. After talking about how each comedic host he worked with had a “dark” side, with deep-rooted insecurities, reporter Mo Rocca used that to transition to Lassally’s early life before television.

Rocca noted that Lassally, a Jew, was born in 1933 Germany. After his father died, he was sent to the first of two concentration camps, along with his sister and mother. Lassally talked about some of the horrific things he witnessed in those camps, including Nazi officers brutally murdering babies. “That’s what my life was like,” he soberly stated.

With voice-over narration, Rocca noted the Nazis also used psychological fear and intimidation to torture their captors.

Lassally explained how you would be woken up in the middle of the night to stand outside for hours in the rain and complete darkness, not knowing what was going to happen next.

“In darkness?” Rocca asked.

“In darkness,” Lassally noted. “And they did it just to scare you and make you nervous. They always had you off balance,” he added.

“So that you were always scared?” Rocca questioned.

“Always scared. Always scared. Which is what our president is doing,” Lassally strangely segued to bring up President Trump.

In another voice-over, the CBS News correspondent explained that Lassally was so afraid about “the current state of American democracy” that he “only watched the news these days.”

“I sleep from 11:30 at night until about 3:00 in the morning and I turn on the news station. I just watch it all day and all evening. I never watch entertainment programming,” Lassally admitted.

Comparing President Trump to Hitler or Nazis is nothing new from those in the media, but it is certainly more distinct coming from an actual Holocaust survivor. Certainly the man has been through a lot, but perhaps his exclusive information diet of journalists suffering from Trump Derangement syndrome has contributed to Lassally’s anxiety. 

Read the full transcript of the exchange, below:

CBS Sunday Morning

3/11/18

9:45am-9:47am

PETER LASSALLY: I mean, you hid from the Nazis the best way you could, and we tried and failed.

MO ROCCA: When he was ten, his father died. Soon after, he and his sister and mother were sent to the first of two concentration camps. Was there ever, in your 25 months in the camps, even just a moment where you sort of forgot where you were?

LASSALLY: No. No. Never forgot where you were. I remember watching from my window a little baby being swung against the lamp post and, you know, that's what my life was like. Watching them kill an innocent baby in the most brutal way possible.

ROCCA: Lassally recalls another cruel tactic of his captors, this one psychological.

LASSALLY: In the middle of the night, word comes into the barracks, everybody outside, form a formation. You didn't know whether, A, it was a transport going out to another concentration camp. Or you'd stand there for hours in the rain, in darkness.

ROCCA: In darkness.

LASSALLY: In darkness. And they did it just to scare you and make you nervous. They always had you off balance.

ROCCA: So that you were always scared?

LASSALLY: Always scared. Always scared. Which is what our president is doing.

ROCCA: His fear about the current state of American democracy is why he says he's only watching the news these days.

LASSALLY: I sleep from 11:30 at night until about 3:00 in the morning and I turn on the news station. I just watch it all day and all evening. I never watch entertainment programming.


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