The Bizarre True Story Of Jerry Springer's Birth

Jerry Springer is one of the most quintessentially American entertainers out there. His brand of tabloid, trashy daytime talk show is not a uniquely American phenomenon, but it certainly originated in the States, according to the New York Times, dating back to his predecessor, Phil Donahue. He was also briefly the mayor of a major American city: Cincinnati (per Britannica).

Though an icon of American television, it may be surprising to learn that Springer was not actually born in the United States. He's lived in the U.S. since he was 5 years old. Before moving to the U.S. as a young boy, he lived in England, and his parents were refugees from Germany, according to BBC News.

It was desperation and fear that drove Springer's parents to England in the first place, and it would be desperation and fear that would drive his mother underground — literally — to give birth to him.

A family of refugees

When a preschool-aged Jerry Springer and his parents arrived in New York City in the late 1940s, it was just the latest in a decades-long history of moving from place to place, generally as a means of survival.

As BBC News reports, Springer's father, Richard Springer, was born in Landsberg, Germany, which doesn't exist anymore as the area is now a part of Poland. Richard Springer owned a shoe store there, likely from 1930-1937, until the family moved to Berlin. That's because, at the time, Jewish businesses were required to display signs that they were Jewish-owned. The elder Springer believed, falsely, that things would be better in a larger city, and the family moved to Berlin.

Unfortunately, some family members left behind did not survive the Nazi regime, and Springer would lose his grandparents on both sides to the Nazis, one to a gas chamber, another starved to death in a concentration camp, according to The Independent. Springer's parents arrived in London in August 1939, just a month before Britain closed its borders.

Born at Highgate Station

Though Jerry Springer's family fled to England to escape persecution, their troubles were far from over. The Nazi expansion across Europe would eventually make its way to England, in the form of Luftwaffe bombing raids in London. Fortunately, the city is chock-a-block with ersatz underground shelters: The city's subway system is underground, and features plenty of stations that provide ample room for civilians seeking shelter from the bombing raids.

One such station was Highgate, pictured above, which is particularly deep underground, according to Hampstead News. One night, his heavily pregnant mother was there, and at 11:45 p.m., Springer would later say via Telegram, he took his first breaths. The talk show host does not remember anything about it, of course, but he jokes that, "Every time I hear a train going off, I jump." He also noted that he wasn't aware of any bombs going off at the time.

Springer and his family would spend the next few years in London, before making their way to New York after the war.

Springer's family suffers from the effects of the Holocaust

Though Jerry Springer cracked wise about the circumstances of his birth, the reality is that there was very little that was funny about it, and in particular, the circumstances that led up to it weren't funny at all.

Speaking to The Independent, Springer spoke of the trauma of his parents being forced to leave their home for a foreign land just to have any hope of staying alive. "[Imagine if] someone came to your house, arrested your relatives and forced you to flee to Pakistan. You didn't speak the language or know a soul, but worst of all, you had no idea what had happened to any of your family," he said. In fact, decades later, Springer would indeed find out what happened to at least some of his family; as mentioned above, at least two grandparents died in the Holocaust. It was that mystery about what became of his family that prompted him to participate in the TV Series, "Who Do You Think You Are?" in order to find out more about his family.

As for his parents, they clearly suffered from the effects of the war. "They'd talk about the War in general terms, and then stop in mid-sentence. It was too painful for them. They wouldn't even watch 'The Sound of Music' because of the Nazi uniforms in that film," he said, adding that his parents gave the appearance of living normal lives by "suppressing all that horror."