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Yes, it's based on the book Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account, written by Miklos Nyiszli, a Hungarian-Romanian doctor who was forced to work for Joseph Mengele in Auschwitz-Birkenau. The movie is not a telling of the entire testimony, but a composite of Nyiszli's chapters on the uprising and the attempted rescue of the girl. The movie is also based on the play that director/writer Tim Blake Nelson first wrote based on Nyiszli's account. The play premiered at MCC Theater in New York City in 1996 and was directed by Doug Hughes.
The method used by the Nazis to gas their victims in some death camps, definitely in Auschwitz, was done by pouring pellets of Zyklon B into vents built into the ceilings of the gas chambers. The vents were attached to columns that had openings for the fumes to fill the room. Zyklon B was originally produced as a pesticide and widely used in Europe, however, the Nazis found through experiments that it was very effective at killing large numbers of people quickly and inexpensively (it didn't cost very much to produce). When the pellets were exposed to air, they produced deadly fumes of Prussic acid which, in short, would suffocate the victims.
The conclusion that Dr. Nyiszli came to was that there was a large amount of moisture left on the floor after the room was last "cleaned" after the last gassing. This moisture formed a thin layer of humidity near the floor. The fumes from Zyklon B were believed to be unable to penetrate this layer of humidity. While crushed against the floor under a few bodies, the girl breathed a much lower concentration of the gas and was able to survive. In the gas chambers, many people, many of them elderly or children, died of suffocation not from the gas but due to being crushed under the fall of bodies on top of them as they died or while being trampled by stronger victims who were clamoring desperately to escape the chamber.
Yes, but not by Oberscharfuhrer Eric Muhsfeldt himself, he sent another officer to kill her. Also, her death was not as dramatic as depicted; she was simply taken to a hallway in the crematorium and shot.
No. The original crematoria in Auschwitz-Birkenau were mostly destroyed by the Nazis, but the ruins can still be seen today in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland. The sets of the film were built near the village of Giten, 45 minutes outside of Sofia, Bulgaria, using a plan of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. The crematoria were built to about 90% scale. The film presents a fairly accurate reconstruction of a small part of the death camp.
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