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An in-depth visual and verbal account of one of the most notorious episodes of World War 2. Using location shots and combining CGI, for a 3-D realism, this is a documentary, through a timeline, showing its conception, ideals, horrors and liberation of the Death Camp that is Auschwitz and its role in "The Final Solution". Using reconstructions of key events by actors playing major Nazi hierarchical roles and real interviews from parties of all sides; ex-prisoners, old Schutzstaffel (SS) members and witnesses. Using archive footage conjoined with reflective, contemporary imagery it is a vivid and thorough historical telling of the atrocities of a political ideology that gave nothing but fear and death. Written by
This is the story of the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz. We follow it from the very beginning in 1940 until its liberation by Russian troops in January 1945. We also get a glimpse of the aftermath in the form of the Nuremberg trials and we follow the destiny of central figures in the extermination of Jews, Gypsys, Russian POWs and political prisoners from mainly Poland. One of the most unpleasant aspects of this story is that some of the survivors of the camps has lead a miserable life after the war as they were not welcomed by various reasons when they returned home.
The series contains 6 episodes of about 45 minutes each. It is build up by interviews of former prisoners as well as a couple of guards. There is also extensive footage in the form of photography, film-clips and various documents.
In an attempt to make the story come more alive the producers have also hired German actors to play out the role of central figures in Auschwitz; Rudolf Höss, Adolf Eichman, Heinrich Himmler and Dr. Joseph Mengele to name a few. With the help of computer techniques the buildings of Auschwitz has been rebuild in order to get a view of how the camp looked like with specific attention to the gas-chambers and the barracks were the prisoners lived.
So a lot of work has been put into telling the story of one of the darkest chapters in human history. It is truly a depressing tale that leaves you with the big (and unanswered) question: how could this happen? And how can we avoid this happening again? For some reason BBC has chosen not to interview other than eye witnesses and therefore I personally was missing the explanation that a historian, sociologist etc could give to the phenomenon of Holocaust. As a psychologist myself I wondered about this; how can the combination of hatred and discipline be stronger than empathy with the prisoners? Empathy is not something that we choose but something that is always there. So how could those that were involved with the slaughtering of the prisoners not empathize with them? Maybe they did empathize with them after all - but empathy does not always lead to sympathy. It can also lead to sadism I think. Either way, the ability to empathize would dictate that the Germans were not unaffected by their actions which we also are told. Höss never liked the killings and especially in the beginning when it was done by shooting it made him uneasy.
One of the more controversial stories that are being told is that the allied forces refused to bomb the railroad-tracks leading to Auschwitz although they knew what was going on and although they were bombing IG Farben only 6 kilometers away. We have an eyewitness from Auschwitz telling us, that she saw the airplanes from the allied forces flying by and from an air photo of the camp we see that it is easy to identify the crematorium. Why didn't the allied forces drop a few bombs? This is really beyond me and makes me wonder if the allied had some sort of hidden agenda.
Another more controversial story is the story of the Hungarian Jews. The Germans apparently tried to bargain with their lives and wanted trucks in exchange of Jews. In a document from the allied forces we learn that it was seen as "blackmail" and that the allied forces saw a big problem in getting around 700.000 (I think) Jews to house and to feed. So the consequence was that they went straight to Auschwitz and the gas chambers.
Especially one interview with a guard by the name of Oskar Gröning is remembered; he is without remorse but decided to participate when he learned that theHolocaust by some people are being denied. The lack of remorse is interesting. It is tempting to understand the absence of this as a result of defense mechanisms at work.
I will not give this top rating as there was too much description and too little explanation. I also think that it was unnecessary to employ actors. A good narrative could have done the work instead. On the other hand you have the invaluable interviews with the eyewitnesses who will be dead and gone in a few years.
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