This documentary is part reconstruction, part interview. The computer reconstructions are excellent, the historical reconstructions helpful. Benefitting from recently discovered documents, the series reconstructs the final solution in chilling detail. As John Raulston Saul comments in his book Voltaire's Bastards, it amply illustrates what happens when reason (in this case the logical approach to the final solution with the use of IBM punch cards, methodically planned death machinery, etc) detached from the other human faculties leads to monsterous behaviour. The Auschwitz commandant is shown playing with his kids. He is human, he is real, and yet he can be a monster because Jews are less than human to him. The largely unrepentant nature of former SS guards is no less disturbing, nor are the stories of some of the things that those who suffered did to each other. The dehumanisers dehumanised their victims.
We dare not stare too long lest our fascination be macabre, focussing too much on the mechanics as the Nazis did. It is more a 'lest we forget'view of history. Genocide has continued to occur, happening even as I write. Auschwitz reminds us why we must not tolerate it.
The documentary is made up of interviews with SS guards and survivors of the most heinous atrocity ever committed. After reading the book and also reading Rudolph Hoess autobiography, “Commandant of Auschwitz” I thought I was prepared for the total lack of remorse which would be exhibited by the SS guards. I wasn’t. Those interviewed still don’t believe, 60 yrs later, that they did anything wrong. I found those interviews particularly disturbing. The stories of survivors of Auschwitz described in great detail the conditions and treatment that they were subjected to and I can only imagine the rage they must still feel towards those SS guards who are still alive today.
Never having been through anything of the sort most of us could never imagine what it must have been like to be in Auschwitz during the Holocaust. Those there saw evil so often that one survivor even commented that ‘you see death so much that you become immune to it’.
This BBC documentary is a chilling account of Auschwitz but one which everyone should see to ensure that such an atrocity never happens again. The camps are reconstructed using digital imaging and together with the SS and survivors stories and the original footage available this makes for a fascinating mini-series.
One question remains at the end of the documentary……could this really have happened in the 20th century?!
The BBC presents a totally absorbing study of the extermination camp. You begin to watch it feeling guilty, feeling that somehow you will be tainted with voyeurism, that your interest in obscenity points to some essential weakness in your character and soul. Within minutes you are absorbed. It's the blandness which gets to you.
The writer, Hannah Arendt, attended the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the German officer in charge of the 'Final Solution': she expected to look evil in the face - instead, she found an innocuous, bald, insignificant little bourgeois, devoutly sticking to the mantra that he had only been following orders. [ See Hannah Arendt, "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil".]
Auschwitz was conceived as an industrial complex, exploiting local natural resources, existing railway lines, and the new-found sources of slave labour. Slowly, it evolved into a death camp, its primary industrial objective being the extermination of a race.
Using archive footage, interviews with survivors (from both sides of the wire), and computer animation to reconstruct the camp, the BBC delivers the tale of a bureaucratic nightmare. The commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss, was an ambitious Nazi whose management skills were devoted to the task of finding more efficient and cost-effective ways to kill and dispose of the bodies. Morality?Read more ›