Auschwitz is a British documentary produced to mark the liberation of the world's most infamous concentration camp at the conclusion of World War II. The BBC One documentary series attempts to tell the entire story of the camp from its beginnings as a prisoner of war camp through to its liberation and the rescue of the various opponents of the Nazi regime that ruled Germany and dominated mainland Europe during the War. Narrated in the U.K. by Samuel West and in the U.S. by Linda Hunt the documentary recreates scenes with actors, interviews surviving witnesses of the camp and uses computer generated images to recreate the infamous gas chambers and crematorium. The dramatized scenes involving actors are created from records captured by the liberating allies and accounts given after the camp was liberated; the producers of the documentary series claim the words spoken by the actors are the actual words used by the real life people in the camp. Spanning six 60-minute episodes the documentary was first broadcast in the U.K. by the BBC in 2005 to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation and rescue of those held captive in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Auschwitz begins with the story of the founding of the camp in Poland, which was first used to house Soviet soldiers captured during the German invasion on the country. The first gassings to murder Soviet citizens took place in 1942. The camp was later redesignated by Rudolf Hess to house opponents of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime, including Jews and Gypsies. Auschwitz goes on to explain how as the German movement through Europe continued the camp became too small to house all of those seen as opponents of Hitler; this led to the gas chambers being expanded to increase the number of people being murdered each day. The documentary explains how the SS soldiers in charge of the camp stole the belongings of the dead before the final days of the War saw the killings in gas chambers reach record highs. Upon liberation the documentary explains the treatment and feelings of the survivors, camp guards and the citizens of the countries the survivors were returned to.
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Auschwitz Full Episode Guide
- First Aired: February 15, 2005
In January 1945 Red Army soldiers liberate the concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. They are not warned about its existence in advance, and are shocked by the horrors that greet them. In the coming months, other camps are liberated and the British are unprepared to deal with the aftermath: 14,000 prisoners die days after their release; another 14,000 succumb within the month. Life for many liberated prisoners is still appalling: advancing Soviet soldiers rape women; Jewish survivors return home to find their property confiscated; and many face pogroms in their home cities. Still others head for Palestine, only to be stopped by British patrols and placed in British camps in Cyprus. Whilst Hitler and Himmler commit suicide, large numbers of perpetrators manage to remain hidden. The British capture ex-Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoss but they do not recognize him. He is then freed and finds work on a farm in northern Germany. Adolf Eichmann becomes a lumberjack in the same region, while Josef Mengele works as a farmhand in Bavaria. In the chaos of post-war Europe, some Jews take revenge into their own hands, creating groups of avengers to locate and murder Nazis. Hoss is found by the British, tried in Poland and later hanged at Auschwitz. Eichmann and Mengele flee to Argentina. In 1960 Eichmann is captured by the Israelis, brought to trial and executed in 1961. Mengele dies of natural causes in 1979, a free man. Relatively few of the SS-men from Auschwitz are ever found and put on trial. Many have never confronted their role in 'the Final Solution,' while those they persecuted will never forget. The Search for Redemption hears from a member of the SS garrison at Auschwitz who confronts Holocaust deniers. The program also follows individual tales of former prisoners who did not find peace after returning home, as well as the story of a Jewish avenger who admits to the murder of several Nazis and gives a first-hand description of Adolf Eichmann's capture.
- First Aired: February 08, 2005
The Hungarians have been unwilling to deport their Jews, but Adolf Eichmann is in charge after the German occupation of March 1944. Eichmann offers one of the most politically involved members of the Jewish community a chance to broker a deal with his contacts abroad -1 million Jewish lives saved for the provision of certain goods. Still, Eichmann continues to organize the deportations from Hungary to Auschwitz. Hoss guarantees that the ovens in Crematorium V are fully operational and that five ditches are dug next to this gas chamber complex. Within ten weeks, 437,000 Hungarian Jews are sent to Auschwitz. About 75% of them are killed on arrival. The Jewish envoy sent by Eichmann, Joel Brandt, meets Jewish Agency representatives in Syria, where he does not get the help he expects. News of the offer also reaches the Allies, but it is dismissed as blackmail. When confirmed news of the mass gassings reaches the Western Allies, they appear lukewarm about a bombing mission to the camp. Orders are given to liquidate the camp for Gypsy families, who have been kept separate from other inmates. The Sonderkommando, working in the gas chamber complexes, know that they will also be killed to protect the secret of their task - the processing of the bodies that are killed in the gas chambers. In October 1944 they revolt but are crushed by the SS guards. Meanwhile, the Red Army is approaching. In December 1944 and January 1945, the gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau are dismantled to cover the Nazis' tracks. Those prisoners who are well enough to walk are forced on a march in sub-zero temperatures back towards Germany, while Nazis prepare to go into hiding. A witness to the liquidation of the Gypsy family camp gives testimony, as well as members of the Sonderkommando who worked in the gas chamber complexes and a Hungarian Jew who survived by accepting a place on Eichmann's 'goodwill gesture' to the Allies - a train of Jews bound for neutral Switzerland.
- First Aired: February 01, 2005
By 1943, 45 sub-camps are dotted around the Auschwitz region, most providing slave labour for armaments factories and other industrial concerns. At Auschwitz-Birkenau, the SS confiscate clothes and valuables from Jews arriving to be gassed, which provide another source of income. The Nazi leadership naturally intends such wealth to fill the coffers of the Third Reich in Berlin, but much of it actually stays at the camp, as the SS at Auschwitz have their fingers in the till. And despite it contravening the Nazis' strict racial purity laws, sexual liaisons in the camp between the SS and prisoners are also occurring, often forcibly, in exchange for life-saving favours. There are even love affairs. The corruption is clearly out of control. An SS investigator arrives to root out the offenders and uncovers clear evidence of misdemeanours by the SS. Rather than being disgraced, Hoss is promoted to a desk job in Concentration Camp Administration in Berlin. Himmler agrees to formalise the role of sex for privileged prisoners by opening a brothel in the main camp. He believes it will help to motivate the workforce. Meanwhile, Mengele uses the inmates at Auschwitz to carry out horrific pseudo-scientific experiments. He is particularly interested in children, especially twins, and uses them to research the power of genetic inheritance, an area of interest to many Nazi scientists. Those interviewed in Corruption include a woman who tells how Mengele carried out horrifying experiments on her; a member of the SS garrison who fondly recalls the friendships he made at the camp; a prisoner who was one of the 50 survivors of a daring escape bid from the Sobibor death camp; a Slovak Jewess who still remembers her SS lover; and a Polish political prisoner who had personal access to the Auschwitz brothel.
- First Aired: January 25, 2005
In 1942 the Nazis begin to comb Western Europe, taking Jews from as far as the British Channel Islands. France is the first western country to deport resident Jews: More than 4,000 Jewish children are separated from their parents, deported from France, sent to Auschwitz, and gassed on arrival. Himmler now orders that all Jews in the General Government are to be killed, and selects newly constructed death camps like Treblinka for the task. In order to lull new arrivals into a false sense of security, a fake railway station with flowers, timetables and signs to other towns are constructed. Bigger gas chambers are also built, capable of killing more than 3,000 people at once. Ninety-nine per cent of those arriving at Treblinka are dead within two hours. Treblinka, unlike Auschwitz, is a pure extermination camp, but its small gas chambers cannot keep up with demand. Despite burial in makeshift pits, bodies lie rotting in the summer heat. In order to make the camp more efficient, Hoss seeks advice from the SS expert in body disposal, SS-Colonel Paul Blobel, and examines his new field cremation units firsthand. German Lieutenant Albert Battel refuses to allow all the Jewish workers in the ghetto of the Polish town of Przemy_l to be deported. He even shelters some of them in the army headquarters. He is posthumously awarded the title Righteous Among The Nations by Yad Vashem in Israel. By March 1943 the crematoria at Auschwitz are fully operational. Two months later the camp gets a new physician - SS-Captain Dr Josef Mengele, soon to be known as The Angel of Death. Interviewees include two Jewish children who were separated from their mother by the French authorities and would have followed her to death in Auschwitz had she not arranged for their rescue. People speak fondly of one of the Jewish girls deported from Guernsey, with the co-operation of the British police, and a prisoner at Auschwitz recalls digging up the rotting corpses of those gassed in the camp.