HuTubeFlix: Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State
Despite a deluge of World War II documentaries in recent years, few accurately capture the horrors of the Nazi regime in a truly informative way. Where these documentaries seek to entertain, and often gloss over facts to make history more digestible, a truly great historical documentary delivers history as dispassionately and holistically as possible. Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State stands far above the rest for this very reason; its grim retelling of the Holocaust, and its ability to ask hard questions about the differences between those who committed the atrocities and ourselves leaves the viewer both better informed and wholly disturbed at the depths of true evil. Told in six episodes, this BBC documentary examines every aspect of how the factories of death at Auschwitz-Birkenau came to be, how they were used, and exactly what life was like for the hundreds of thousands of prisoners who passed through its gates, and 1.3 million who would die there.
Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State lets the past speak for itself; it utilizes the original architectural plans for the camp, released to the public in the 1990′s, to show the evolution of Auschwitz from a prisoner of war camp to the site of the largest mass murder in human history. Actual transcripts from Nazi officers, political leaders, and prisoners alike are used in recreating conversations that are chilling in their candor, with each conversation doubly, and sometimes triply sourced for authenticity. People like Rudolf Höss, Commandant of Auschwitz, are used to great effect, as you watch a seemingly-committed family man not only justify the dehumanization of the Jewish people, but seemingly taking great pride in the efficiency of the mass slaughter he would cause.
Interviews from survivors of Auschwitz are also used to chilling effect, all of whom speak with surprising levity over the horrors they faced and the deaths of their friends and family members. In one scene, Auschwitz survivor Alice Lok Cahana looks at a photograph of of her family taken just before they were killed in Auschwitz’s infamous gas chambers, naming and providing the age for each.
“It’s such an incredible, shattering feeling to recognize somebody you love, and see how they looked minutes before they entered the crematorium.”
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this documentary is the inclusion of interviews from an actual Auschwitz guard, Oskar Gröning, who simultaneously denies any wrongdoing of his own for having worked and lived at Auschwitz, but chose to participate in the documentary to denunciate and dispel any claims made by Holocaust deniers over the events that took place at the concentration camp.
“I see it as my task, now at my age, to face up to these things that I experienced and to oppose the Holocaust deniers who claim that Auschwitz never happened,” said Gröning. “And that’s why I’m here today. Because I want to tell those deniers: I have seen the crematoria, I have seen the burning pits – and I want you to believe me that these atrocities happened. I was there.”