Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State

Episode 1

Surprising Beginnings

Aired Unknown Jan 11, 2005 on BBC Two
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Episode Summary

Surprising Beginnings
In Surprising Beginnings, camp commandant Rudolf Hoss arrives in the Polish town of Oswiecim to create a new concentration camp to imprison and terrorize anyone resisting the Nazi occupation of Poland. Despite its obvious brutality, Auschwitz is almost a backwater in the Nazi occupation of Poland. But the proximity of Auschwitz to seams of coal, lime and a plentiful water supply draws the interest of German industrial conglomerate I G Farben. Soon SS-Reichsf?hrer Heinrich Himmler agrees to a massive expansion of the camp to provide slave labour for synthetic rubber production, and ultimately for the creation of a new model German town. Hitler and Himmler's plans for the total 'Germanification' of the East gather momentum with the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Soon hundreds of Soviet prisoners of war are arriving in Auschwitz. As the German army advances into the Soviet Union, special SS killing squads ruthlessly execute Jews. Himmler soon discovers that killing large numbers of people by firing squad is bloody and psychologically damaging for many of his troops and a search starts for a more efficient means of mass killing. In the end it is found that exhaust fumes from vehicles kill those trapped inside confined spaces. The first gassing experiments at Auschwitz take place in August 1941, using Zyklon B. The experiment is executed on Russian POWs and proves - from the Nazi's point of view - to be the solution to the problem. Surprise Beginnings includes shocking testimony from Polish political prisoners speaking about the harshness of life in the early days of the camp; Jewish survivors of Nazi executions; and an SS member who was responsible for murdering Jews by firing squad.moreless

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