Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State

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BBC Two Premiered Jan 01, 2005 Unknown

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  • Liberation and Revenge

    Full Episode

    2/15/05

    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.moreless
  • Murder and Intrigue

    Full Episode

    2/8/05

    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.moreless
  • Corruption

    Full Episode

    2/1/05

    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.moreless
  • Factories of Death

    Full Episode

    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.moreless
  • Orders and Initiatives

    Full Episode

    In October 1941, the plans for the new camp extension at Auschwitz-Birkenau are altered to take even more inmates. But no more room is created to accommodate the additional 30,000 people; more prisoners are expected to live in each block. Suffering is built into the very plans. Ten thousand Soviet prisoners are put to work building the extension. They are the victims of appalling brutality, singled out by the Nazis as 'subhuman' and beaten mercilessly. Many of Germany's Jews are now being sent to the Lodz Ghetto in Poland but unknown to them, this is not to be their final destination. The Nazis use the Jewish Ghetto leadership in Lodz to select those who are to be sent to Che_mno to be murdered in mobile gassing vans stationed there. At Auschwitz, Hoss is finding that large-scale murder has its complications. The crematorium next to his office has been used for gassings for months, but the location is far from ideal for mass murder. Two revving motorcycles deliberately posted outside the gas chamber cannot muffle the screams of the victims. Hoss now authorizes the conversion of a peasant house - the Little Red House - in a more remote part of Birkenau, where the killing can be more discreet. Even though Hoss and his colleagues at Auschwitz have discovered how to murder thousands of people, these improvised methods of killing cannot keep pace with the demands of 'the Final Solution', which dreams of eliminating many millions. The Nazis begin to scour all of Europe for more people to bring to Auschwitz and kill. Orders and Initiatives hears disturbing testimony from a female prisoner from Lodz Ghetto, who was forced to provide sexual favours to the Jewish leader in order to survive. There is also testimony from prisoners, including those who witnessed the first gassings at Auschwitz. And for the first time on television, there is an interview with a Slovak perpetrator who knowingly helped to send his Jewish compatriots to their death.moreless
  • Surprising Beginnings

    Full Episode

    1/11/05

    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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