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Auschwitz: Inside The Nazi State

Samuel West , Linda Ellerbee    Unrated   DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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More than any previous documentary about the Holocaust, Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State reveals the inner workings of the Nazi implementation of Hitler's infamous "final solution." Drawing on the latest academic discoveries, this remarkable BBC series presents a wide-ranging, meticulously researched biography of the titular "killing factory" and its evolution into a highly efficient location for industrialized extermination of well over one million Jews, gypsies, and other so-called "mongrel races" between 1940 and 1945. From "Surprising Beginnings" to "Liberation & Revenge," the six-chapter program chronicles the gradual process that escalated into the Holocaust, focusing its expansive European timeline on the detailed movements of preeminent (and highly corruptible) Holocaust engineers like Heinrich Himmler, Rudolf Höss, and "death doctor" Josef Mengele. Through painstakingly authentic reenactments of crucial meetings including the Wannsee Conference (where the "final solution" was secretly devised), we see and hear the Nazi thought processes, built on virulent hatred and bigotry, that "justified" mass murder on an unprecedented scale.

Subtle but exacting use of computer-animated effects allows three-dimensional exploration of newly discovered architectural plans and buildings long-ago destroyed, revealing the transformation of Auschwitz as World War II progressed. Along with rare archival footage, thorough documentation, and frank testimony from Holocaust survivors and Nazi perpetrators (not all of them penitent about their crimes), these programs make expert use of commanding narration by Oscar®-winning actress Linda Hunt, who brings depth and gravitas to a grim litany of sobering facts and figures. The result is an all-encompassing portrait of Auschwitz unlike anything seen before, masterfully written and produced by Laurence Rees with equal parts tenacity, intelligence, and integrity, informed by an overriding sense of moral outrage that is entirely appropriate to the history being examined. It's a remarkable achievement, as important as Shoah as a definitive exploration of one of the darkest chapters in human history. --Jeff Shannon

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Auschwitz - Inside the Nazi State Oct. 23 2009
After watching this documentary, I was appalled at what the Nazis were capable of doing to these people who did nothing to deserve such treatment because of one man's hatred towards them. It is a very well made documentary, it is very well narrated by Linda Hunt and it gives you an insight of what these people had to endure and go through to survive not just the war but to also be able to say I survived Auschwitz. At it's peak, this camp killed and destroyed over 1 million people and not just Jews but from all walks of life, homosexuals, gypsies, physically handicapped, the old and especially the children. During one interview with a SS Guard, he tells us how they did not feel anything killing children because they were brainwashed into thinking at the moment "The children do not hurt us now but they will later on in life because of the blood coursing through their veins".

But not all Nazis were evil like that. In one episode, one nazi is asked to make a decision on who gets to live and who gets to die, since he cannot bring himself to make a huge decision like that he hides them all and brings them to safety.

The truth one learns by watching this film is beyond belief. At the end of the documentary, please watch the dialogue for all 6 episodes. The one with the students (which is the last one) is the most touching because there is proof that good does win over evil and these children are open minded and want to learn what happened during these terrible years so we never see this kind of cruelty against another human being being done ever again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thorough Accounting of a Very Wicked Place Oct. 1 2012
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Once again, the BBC has done another spectacular job on producing a DVD series on WW II that looks at another facet of this conflict from the Axis perspective. First, it was "The Nazis" series, back in the nineties, based on the research of Sir Ian Kershaw, an eminent British authority on Hitler, that looked at how this ruling party contributed significantly to the rapid demise of the Third Reich. Now we have this series that examines the German war effort as it relates to its program of mass extermination in the main camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1941-45. In this five-hour-long special assessment of the Final Solution, as it re-enacts the daily administration of this notorious death camp, the viewers see the Holocaust unfold before their very eyes. Everything gets covered here from the running of the camp by Hoess and his SS henchmen to the orders coming down from Himmler and Frank to the horrid conditions that inmates suffered to logistics of running this evil operation. The dramatizations of key moments when Auschwitz changed from a basic internment camp to a death factory and times when life among the personnel appeared normal are very realistic. Additionally, the testimonies of numerous Jewish survivors are very effectively included in the running commentary. What I learned from watching this presentation is that the Final Solution became the outcome of a state that had long lost its moral compass when it came to pursuing total war. Led by the SS, this program of mass extermination grew into something so unimaginably wicked because Nazi culture promoted the need to treat its enemies ruthlessly in order to promote the myth of the Aryan super-race. Jews, Slavs and Gypsies were the first of its victims, and it only remained for technology to come up with a speedier way to complete the job. Linda Hunt's even-tone voice, as narrator, provides the right touch of solemnity to this hard-to-believe shameful history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional Documentary Oct. 10 2010
One can always expect the very best from the BBC and this is no exception. The history of the Final Solution phase of the Nazi Holocaust, depicting the most infamous of the death camps. Episodes take you from beginning to end showing factual and disturbing details. Stirring introduction and music, with eloquent narration by Linda Hunt. Reconstructions of key events were played by actors in major Nazi hierarchical roles. Horst-Günter Marx, is excellent as Rudolph Höss. The dialogue is in German (nb. subtitles are added!) which boosts depth and realism to each scene. Combined with real interviews from parties of all sides; ex-prisoners, old Schutzstaffel (SS) members and witnesses, evidencing a great deal of research and creativity.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Stephen Pletko TOP 50 REVIEWER

"Of the 7,000 members of the SS [protection squadron] who worked at Auschwitz and who survived the war, fewer than 800 were ever put on trial. Nearly 90% of those involved were never prosecuted...There are those who deny the reality of what took place here...1,300,000 people were sent to Auschwitz during the 4 1/2 years of its existence. 1,100,000 of them died here. Hundreds of Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and other minorities were murdered. 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war; 21,000 gypsies; 70,000 polish prisoners; and 1,000,000 Jews, at least 200,000 of them children."

The above comes at the end of this chilling documentary film series. It presents the story of Auschwitz or technically Auschwitz-Birkenau, a German Nazi concentration camp established in 1940. It was a network of 45 concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich (or Nazi Germany) in Polish area annexed by Nazi Germany during World War 2.

This series (titled in the UK as "Auschwitz: The Nazis and the 'Final Solution'") uses primarily four elements:

(1) rarely seen archival film (mostly black and white)
(2) nearly 100 interviews with survivors and former guards (many speaking out for the first time)
(3) computer-generated reconstructions of buildings now demolished (the architectural plans for these buildings only became available in the 1990s)
(4) re-enactments of meetings and other events

This documentary is the result of three years of research.

The historical and script consultant was Professor Sir Ian Kershaw who is said to be one of the world's leading experts on Hitler and Nazi Germany.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  80 reviews
113 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Explaining the Incomprehensible May 17 2005
By J. Michael Click - Published on Amazon.com
Movie: ***** DVD Transfer: ***** Extras: *****

A unique and highly informative 6-part documentary that examines the establishment and development of the Auschwitz-Birkenow concentration camp within the historical context of the Nazi's changing strategies and goals during the Second World War. Using historical photographs, filmed re-enactments, recent interviews with both survivors and perpetrators, and computer models based on recently discovered blueprints of the camp, the filmmakers painstakingly trace the evolution of Auschwitz from a detainee facility built to house Polish prisoners, to a forced labor camp, and finally, to an infamous and horrifyingly efficient factory devoted to mass murder. Brilliantly and movingly narrated by actress Linda Hunt (Oscar-winner for "The Year of Living Dangerously"), the 4-1/2 hour series is intellectually stimulating, educationally astonishing, and emotionally overwhelming as it attempts the almost impossible task of explaining the incomprehensible. That "Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State" succeeds so well in its mission is a testament to the commitment and skill of the filmmakers.

The DVD also includes a revealing interview with filmmaker Lawrence Rees, who produced the series; and a series of six short interview segments with Holocaust and genocide authorities, each of which is hosted by esteemed journalist Linda Ellerbee. These interviews, originally designed to air as companion pieces to the six parts of the documentary, are invaluable tools in providing modern day context to the lessons and legacy of Auschwitz, and a framework in which to consider the ongoing horror of genocide. Literate and immensely powerful, this 2-disc DVD set is most highly recommended viewing for those wishing to educate themselves about one of the darkest chapters in all of human history.
66 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing triumph Sept. 20 2005
By Anyechka - Published on Amazon.com
No film or documentary could ever fully cover the enormity of the Shoah, everything that went on, every last aspect, but this one really hits the mark on the area of the Shoah it chose to focus on. This three-part documentary focuses on Oswiecim-Brzezinka (Auschwitz-Birkenau) in general and on the inner-workings of the camp, the blueprints for genocide, in particular. There are interviews with people who were actually there (on both sides), multiple historical re-enactments, pictures, documents, diagrams, blueprints, plenty of narration, you name it. We start from the beginning, the seeds that led to genocide and the first baby steps towards it (euthanising the mentally ill in Germany), to the creation of the camp and some of its first victims, such as the orphaned French children (prior to early 1942 the camp had only housed male Polish political prisoners and criminals), and finally to the period of the camp's highest murder rate, the arrival of Hungarian Jewry starting in May of 1944, through to liberation, what happened to the survivors, how some of the people in charge were caught and brought to justice, and how some, such as Mengele, were never. We also get, along the way, information about some of the other death camps, such as Treblinka, and how that camp did not start out as a model camp (it was run so "inefficiently," not enough people murdered quickly enough and then disposed of in a quick and speedy matter, that the person running the camp, "Dr." Irmfried Eberl, was dismissed). Also included are episodes about how the power corrupted many of the Nazis running or working at the camp, sometimes leading to intrigue. It was also a welcome change of pace for there to be a segment on the notorious sadistic Irma Grese (who was hanged for crimes against humanity shortly after the War); too often all these kinds of books and documentaries talk about are male Nazis, when history shows that there were a number of women, such as Grese, who were equally cold, brutal, top-ranking, and sadistic. The extras are also very good, featuring some very insightful interviews with a variety of people, on topics such as why genocide is still allowed to occur, what we have learnt from the Shoah, and young peoples' reactions to the documentary.
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A History of Hell Feb. 27 2010
By Charles Curtis - Published on Amazon.com
I just watched this film again, for the second time.

Three years ago, I made the trip to southern Poland and visited O'wi'cim, just outside Krakow.. I saw part of remnants of the massive concentration camp and industrial complex there that that the Germans called Auschwitz- Specifically the two extermination camps at Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II Birkenau. The experience was one of the most searing of my life.

I walked the grounds along the barbed wire and railway tracks, through the iconic gates and buildings.. I got a sense of the scale of the place, of the geography. Something that had always been somewhat abstract to me, became that afternoon very - and all too horrifically - substantial. I wandered the vast Birkenau compound past the small ponds still gray and clouded with the ashes of hundreds of thousands. I witnessed the piles of shoes, glasses, suitcases.. The hair shorn in a great heap.. Relics of the thousands of victims murdered at the very end of the war. I stood by the rubble of the gas chambers, blown to slag by the SS as the Soviets bore down on them in the very last days of the Reich..

I stood and gazed up at the cruel sneering mendacious "Arbeit Macht Frei" - that famous motto borrowed from Dachau emblazoned in steel wire above the entrance - with fresh eyes, as if for the first time.

The nightmare was overwhelming. I wandered about mute, not sure how to process any of it.

As I left, I stopped in the gift shop, and bought this film. I watched it in my hotel that night. It brought everything I had seen that day into clearer focus.

Watching beforehand would of course have been better, for this film's strength is that it re-enacts many of the crucial moments in the history of the place: it's architectural expansion, the principal personalities involved, the larger political and historical context. It gives a decent sense of how the original Polish army cavalry barracks and parade ground that formed the germinal nucleus of Auschwitz I was developed initially into a concentration camp for Polish political prisoners, and then incrementally grew into something far more ambitious and monstrous. With the beginning of the war with the Soviet Union, many of the 2 to 3 million Soviet prisoners taken that first year were funneled through Auschwitz, where they were brutally worked and starved to death.

At this point Himmler and the industrial giant IG Farbin decided to expand the complex, creating an SS command complex and a huge industrial park run by slave labor that grew up about the original concentration camp dubbed Auschwitz III.

All of this seems relatively banal, compared to what came next. The narrative expands to describe the relatively halting and "small" scale atrocities that the Wehrmacht and SS began committing throughout the newly conquered Baltic, Ukrainian and Belorussian territories. Himmler was concerned, because he felt that the process of butchering Jews and other undesirables in groups of dozens and hundreds and thousands with rifles was both inefficient and "too brutalizing" to those committing the acts. The wizards of the SS Einzatzgruppen death squads began to devise various solutions. They actually experimented with blowing a few groups up with explosives, before deciding that the resulting rain of viscera and body parts was too gruesome even for Nazis..

Carbon Monoxide, then other gases were tried. They finally hit upon Zyklon B, a gas previously used to exterminate lice and rodents, as the suitable tool to murder millions with industrial efficiency. The "gas shower" technique had been already developed by doctors at asylums back in Germany before the war. The technique had been used to euthanize tens of thousands of mentally and physically handicapped..

And so it went. The machinations and insanely hideous essential details are laid out with relentless spare economy. The narrative is relentless, leaving one nauseous and aghast. It tells the history of the entire Holocaust through the prism of of the evolution of the camp.

The story of the Nazis is mostly depicted with actors reenacting the story.. Contemporary footage of the locations, interviews with several dozen camp survivors and other witnesses, along with some vintage film footage and photos help carry the story along. The Germans are presented in their twisted humanity - socializing with one another, playing with their families - all while feeling their way forward with demonic clownishness as they organize the industrial genocide of millions.

There are even several former SS men who inexplicably agreed to be interviewed. Clear eyed octogenarians who gaze steadily at the camera, as they admit their continuing antisemitism and describe how they personally participated in the butchery.

Astonishing. Is there a statute of limitations on genocide?

We listen to how they describe feeling nothing as they shot prisoners, and then tell how they still hate Jews and consider Slavs to be backward. "The French had toilets in their homes, but the Russians.. They for the most part had only outhouses behind their houses.." This was apparently rationale enough to exterminate them by the hundreds of thousands after they surrendered.

As I finished watching this again this afternoon for the first time since I returned from Poland, memories of that accursed place flooded back. I've been feeling queasy and vaguely homicidal since. I'm a borderline pacifist, but I gotta say watching unrepentant Nazis spew venom brings dark thoughts..

In lieu of venting my anger in a truly satisfying way such as enlisting with Patton to go shoot some fascists, I have to settle for typing this review.

The history so competently detailed in this film must be remembered. I give it my highest recommendation. Watch it.
39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent series March 21 2005
By Rozemarijn - Published on Amazon.com
This is an excellent BBC production on Auschwitz. Rees has managed to produce a series of programs aimed at a broad audience, but with a strong academic foundation. He avoids simple moral judgments by hearing different eyewitnesses, such as victims, perpetrators and bystanders. The series uses different kinds of sources, virtual reality and it uses actors to portray some of the key Nazis in the decision making process.It describes the history of the camp, but it does so much more. Individual stories bring the story to life without ever becoming over-emotional.It also pays attention to the importance of local decisions and sentiments for the fate of millions of people, such as local anti-Semitism but also rescue operations. Rees' series is not just on Auschwitz, it is a story of Europe and the Holocaust. In the last episode he even tells the story of the return of victims of the camp to their home country and the cold welcome they received.Personally I found the testimony of the former SS man who had worked in Auschwitz very telling. Rees is a brave man for portraying this man in his moral ambivalence.

Strongly recommended. Also suitable for use in schools and education. It is also a far better introduction to the Holocaust than Lanzmann's film Shoah.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best introduction to the subject June 22 2005
By D. Darkin - Published on Amazon.com
I have just finished watching the full six parts and I would recommend this to all those who want to learn about this subject and also all those who want to avoid it.

However many times you read or watch programmes on this subject, the enormity of what happened is impossible to comprehend,. Yet, in one scene, the horror of what happened came through. It concerned the plight of the French children. Their parents were taken first, and then some weeks later the children, aged 4-10(?) were taken for extermination. The photographic portrait of these tiny innocents, and the appalling end that befell them moved me to choking back the tears. That one scene brought it home to me, the absolute horror and barbarity.

I do have a number of issues with the final episode of the series. I feel this was the worst, and let down the overall professional and informative value of the series.

The final episode was shallow. It skipped around the main point - why was it that 90% of the guards and staff at Auschwitz were NOT prosecuted?

Why were the top Nazi's prosecuted? The big names certainly were dealt with, but why were so many allowed to go free for so long? Why were they allowed to free in South America, Germany and even the UK for so long?

Each of the three series - Nazi's - A Warning from History, War of the Century, and now this are series that should be shown to a wider audiance for as long as history is taught.

As a final, and personal note, it maybe 60 years since the war ended, but watching this series filled me with a rage to seek revenge and balance the books. So many died, and so few were brought to account. I am not religious, but in this case I hope there is a God that will make sure all those involved spend their days in damnation
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