As the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the Nazis’ deadliest and most infamous concentration camp, approaches this year, it’s important not only to look back at this tragic moment in world history but also to convey what happened during the Holocaust to a new generation.
Educators have experimented with many different media in their search to make sure that the deaths of over 6 million Jews along with hundreds of thousands of others, including Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Soviet Prisoners of War, and people with disabilities, are remembered.
In 2016, the BBC received permission from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum to fly a drone over the camp, giving people a bird’s eye view of the place where over 1.1 million men, women, and children lost their lives from 1942 to 1945.
This footage reveals the horror of the camp in a way never before seen, even by those who have visited on foot, and is especially important for millennials whose way of seeing the world is tied up with digital video technology.
The video begins with a stunning shot that traces the railroad tracks that led the victims from all over Europe, some as far away as the island of Rhodes only 14 miles from Turkey, to their deaths. The dire fate that awaited them is made clear from the fact that all the tracks dead-end in the camp.
Taking the viewer inside the camp, the drone then flies over the razor-wire fences and watchtowers that were designed to prevent any of the prisoners from escaping or having any contact with the Polish civilian population. Now, just like the inmates, the viewer is inside this gigantic death factory.
As the drone goes inside, the remains of the barracks where the inmates of Birkenau, the largest of the different camps and sub-camps that made up Auschwitz, can be seen. Despite the large number of huts, it’s almost impossible to imagine how so many people could fit into these, giving a sense of how people were made to live like animals in cages before their eventual slaughter.
The drone then moves on to the entrance to Auschwitz 1, one of the most emblematic places in the camp, known for its cruelly ironic sign, “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work sets you free”), which prisoners were forced to make on the orders of camp commandant Rudolf Höss. It’s notable that that the “B” in the sign is upside down, which historians believe might have been an act of resistance by the inmate craftsmen.
After showing the intact housing at Auschwitz 1, the drone zooms through the courtyard between blocks 10 and 11, where the “Black Wall,” also known as the “Death Wall,” was located. It’s here that Nazi camp guards carried out thousands of summary executions, oftentimes without any particular reason.
Finally, the drone flies over the unmistakable crematoria of the camp, with their ghastly chimneys that smoked day and night without stopping for over two years during the height of the Holocaust. Everyone who arrived at the camps for the first time, whether Nazi officials or new prisoners, couldn’t avoid noticing the terrible smell of burning bodies that permeated the camp.
With these sobering images, the BBC gave people another way of looking at the camps and understanding how carefully designed and planned the mass murder was. The video shows an efficient death machine that was only brought to halt by the combined efforts of the Allied armies. It’s something that everyone should see and remember to make sure that battle call of the survivors, “never again,” remains true.