Auschwitz: The Nazis & the 'Final Solution'

Genres: Documentary Series, Docu-Drama



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Season 1

Auschwitz: The Nazis & the 'Final Solution' (known in the USA as Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State) is a British docu-drama television series written and directed by Laurence Rees for the BBC which presents the story of Nazi death camp Auschwitz through interviews with former inmates and guards and re-enactments.

The series originally premiered in the UK on BBC One on 11 January, 2005. There are six hour-long episodes in the series.

Auschwitz: The Nazis & the 'Final Solution' premiered in South Africa on DStv's BBC Knowledge channel on Monday 13 October 2008, at 22h30.


Tuesdays: 05h00, 10h00, 15h30
Mondays: 02h00

Episode Synopses


Auschwitz has a unique place in history. It is where the largest mass murder ever recorded occurred. Yet it is hard to grasp how and why such a chilling place existed.

Now the untold story of Auschwitz is to be revealed in a definitive BBC series to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the camp in January 2005.

Written and produced by BAFTA Award-winning producer Laurence Rees, and using new research, Auschwitz: The Nazis & the 'Final Solution' offers a unique perspective on the camp in which more than 1-million people were ruthlessly murdered.

The series follows the trail of evil from the origins of Auschwitz as a place to hold Polish political prisoners, through the Nazi solution for what they called ‘the Jewish problem’ to the development of the camp as a mechanised factory for mass murder.

It interweaves new testimony from camp survivors and members of the SS with archive footage and drama reconstructions of some of the key decision-making moments.

And for the first time on television, the buildings that made up Auschwitz-Birkenau are recreated from the original blueprints, using photo-real graphics.

The series is the result of three years of in-depth research, drawing on the close involvement of world experts on the period, including Professors Sir Ian Kershaw and David Cesarani. It is based on nearly 100 interviews with survivors and perpetrators, many of whom are speaking in detail for the first time.

Sensitively shot drama sequences, filmed on location using German and Polish actors, bring recently discovered documents to life on screen, whilst specially commissioned computer images give a historically accurate view of Auschwitz-Birkenau at all its many stages.

The computer-animated images are based on plans from the Auschwitz construction offices which were captured after the war, eye-witness testimony and aerial photos, and include the undressing room, the gas chamber and the oven room of one of the crematorium complexes, as well as illustrations of Himmler’s vision for a new Germanised town of Auschwitz.

Auschwitz Facts

In all, 1.1 million people died during the four and a half years of Auschwitz’s existence; 1 million of them were Jewish men, women and children.

Other groups of people who died included Polish political prisoners, Soviet prisoners of war, Gypsy families, homosexuals, people with disabilities and prisoners of conscience or religious faith (including several hundred Jehovah’s Witnesses).

More people died in Auschwitz than the British and American losses of World War Two combined.

About 60 million Reichmarks – equivalent to £125million today – was generated for the Nazi state by slave labour at Auschwitz.

Nazis at Auschwitz offered some non-Jewish female prisoners the option of ‘light work’. As the women soon discovered, ‘light work’ meant prostitution.

To lull new arrivals at Treblinka death camp into believing they were only in transit, plants were placed on the railway station and at the entrance to the gas chambers. The train ramp was disguised to look like a regular railway station with signs, timetables and even a clock painted on the wall. A Star of David was placed above the entrance to the gas chamber and a sign was painted in Hebrew on a purple curtain covering the entrance to the gas chamber that said “This is the Gateway to God. Righteous men will pass through”.

A unit in Auschwitz where valuables snatched from incoming prisoners were kept was known as Canada, because Canada was thought to be a land of untold riches.

Auschwitz guards had their own athletics team. The camp was like a small town, with its own staff canteen, cinema, theatre and grocery store.

There were 170 female SS staff at Auschwitz, of whom the most infamous was Irma Grese, the 20-year-old daughter of a dairyman.

Josef Mengele’s scientific experiments at Auschwitz often involved studies of twins. If one twin died, he would immediately kill the other and carry out comparative autopsies.

Denmark was the only Nazi-occupied country that managed to save 95% of its Jewish residents. Following a tip-off by a German diplomat, thousands of Jews were evacuated to neutral Sweden.

Some Jewish prisoners secretly wrote eye-witness accounts of the atrocities of the gas chambers and hid them in bottles or metal containers buried in the ground. A number of these accounts were discovered after the war.

Of a total of about 7,000 staff at Auschwitz, only 750 were ever punished. Many went on to build good careers, including one man who became head of human resources for a large German company.

There are approximately 500 survivors of Nazi death camps or ghettos living in Britain today.

Auschwitz Timeline

Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp, is established near Munich.

May 1940
Rudolf Höss arrives in the Polish town of to create a new concentration camp on the site of a deserted Polish army barracks.

14 June 1940
The first transport of Polish political prisoners arrives at Auschwitz.

22 June 1941
Germany invades the Soviet Union. Special Nazi killing squads, the Einsatzgruppen, operate behind the German army in Russia, inciting pogroms against the Jews and murdering “Jews in the service of the party or the state”.

28 July 1941
Five hundred and seventy-five sick and disabled inmates at Auschwitz are selected for gassing. There is nowhere to kill them without disturbance, so they are sent back to Germany to be murdered there.

14 August 1941
Himmler visits the headquarters of Einsatzgruppe B in Minsk and discovers that shooting women and children is causing some of his troops psychological damage. He contemplates other methods of killing Jews in the East.

Autumn 1941
The first gassing experiments take place using Zyklon B, a powerful disinfectant, in order to exterminate supposed Soviet ‘commissars’ as well as those at the camp who are considered to be unfit for work.

October–November 1941
Plans of the new camp extension at Birkenau are altered to exclude basic living space. Ten thousand Soviet prisoners of war arrive to build the extension.

November 1941
The first German Jews are deported to eastern Europe. Belzec, a small experimental gas camp, is used as a place to kill ‘unproductive’ Jews.

20 January 1942
Senior Nazis meet at the Wannsee conference to co-ordinate the ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Question’ and to agree a definition of ‘Jew’.

Spring 1942
The first large-scale gassing of Silesian Jews in Auschwitz-Birkenau takes place.

20 June 1942
Prisoner Kazimierz Piechowski escapes from Auschwitz with three other prisoners, dressed as SS men.

2 July 1942
In France, the Vichy Government agrees that gendarmes will co-operate in rounding up foreign Jews throughout France, provided Jews with French citizenship are allowed to remain.

19 July 1942
Himmler orders the General Government (eastern Poland) to be ‘cleansed’ of Jews by the end of the year.

Summer 1942
The hot summer has rotted thousands of corpses. Höss visits to inspect machinery for incinerating bodies.

March 1943
The new crematoria are put into operation at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

May 1943
Dr Josef Mengele joins Auschwitz as camp physician and begins to carry out experiments on inmates.

October 1943
The heads of the Danish churches publish a strong protest against Nazi treatment of Jews. Danish social and economic organisations and King Christian X also object strongly, and universities close for a week in protest.

Autumn 1943
The war is not going well for Nazi Germany and some other countries, such as Bulgaria and Romania, resist handing over their Jews.

14 October 1943
Half of the 600 Jews in Sobibor concentration camp manage to escape on one day. Fifty of them evade capture and survive the war.

17 March 1944
Hitler orders the occupation of Hungary, fearing that the Hungarians might be thinking of changing sides. Jewish deportations begin under Adolf Eichmann.

31 May 1944
A meeting of the British War Cabinet Committee on the Reception and Accommodation of Refugees discusses Eichmann’s ‘goods for blood’ offer of swapping Jewish prisoners for money. The committee recommends that the Cabinet rejects his offer.

24 June 1944
The most detailed news yet about the mass gassings of Jews reaches the US War Department. It is based on reports from a number of escaped prisoners.

30 June 1944
A train takes 1,684 to freedom, brokered directly between Eichmann and Jewish organisers. The Nazis charge $1,000 per head for the places. The train eventually makes it to Switzerland and freedom.

2 August 1944
The Gypsy camp at Auschwitz is liquidated.

7 October 1944
The Sonderkommando in Crematorium IV of Auschwitz instigates a revolt, and is later joined by those from Crematorium II. They are brutally put down by the SS.

27 January 1945
The Red Army liberates Auschwitz-Birkenau and its remaining 7,000 prisoners.

12 March 1945
Himmler signs an agreement not to pass on Hitler’s order to destroy all concentration camps and kill all prisoners. In early April, against Hitler’s express wishes, he permits the Allies to take Bergen.

Season 1 Cast

Host - Herself

Narrator - Herself

Narrator - Himself


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