Thursday 9pm – 10pm, BBC2
Many people instantly know the name ‘Auschwitz’ and the horror it brought upon over 1.3 million people, including 252000 children. The concentration camp was responsible for the death of over 1.1 million innocent people, most of them jews, as well as Romani, Soviet, Polish and Jehovah’s witnesses. Shockingly 1 in 6 people killed in the holocaust perished there. It was an evil place, people like Joseph Mengelen carried out barbaric medical ‘experiments’ and many other members of the SS indiscriminately beat, murdered and raped prisoners.
Auschwitz was not a household name in 1944 and the horrific events taking place there really weren’t known, the immediate thought of death, suffering and disgust wasn’t associated with the word, nor was the infamous phrase that adorns the gate – “Arbeit Macht Frei”. However, during that period two extremely brave and resolute prisoners were determined to escape from hell on earth and tell the world of the appalling atrocities being carried out on the Jewish population. Escaping from Auschwitz was no easy task, 928 people attempted to escape, only 156 were successful, the price for being caught was execution.
This documentary tells the story of Alfred Wetzler and Rudolf Vrba, the two extremely brave men who defied the odds. Using dramatizations, contemporary testimony and contributions from experts and historians we are given a detailed account of their journey from the camp and desperation to tell the world of the systematic and mechanised murders of thousands of men, women and children. The duo needed the world to know so they could help their fellow man. The Allies did indeed learn of the pairs story, but not until towards the end of the war – the D-Day landings drew all the attention, the idea of bombing Auschwitz’s gas chambers and crematoria was discussed but it drew arguments and consternation. Military chiefs were concerned that collateral damage would hand a PR victory to the Nazis.
Examining the evidence, the documentary really questions whether the Allies should have done more in 1944. Seeking to understand if they had undertaken the bombing, could they have saved many lives. It also brings to the fore, what should the world do in the event of genocide today – how should governments react?
It is an incredible tale, that of extreme bravery, decisions by a few individuals that potentially prevented saving hundreds of thousands of lives and the shocking reminder of how the Jews were treated. Perhaps if Auschwitz had been bombed when the alarm was raised, Anne Frank would have been able to present her diary to the world in person.
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