The BBC Flew a Drone Over Auschwitz — And the Result Is Haunting


Seventy years after the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, the pre-eminent symbol of the Holocaust's horrors, the BBC is giving the world a chance to see the haunting ruins as they've never seen it before.

The BBC deployed a camera-equipped drone over site, offering a chilling tour of where as many as 1.1 million people died at the hands of Nazis between 1940 and 1945. Located in southern Poland, it was the largest death camp under Adolf Hitler's "final solution."

While images of Auschwitz have permeated popular culture, the under three-minute video gives a sense of the scale of the Nazi regime's systematic murder. The footage shows the railroad tracks that brought people in, the red roofs of the prison blocks where "inmates" were forced to do slave labor and the Birkenau wooden huts where the Nazis executed prisoners. Perhaps the most daunting part, however, were the camp's entrance gates that displayed the German phrase "Arbeit macht frei," or "Work sets you free."

The release of the footage coincides with Tuesday's official memorial service making the 70th anniversary since Auschwitz was freed by the Soviets. Steven Spielberg spoke in the ceremony in Poland on Monday night, which was attended by 100 survivors, warning the attendees of the "anti-Semites, radical extremists and religious fanatics" who are reigniting terror threats, like the attack of the kosher supermarket in Paris earlier this month. Spielberg said the most effective way to stamp out this type of vitriol is to "remember and to never forget" — a mission that encompasses new endeavors, like the BBC's drone video.

"It means preserving places like Auschwitz so people can always see for themselves how hateful ideologies can become tangible acts of murder," Spielberg said. "It means sharing and sustaining the testimonies of witnesses so that they can endure for teachers and students around the world their testimonies give to each survivor everlasting life and give to all of us everlasting value."

Correction: Jan. 27, 2015

An earlier version of this article implied that Auschwitz was liberated from the Soviet Union. Troops from the Soviet Union were the first to liberate the camp.