- Title: Virtual reality model of Auschwitz helps police uncover Nazi crimes
- Date: 5th January 2017
- Summary: BRZEZINKA, POLAND (FILE - JANUARY 2015) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF BARBED WIRE FENCE AROUND AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU CONCENTRATION CAMP
- Embargoed: 20th January 2017 10:36
- Keywords: virtual reality model 3D Auschwitz concentration camp Nazis crimes
- Location: MUNICH, GERMANY & OSWIECIM, POLAND
- City: MUNICH, GERMANY & OSWIECIM, POLAND
- Country: Germany
- Topics: Information Technologies / Computer Sciences,Science
- Reuters ID: LVA0095XSXUFV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS MATERIAL WHICH WAS ORIGINALLY 4:3
Bavarian police have developed a new tool they say can help uncover Nazi crimes committed at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
A 3D virtual-reality model allows investigators wearing 3D glasses to explore the camp as it stood during World War Two, giving an insight into the layout and its implications regarding who was able to see what was going on.
"The intention behind it is to get a better overview of the camp and to show various perspectives and lines of sight, for example from the watchtowers. Or for example if a company marched through here, what could you see from there? Could you see the crematoria?," engineer Ralf Breker told Reuters.
He said the virtual reality technology developed for the Auschwitz model also had potential for other criminal cases in the future, for example in showing bullet trajectories at reconstructed crime scenes.
The Auschwitz model took six months to complete.
"We used digital models of the compound provided by the land surveying office in Warsaw, along with orthographic images. In May 2013 we carried out a survey with laser scanners, and the buildings that are no longer there were reconstructed on the basis of plans from the Auschwitz archive," he explained.
The 360 degree perspective allows prosecutors to debunk claims that, for example, a guard who was stationed at a certain point was unable to see what was going on in the crematoria.
The technology could thus help untangle the question of whether people who were small cogs in the Nazi machinery, but did not actively participate in the killing of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust, were guilty of crimes. Until recently, the answer from the German justice system was no.
But in the last few years Germany has convicted several people who worked at Auschwitz of being accessories to murder.
In July 2015, Oskar Groening, a 94-year-old German who worked as a bookkeeper at the Auschwitz death camp, was convicted of being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 people and sentenced to four years in prison.
In June 2016, former prison guard Reinhold Hanning was sentenced to five years' jail for facilitating the slaughter at the camp.
Set up in 1940 by occupying Nazi forces near the town of Oswiecim in southern Poland as a labour camp for Poles, Auschwitz gradually became the centrepiece in Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler's "final solution" plan to exterminate Jews.
Around 1.5 million people were murdered there. The scale of the industrialised killing at the camp, the cruelty of the guards and the pseudo-medical experiments conducted on prisoners by Nazi doctors have made Auschwitz synonymous with a coldly efficient genocide and total degradation of humanity.
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