Television

Genocide is a human condition that does not go away. Deliberate, systematic measures toward the extermination of a racial, political or cultural group reached its abhorrent horror with the Nazis and those who wholeheartedly joined or lamely acquiesced to the notion of a 'superior race' ruling the world. 'Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State' airs Jan. 19, 26, and Feb. 2 at 9:00 p.m. on WFYI Public TV 20 and TV 20.1 digital.

Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State both traces why and how the Holocaust and concentration/extermination camps happened and asks us to reflect on what our individual and governmental roles and responsibilities are in occurrences of genocide confronting us now. In examining basic moral issues, the documentary asks what it means to be a responsible citizen.

Presented with sensitivity, balance and context, the answers can be shocking. One surviving Nazi says he had no trouble killing Jews because he genuinely hates them. His reasons are rational to him.

In an interview, Laurence Rees, writer and producer of the documentary points out, "Many people think they know the story of Auschwitz. It's the place where Jews were murdered. End of story. But for nearly the first year and a half of its operation, it had nothing to do with the mass extermination program. You can only begin to understand why it evolved into an extermination camp once you understand the series of incremental decisions, step-by-step-by-step. That's what's so phenomenally frightening about the whole decision-making process."

Unfolding as a crime story, this documentary grabs and holds on because it's so insidious and sinister. It starts as a Nazi assault against communism and the Soviet Union, people deemed sub-human in light of the Aryan master race. But, wait, it actually starts before then, with WWI. No, even before, with the misfit life of Adolph Hitler. No, actually before, with centuries of hatred emanating from Luther's seething anger that the Jewish religion would not embrace his new religion, his concept of chosenness and each individual's adherence to authority. No one questions, no one deviates from the absolute ruler. In the end, Nazis felt justified. "I was only following orders. I was being a good citizen. I was being moral."

In X-Files fashion, the case simultaneously unpeels and builds. The master race morphs into sub-human before our eyes as we witness the mentality of the key decision makers from March 1940-January 1945.

Log on www.pbs.org/auschwitz for a complete teaching guide for high school classes or to use as a resource guide for adult group or individual study. WFYI is collecting unrecorded stories of concentration camp survivors, Holocaust victims, and camp liberators. Contact gstrong@wfyi.org or call 715-2051.

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