& Arts TV
BBC TWO, January 2005
With a number of recent high profile Hollywood films such as Schindler's
List and The Pianist and iconic books such as The Diary of Anne Frank
it is easy to assume that everyone is familiar with the Holocaust and
Yet a recent BBC survey suggests that almost half the adult population
(45%) claim to have never even heard of Auschwitz.
Amongst women and people aged under 35 the figure is even higher at
Even among those who have heard of Auschwitz, 70% felt that they did
not know a great deal about the subject.
Most of them (76%) were unaware of its roots as a concentration camp
for Polish political prisoners; the majority (74%) did not know that
people other than Jews were killed there and only a few recognised the
name of the camp commandant or knew who finally liberated the camp at
the end of the war.
The BBC's research informs a definitive new series which has been made
to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in January
Written and produced by Bafta Award-winning producer Laurence Rees,
Auschwitz: The Nazis & the 'Final Solution' offers a unique perspective
on the camp in which more than one million people were ruthlessly murdered.
"We were amazed by the results of our audience research" says series
producer Laurence Rees. "It's easy to presume that the horrors of Auschwitz
are engrained in the nation's collective memory but obviously this is
not the case.
"We were particularly startled by the fact that less than 40%
of younger people have even heard of Auschwitz.
"The research reinforced the importance of making this series
and trying to ensure the atrocities that unfolded at Auschwitz are never
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 of development.
"The name Auschwitz is quite rightly a byword for horror," says Laurence
Rees. "But the problem with thinking about horror is that we naturally
turn away from it.
"Our series is not only about the shocking, almost unimaginable
pain of those who died, or survived, Auschwitz. It's about how the Nazis
came to do what they did.
"I feel passionately that being horrified is not enough. We need
to make an attempt to understand how and why such horrors happened if
we are ever to be able to stop them occurring again."
The BBC will be marking Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January 2005) with
a number of other television and radio programmes, including a live
event on the day, an international musical performance in and around
the museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and a documentary that traces one
woman's story of survival told through her grandson's eyes.
Notes to Editors
The research findings were based on a nationally representative postal
survey of 4,000 adults aged 16+ conducted by IPSOS RSL as part of their
weekly Quest survey.
All respondents recruited were mailed a questionnaire to complete covering
a number of topics, with quota controls imposed, within region, by age
within sex and social class.
Fieldwork was conducted during February 2004.