Most younger people have never heard of Auschwitz

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The Independent Online

Six out of ten people under the age of 35 have never heard of Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp that was the scene of the biggest mass murder ever recorded.

Six out of ten people under the age of 35 have never heard of Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp that was the scene of the biggest mass murder ever recorded.

A survey undertaken for the BBC found that 45 per cent of British adults did not recognise a name that others might have assumed was synonymous with evil. Roly Keating, the controller of BBC2, said yesterday that he had been "brought up short" by the finding, which had convinced him of the need for a landmark film to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the camp next year.

Auschwitz - The Nazis and the 'Final Solution', includes interviews with former members of the Nazi Waffen SS, who show no remorse for their part in the Holocaust. The film by the Bafta-winning director Laurence Rees recreates the gas chambers and other parts of the camp, where more than a million people were murdered.

The poll, which questioned 4,000 people, found that even among those who had heard of Auschwitz, 70 per cent admitted they did not know a great deal about the subject and 74 per cent did not know that Jewish people were not the only victims.

Rees, who made the award-winning BBC series The Nazis: A Warning From History in 1997, has been making documentary films about Nazi Germany for more than a decade. He said: "We were amazed by the results of our audience research. It's easy to presume that the horrors of Auschwitz are ingrained in the nation's collective memory but obviously this is not the case."

The film, which will be shown next month on BBC2, will use actors to recreate life inside Auschwitz, but has sought to avoid dramatising the suffering of victims. Rees said: "We are getting to the biggest secret in the Reich here, so [the Nazis] never filmed it. There is no Auschwitz footage until the Soviet liberation. There's nothing. So if you are trying to unravel what happened you can only do dramatisation. What we don't do is dramatise any suffering; it's utterly inappropriate to do that."

The film attempts to explain the decision-making process that took place inside Auschwitz and focuses particularly on the career of the camp commandant, Rudolph Höss. The interviews with former Nazis include one with a bank clerk who joined the SS and worked at Auschwitz counting the money confiscated from the people who were held in the camp.

Rees said the Nazi interviewees appeared to take the view that because they believed at the time in what they were doing they had no reason to feel remorse. "You almost expect Nazis to say 'I was under orders...' but you tend never to find that," he said.

The programme is one of the highlights of BBC2's winter season, announced yesterday. Another programme, by Michael Cockerell, offers a rare insight into the Tory leader, Michael Howard. In it, he takes to the dance floor with his wife, the former fashion model Sandra Paul. She comments on her husband's romantic instincts and how he once carried her "from the old bedroom to the new bedroom".

Cockerell, who has interviewed every prime minister since Macmillan, said Mr Howard was notoriously camera-shy. "In the archive, there was virtually nothing of Michael Howard [but] he has seen that if you want to be prime minister you need to open up a little."

The season also features the Tory MP Ann Widdecombe - who famously described Mr Howard as "having something of the night about him" - as a roving agony aunt in The Ann Widdecombe Project.

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