To Catch Nazis, Prosecutors Go 'Back in Time'

Virtual reality model shows Auschwitz circa 1940s
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 11, 2016 7:42 PM CDT
To Catch Nazis, Prosecutors Go 'Back in Time'
A VR model of Auschwitz.   (Bavarian State Criminal Investigation Office)

As World War II waned, Nazis were ordered to destroy evidence of the Final Solution at Auschwitz so that only a portion of the original camp remains today. That makes corroborating testimony of suspected war criminals difficult—but not impossible, thanks to virtual reality. Using original construction plans, period photographs, and a laser scan of the site, Bavaria's State Criminal Office has recreated the 15-mile camp in virtual reality so investigators can go "back in time" and see how it would have looked in the 1940s, reports NBC News. Not only are they able to walk around the camp and see how individuals moved around fences and barracks in both winter and summer, but they can even climb watchtowers to recreate, for example, the viewpoint of a guard.

Even trees, long since felled, have been replaced in the VR model to determine whether they blocked crimes from view. "The model can be used in trials to counter the objection of suspects who claim that they did not witness executions or marches to gas chambers from their vantage point," says a German official in charge of investigating Nazi war crimes. "To my knowledge, there is no more exact model of Auschwitz," adds a digital imaging expert who helped create the VR version, per the Guardian. "It is much, much more precise than Google Earth … When I zoom in, I can see the smallest detail." Already used in the cases of Johann Breyer and Reinhold Hanning, the model could help bring dozens of suspects to court, prosecutors say. (An Auschwitz prisoner's will was just found.)

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