Oct 06, 2016 I Paul Seaburn

Virtual Reality Auschwitz Used to Convict Nazi War Criminals

To my knowledge, there is no more exact model of Auschwitz.

That horrifying statement comes from the man who created the 3D model. He’s digital imaging expert Ralf Breker and the model of Auschwitz he’s referring to fortunately exists only in virtual reality. Working in the Bavarian state crime office (LKA) in Munich, Breker developed the virtual Auschwitz to help investigators and prosecutors hunt down and convict the last remaining Nazi war criminals.

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The real entrance to Auschwitz

Auschwitz-Birkenau was the World War II Nazi concentration and extermination camp located in occupied Poland where over 1.1 million people died during the Holocaust. It was shut down by Russian forces in January 1945 and an estimated 6,500 of the camp’s Nazi staff survived. An estimated 12 percent of them were eventually brought to trial, with many being found guilty and executed. Most of the rest are now dead but there are still some lurking around. After all these years, finding them is difficult and getting accurate testimonies even worse.

It has often been the case that suspects say they worked at Auschwitz but didn’t really know what was going on. Legally, the question is about intent: must a suspect have known that people were being taken to the gas chambers or shot? This model is a very good and very modern tool for the investigation because it can help answer that question.

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Screenshot of the VR Auschwitz

Breker created the virtual model using blueprints from Auschwitz archives, over a thousand photos from when it was operational and laser landscape scans he himself took at the site in 2013. The model shows the user the railroad tracks, the brick gatehouse, the rows of identical barracks, the gas chambers and the crematoria. The camp model is said to be so accurate, it shows how individual trees obstructed views from various locations.

The advantage the model offers is that I get a better overview of the camp and can recreate the perspective of a suspect, for example in a watchtower.

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Ralf Breker wearing the VR headset in front of his VR view of Auschwitz

Has wearing the VR Auschwitz headset helped convict any Nazi war criminals? Yes! In June 2016, the VR model helped prosecute and convict former SS guard Reinhold Hanning of complicity in 170,000 murders, resulting in a five year sentence. It will now be used to track down the “double-digit” number of suspects who are still alive today.

After that, it will be donated to a museum. Breker doesn’t want it to end up in the wrong hands where it could be made into a video game.

A Holocaust video game. Haven't humans created enough atrocities?

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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