'Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution' by Laurence Rees: Documentary Series Review

'Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution' was first screened in the U.K. in 2005, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the camp. It was directed by Laurence Rees, a British historian, and produced by the BBC, which Rees also once worked for.
The series is split into six parts, each of about 45 minutes in length. It follows the chronology of the camp right from the very beginning, when what would become Auschwitz I stood as dilapidated, disused Polish military barracks. Topics such as corruption, medical experiments (not for the faint-hearted) and the expansion of the camp - along with the creation of the gas chambers from buildings initially planned as morgues - are discussed. There is an interesting combination of methods employed in each part: interviews with survivors of the camp; real footage of the camp as it is today; CGI reconstructions of buildings destroyed; interviews with actual former members of the SS; dramatisations using words from real speeches or meetings held by the SS.

The dramatisations, I find, are particularly impressive. Actors fluent in German or Hebrew, mainly by nationality, have been used so that the authenticity appears unmatched. It helps to bring home the fact that these events actually happened, compared to, for example, 'Hitler: The Rise of Evil' (whilst Robert Carlyle's characterisation of the dictator was certainly impressive, listening to Hitler speaking in a British accent somehow made it a little less effective).
I am also particularly taken with the music used in the series, particularly the very striking 'Sarabande: Suite No. 4 in D Minor, HWV 437 by Händel. It gives the whole series the appropriate feeling of sincerity and importance.

'Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution' is the perfect series for anyone who has an interest in learning about the former camp from the basics, but also for those who wish to brush up their knowledge on the subject. The accompanying book (which will be reviewed in due course) is fantastic for building on some of the finer details that could not possibly be covered in the time given.
Auschwitz has a dark, shocking yet strangely compelling history, and this, in my opinion, is the best documentary to watch for a thorough but easy-to-understand guide to what exactly the Nazis' 'Final Solution' turned into.

Recommended for...
This would be an excellent series to show to those learning about the Holocaust in school, or at least, extracts could be used (some of the content, particularly relating to medical experiments, is naturally quite disturbing). The documentary is aimed at the general public as it was screened on the BBC in 2005 and is available for general release. Cheap copies can always be bought from Amazon - although, of course, this is not exactly viewing for a lazy Sunday afternoon.