Nazi VR: The High-Tech Prosecution of a World War II War Criminal

The prosecution of former SS guard Reinhold Hanning was likely a beginning and an end. An end because the recently deceased 95-year-old war criminal will probably be among the last Nazis prosecuted for their roles in the Holocaust—in Hanning’s case, serving as an accessory to at least 170,000 murders that took place while he was stationed at Auschwitz. A beginning because, for the first time, the prosecution used VR to dispute Hanning’s claims that he wasn’t aware of the atrocities happening inside the camp.

Hanning is a fascinating convergence of the past and present and a perfect encapsulation of guilt—not just his own, but that of his country, a place that has assumed ownership of its sins but still hasn’t completely outrun them, and probably never will.

To attempt to make sense of it all—from how virtual reality can place a prime suspect at the scene of a crime that’s more than 70 years old to how Germany is still apprehending the foot soldiers who looked the other way as millions of innocent people were being gassed—we sent MEL Films to Nuremberg to see how high-tech justice is served.

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