This week marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. To commemorate the occasion, the BBC produced a six-minute video (embedded above) using a drone that flies over and around the infamous Nazi site in Poland to capture images of fields marked with the remains of wooden huts at Birkenau, blocks of still-standing Auschwitz I barracks and railway tracks leading to the camp's entrance. It's a stirring wordless tribute to the mass murder that took place there.
Having never been to Auschwitz, the video also presented me with a stark reminder of the camp's citadel size. (It was roughly 50 acres.) And there was its nightmarishly efficient architecture of death: the gate with the grotesque welcoming sign "Work Shall Set You Free," the endless rows of barracks, the so-called "showers" that bathed prisoners in lethal gas, and the crematoriums that were used to dispose of the innumerable bodies.
Building a system that can take life on such a large scale — anywhere from 1.1 to 1.5 million people were killed at Auschwitz alone — required large-scale urban planning and specially built architecture.
As we think about the ways in which humans can kill, the BBC's moving drone video is a reminder about how design can aid and abet that.
Never again, indeed.