Auschwitz goes virtual with new educational VR tour

As well as allowing people to look around rooms freely, the film features survivor testimony, pictures, and drone footage


The first ever virtual reality tour of Auschwitz concentration camp will have its UK premiere next week, at an event attended by members of the House of Lords and other community and organisational leaders. 

The film, “Triumph of the Spirit 360” is experienced wearing a virtual reality (VR) headset, enabling participants to embark on a 50-minute, 360° guided tour of the infamous Nazi death camp.  

As well as allowing people to look around rooms freely, the film features survivor testimony, pictures, and drone footage, with narration by world-renown speaker and Holocaust researcher Rabbi Israel Goldwasser. 

The film had originally been created for those physically unable to make the journey or for young people growing up in an Orthodox community who, unlike their secular counterparts, do not have trips to Auschwitz built into their school curriculum as part of Holocaust education. 

An Israeli ultra-Orthodox mother, Miriam Cohen, 30, had the idea for the project three years ago. 

She told the JC: “I grew up in a village and when I was 17 all the kids went to Poland, but I couldn’t go because I was in an ultra-Orthodox school. When they came back with this profound emotional experience, I felt like I had missed out on something very special, and that’s when I decided I was going to make it there.” 

Since the summer of 2022, the film is increasingly being shown to secular high school students who now also will not make the trip to Auschwitz due to an ongoing political spat between Israel and Poland. 

The film, which has been viewed by over 70,000 people in Israel to critical acclaim, is open to all who wish to experience it. 

Mrs Cohen said: “After showing it to students, it started to spread all over Israel. We’ve had requests from the military, we’ve shown it to the police, high-tech events, to schools, to the old, the young, Orthodox and non. 

“The goal is to bring this experience, which can be so powerful and profound, to all those who cannot go and to as many people as possible,” 

As well as the harrowing testimonies, pictures, music, and never-before-seen drone footage, the experience is made all the more powerful because, according to Mrs Cohen, you experience the camps alone with only the guide. 

She said: “When you go with friends, especially young people, you don’t always have the opportunity to capture and process everything. You’re taking selfies, distracted by friends, or worried about being judged. This experience allows you to be alone with the reality of the camp and to really understand it, and that way be moved by it. 

“One of our goals is to connect young people to their Jewish identity. Another is to connect people to this deep place in their heart, not to take strength but to give it, and hope and power,” 

Three Israeli ultra-Orthodox mothers are heading the project. Mrs Cohen, a former actress, is the director and producer of the film. Chani Kopolowitz is the project manager in Israel and Yuti Neiman is the technology expert and editor.  

Mrs Cohen said: “In the beginning, there were several challenges. Although everyone we approached in Israel really liked the idea, they said that VR wouldn’t work because it was typically for short experiences. Then they told us that we couldn’t go to Poland during Covid. 

“But eventually, we made contact with the director of Auschwitz who was very touched by the project and granted us special permission to film inside the camp.”  

The film’s footage was captured over three days while Auschwitz was closed off to visitors during the Covid19 pandemic. 

“It was surreal to be alone in the camp. It’s not something that can be described in words, it must be experienced for oneself. 

“Triumph of the Spirit 360 provides a powerfully emotive experience not least because you’re listening to survivors’ stories overlayed in the very same rooms they occurred in. 

“In a world with fewer and fewer survivors, I wanted to put the Holocaust back in front,” Mrs Cohen said. “As a kid I used to see survivors on the bus with their numbers tattooed to their forearm, but we don’t see them anymore. 

“I saw survivors, but my children won’t. There are six million reasons pushing me into this project.” 

The UK premiere of “Triumph of the Spirit 360” will take place on Tuesday, January 31 with 100 guests, each with their own headset. Several high-profile figures are expected to attend, including Lord Eric Pickles, Lord Howard Leigh, Lord David Wolfson, and various heads of Jewish communal and Holocaust organisations.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive