On the trail of crime with Virtual Reality

On the trail of crime with Virtual Reality

Barracks, tracks, railway tracks towards gas chambers. Virtually on the road in Auschwitz. Ralf Breker steers a ghostly flight in 3 D, through the striking entrance gate, past a train of stylized prisoners, to the crematorium. The trees are where they used to be. The technology allows the view behind every barrack, allows every perspective. And can thus provide information about the question: Could a security guard see how thousands of people were driven to their deaths?

Breker manages the central photo technology at the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office and constructs 3-D models of places where bombs were detonated, fires were set, people were killed – or murdered en masse. Every year, the graduate engineer for geomedia technology and his team with 3-D laser measuring systems miss a good 60 crime scenes. The colors are inserted later on the basis of photos, the laser records only shades of gray. “We want to capture reality and make it walkable in virtual reality,” says Breker.

Judges dive into the virtual crime scene

Never before have investigators and in the process judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers been able to get such a realistic picture of the crime scene, move around in it, trace the steps of the offender, look from his perspective. They virtually immerse themselves in the virtual crime scene. “This is revolutionary from a criminalist point of view,” says Breker.

The model of Auschwitz is the most spectacular that the people of Munich have created. In addition, they have prepared dozens of other places, burned-out houses, streets, a sawmill in the snow, cold winter sun, you shiver. What happened here is not discernible, and the LKA leaves it open: the case is not closed.

Even the light at the time of the crime can be reconstructed

In 3 D there is also the room where Yugoslav regime opponent Stjepan Durekovic was killed by the secret service in 1983 in Wolfratshausen, and the Oktoberfest entrance, where a bomb killed 13 people in 1980. The model is also under lock and key: the investigation into the most serious right-wing extremist attack in the Federal Republic of Germany is ongoing. The Attorney General has restarted them.

Earlier, experts documented the crime scene with tape measure and camera. The investigator held what seemed important to him. The image remained subjective – and two-dimensional. “You often couldn’t really imagine what it looked like,” says Breker. Using photos, sketches, and existing structures, Breker can retroactively create 3D models. Even the light at the time of the act can be accurately recreated, by weather data and sun position.

“Virtopsy” – the virtual autopsy

In the LKA laboratory there is a skull with a bullet and a thorax with a puncture in the heart. CT data made the injuries visible – and the victim’s body accessible from the inside. “3D technology also opens up completely new possibilities here,” says Breker.

For example, the” Virtopsy”, a virtual autopsy. “This will surely eventually find its way into forensic medicine.”Unlike the previous autopsy, it is still possible years later. “You can preserve people virtually, freeze them virtually,” says Breker. “These are possibilities that were dreamed of ten years ago.“

Other state criminal offices also work with laser technology, but the Munich authorities have developed it very far, according to their own statement.

The Auschwitz model shows an important detail

The 3-D model offers a new possibility that “can make you familiar with the location,” says the deputy head of the Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes in Ludwigsburg, Thomas Will. “But it cannot replace an actual local inspection.”The dimensions of the concentration camps could only really be grasped during a personal visit.

The LKA had created the Auschwitz model for the public prosecutor’s office in Weiden. Accused of being an accessory to the murder of more than 200,000 Hungarian Jews, he died at the age of 89 before the trial.

The model was used in the trial of SS guard Reinhold Hanning for aiding and abetting the 170,000-fold murder. It does not have the rank of evidence like testimony. In the judgment, however, the court specifically pointed to the knowledge from the model, namely that the man from the watchtower could see the crematoria.

Journey through past resembles a video game

Still not all NS processes are completed. The central office in Ludwigsburg investigates above all other ex-relatives of concentration camps. in 2016, the authority initiated 30 new proceedings, most of which were handed over to the relevant public prosecutor’s offices, including proceedings on the Stutthof concentration camp and again on Auschwitz. Three procedures are currently open for this in Gera, Oldenburg and Stuttgart.

If there are no more accused persons, the Auschwitz model could be made available to Nazi documentation sites, such as the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. It should never be publicly accessible. Too much the journey through the past resembles a video game, and too easily rights to it could find flavor.

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