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Ponar, near the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, is considered a prototype for the concentration camps that would later be developed by the Nazis.
The tunnel was discovered using technology that essentially takes an MRI of the Earth, said Reeder, who provided expertise in mapping.
Knowing that they would soon be killed themselves, members of the burning brigade decided to dig a tunnel during the night in an escape attempt, using their hands and whatever spoons and tools they could recover from the bodies they dug up.
Nazis began imprisoning and executing Jews and other targeted groups in 1941, shooting tens of thousands of them 10 at a time and dumping them into pits in the Ponar forest that had previously been used as fuel depots.
“I thought it was a story that no one knew.” The documentary, which will air in 2017, will also follow the excavation of the Great Synagogue of Vilna.Prior to World War II, Vilnius was known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania, with 100,000 Jews making up about 35 per cent of its population, Apsell said.