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'The Journey Back: A VR Experience' At The Illinois Holocaust Museum Takes Visitors To What It Was Like To Be In A Concentration Camp

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A first-of-its-kind exhibit in the world opens Thursday and it's right here in the Chicago area.

It's using virtual reality to transport visitors at the Illinois Holocaust Museum to three concentration camps, with Holocaust survivors as their guides.

CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot got an early look at the exhibit, which opens to the public Thursday on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

I'm no stranger to the Illinois Holocaust Museum. I have the honor of being the guide of a new virtual field trip featuring the main exhibits at the museum for school children around the world. But before it debuts this spring, there's a new one.

It's called "The Journey Back: A VR Experience." Photogrammetry is used in this virtual reality experience. It's a technique that brings photos to life, by using art and science to take 3D details from pictures, like in one scene, showing the concentration camp barracks.

"When we're presenting the film to the visitor, they are able to feel, because of the stitching together, in that 360 environment, they feel as if they're standing there," said Kelley Szany, VP of Education and Exhibitions IL Holocaust Museum.

"It's as if George Brent is standing right in front of me."

Holocaust survivors and Chicagoans, the late Fritzie Fritschall and George Brent, guide visitors through three concentration camps and share their experiences.

"This is the first time that virtual reality technology has been used to archive, preserve and share survivors stories in Auschwitz, Mauthausen and Ebensee," Szany said.

Brent was 15 years-old when he, his father, mother and younger brother were taken to Auschwitz.

"First of all, we didn't know where we were going. Nobody told us anything."

Brent and his father, were the only ones that would survive. Brent, who recently celebrated his 92nd birthday, spoke to me via Zoom.

"I felt that the more I talk about it and the more I tell my stories, people will realize what really happened," Brent said.

Watching this, virtual reality experience, was incredibly moving. I was brought to tears at times. You're inside a railcar where Hungarian Jews are being transported to concentration camps.

Then, you're inside a gas chamber where up to 2,000 Jewish people were killed, at one time. Brent said the millions of lives lost, is something he wants to make sure no one ever forgets.

The virtual reality exhibit is included in general admission to the Illinois Holocaust Museum, but you need to reserve a time to see it.

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