Visiting Auschwitz is very hard experience. Many people ask is it possible to explore it alone. I think it's one of that kind of places everyone has to visit with professional guide. Really - you can't fully understand that place without person, who can explain the meaning of it.
The Museum is really well-organised. There are multimedia, exhibitions, and buildings to see. Despite of many tourists, it's seem peaceful and quiet.
What is worth to remember? Well, it is not good for fragile and sensitive people. And, eat your breakfast, because rules doesn't allow to eat in the area of Death Camp. Well, I bet you lost you appetite anyway.
Ps. If you looking for tour, we recommended www.cracowvisit.com. We were satisfy (also went to The Wieliczka Salt Mine with them)
The exploits of Nazism and The Gas Chamber - a Historical Fact:
The Nazi ideology in practice wreaked havoc and destruction to many lives and alarmingly even today some people are still members and followers of the defunct group not only in Germany but all over the World, hoping for its resurrection. We learned a lot during our trip and visits to various museums including Auschwitz about how detrimental and discriminatory their policy was, what is their purpose and what is in their mind and how they run and manage things during the WWII. Nazism benefits the few in return for the suffering of the many. And one of the brutal policies of the leadership was the extermination of the Jewish people. To this day we cannot comprehend the hatred and the discrimination against the Jewish people.
We were shown and took the photo of this Gas chamber built for women and children. After being ordered to take off their clothes, being led to believe they were having a shower, they were led to a narrow underground tunnel and into the gas chamber.
The Nazis tried to destroy all of the Gas Chambers as the Soviet Red Army approached Auschwitz and Birkenau sometime in April 1945. The Nazis tried to erase evidence of their methods of murder and of the Holocaust. On the other adjacent side (not in photo) is the one for men which is exactly same as this in appearance
I fully understand why people may choose not to go to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau. It may be too painful, too awful. For survivors and their families it may also trigger post-traumatic stress reactions. But for me, I felt compelled to go, after being an avid reader of books about World War Two and the Holocaust for so many years, and though I fully expected it to be awful, depressing, and overwhelming, which it was in ways which are perhaps beyond words, I also knew that I would deeply regret it if I came all the way to Poland and did not visit the site. In a sense I wanted to go as a way of paying my respects to the memories of all those who were murdered there, imprisoned there, tortured there.
Something that I found utterly disturbing on the way to the village where the Camp Museum is was seeing an Amusement Park with brightly painted rides, in fairly close proximity to the Camp. It just did not seem right. There were also signs to other amusement attractions. I felt that it is an odd place and an inappropriate place to have amusement parks. I felt that it was rather disrespectful to the memory of the people who suffered and died at the Camps. How can people have “fun” and “amusement” in such close proximity to the site of such immense atrocity?
At the Museum we had a very compassionate, sensitive, knowledgeable and passionate guide who explained the purpose of various buildings, and spoke of facts and figures. She was at pains to point out that Auschwitz and all of the camps on Polish soil were not Polish camps, they were Nazi German camps. She emphasised time and again that the intention of the Nazis was to kill every Jew. No Jew was meant to survive Auschwitz or any other camp. Even if they were allowed to live initially, it was only because the Third Reich War Movement needed their labour, but as soon as they were deemed “useless” or “unfit for work” they faced certain death.
The official website www.auschwitz.org/en is also a wealth of information.
The Nazi Regime did not build the barracks at what became known as “Auschwitz I”. Those barracks already existed. They were a former Polish Army barracks which had been abandoned.
Initially, Auschwitz was to be yet another concentration camp of the type that the Nazis had been setting up since the early 1930s. It functioned in this role throughout its existence, even when, beginning in 1942, it also became the largest of the death camps.
The first and oldest was the so-called "main camp," later also known as "Auschwitz I".
For almost two years, the overwhelming majority of the prisoners there were (non-Jewish) Poles. There were also Polish Jews in the constantly rising numbers of arriving transports, but there were not yet many of them. The high death rate resulted from hunger, sickness, and exhausting labour.
By the end of 1941, almost all the Jews in occupied Poland were in ghettos or forced labour camps.
Even before the start of the war in the east, Hitler decided to kill Soviet political commissars and communist party activists.
The Nazis also began using mobile gas chambers in the form of modified trucks that asphyxiated the victims with exhaust fumes.
What the Nazi Germans did, and the extent they went to is almost beyond comprehension!
In Auschwitz, the murdering of prisoners in gas chambers began even earlier, when 575 sick and disabled prisoners were sent to their deaths at the euthanasia centre in Germany at the end of June 1941.
At the beginning of September, the SS used Zyklon B gas in the cellars of block 11 to kill about 600 Soviet POWs and another group of patients from the camp hospital.
Soviet POWs and Jews brought from Upper Silesia were killed in the gas chamber in crematorium I over the following months.
It was probably at the end of March or in April 1942 that the Germans began killing sick prisoners and Jews in a provisional gas chamber in Birkenau (the so-called “little red house”).
The tempo of atrocities increased in June and July 1942, with transports of Jews sent to Auschwitz being subjected to systematic “selections” during which SS doctors sentenced people classified as “unfit for labour” to death.
At Auschwitz Birkenau there are piles upon piles of items stolen from corpses of murdered prisoners. What can be seen today at Auschwitz is what the Germans could not transport in time before the Red Army arrived. There are thousands upon thousands of spectacles. There are piles of prosthetic limbs. There were piles of men’s shaving brushes and hair brushes. There are piles of human hair. There are piles of suitcases. The Nazis used to steal belongings of the people they murdered, all the while calling it property of the Third Reich, and then transport it all back to Germany for use by Germans in Germany.
Human hair was taken and used, often as stuffing in cushions and pillows.
Seeing those piles of belongings was utterly chilling.
Did the Germans who received these belongings when they were transported back to German soil not wonder whose belongings they were, and what had happened to the owner? Whose clothes were these? Whose spectacles? Whose hair filled the cushion? Whose prosthetic limb was this? Where are these people now?
What we saw there at the Museum was a very small percentage of what was actually confiscated by the Nazi regime. It was extremely sad to know that those spectacles, or that prosthetic limb once belonged to a living soul. A murdered soul.
I kept feeling, as we were walking around Auschwitz I and II (Birkenau) that we were walking on the ashes of the cremated bodies of many murdered people. I felt as if we were walking in a giant grave-less “graveyard”, except this graveyard had no tombstones, and this graveyard was not a place where relatives and friends lovingly buried their loved ones and laid flowers at the grave.
This was not a place chosen by the deceased or family of the deceased as their final resting place. This was a “graveyard” imposed on the people who were murdered there.
The ashes mingle with other ashes. The ashes mingle with the mud. And I certainly felt like there were ghosts there.
On the gate of Auschwitz I is the phrase in German “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” which means something like “work makes you free” or “work brings freedom”. It was a complete farce and a cruel joke.
No one was free in Auschwitz and no one became free through labour at Auschwitz. People were worked to the bone, worked to the point of exhaustion, worked to death. People were experimented upon. People were sterilized. People were gassed, hanged, shot. People were starved. People were held in the most filthy and inhumane conditions. The communal toilets we saw was like one long bench with many holes for many prisoners to sit and place their bottoms over to do their business. There was no privacy. There was no dignity. People were clearly not considered people. They were numbers. They were considered inhuman, subhuman. Killing someone who you do not view as human must be easier? And then when people were killed or died from disease, dysentery and exhaustion, the gold teeth were ripped out of their mouths, their glasses removed, their prosthetic limbs removed, their hair cut off, their shoes piled up for other people to receive.
And then I thought that the other depressing thing about this is that there have been other genocides in other countries by other regimes after this one. Other persecutions. Other massacres.
Do humans never learn? Do we always repeat atrocities?
Do we so easily forget what happened in the past? Do we forget the millions who died in camps across Nazi occupied Europe? Or do we just not care? When it suits us, we reprimand perpetrators or voice concern about alleged atrocities. When it suits us, we are silent. When it suits us, we turn a blind eye.
8:00 AM - 2:00 PM December
8:00 AM - 3:00 PM January, November
8:00 AM - 4:00 PM February
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM March, October
8:00 AM - 6:00 PM April, May, September
8:00 AM - 7:00 PM June, July, August
The Camp is the symbol of humanity’s cruelty to its fellow human beings in the 20th century.
This was a day for afterthought and paying respect - both Auschwitz and Birkenau should be visited as a cemetery - in respect and memory for all the souls that rest here. It is an experience that all peoples of all creeds should "endure" at least once but more as a “Wake up call” to oneself.
The place sent shivers down my spine from start to finish especially when I came across the personal belongings. How heartbreaking it is to see the kids’ shoes and women’s hair, their shaving and hair brushes, their bags or the kid’s clothes and toys! I don’t believe there was anyone in the group who was not moved.
GUIDE: If it is your first visit avoid getting in without a Guide.
Our guide Magdalena Medon was very professional and she combined deep and detailed knowledge with the exact right tone and demeanor making this visit an educational and profoundly moving experience.
HISTORY:The fortified walls, barbed wire, platforms, barracks, gallows, gas chambers and cremation ovens show the conditions within which the Nazi genocide took place in the former concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest in the Third Reich. People here in this Camp were systematically starved, tortured and murdered.
Over one and a half million people mainly Jews were killed at Nazi German death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, including women and children, but also for many more people who did not fit into the Nazi’s “view of their world”. These could be homosexuals, crippled, and many more.
TIP: You have to be fit to do both the Auschwitz and Birkenau tour. The latter is in a wide open space that requires a lot of energy to explore so if you are not that fit don’t dare to do both on the same day. In either case, be prepared for a long walk, have along water, have on flat comfortable shoes and wear a cap or hat if it is summer.
QUICK PACE: Have in mind that the tour is done in quick pace because of the great demand of visiting. There are spots where you wish to remain a bit longer and suddenly you notice that the group has already moved ahead and you miss what the Guide is talking about. Unfortunately when this happens it feels as if you are watching all these through a movie and this is perhaps the only downside.
TICKETS: Preferably book tickets via the website to save time and avoid standing in endless queues.
Words can´t really explain the feelings that comes to the surface being here.
This place is very touristy from the get go, but dont let that stop you, this is a must see! From the infamous "work shall set you free" sign, to the gas chambers, to the crematoriums. This place is not eerie at all, matter of fact, its very peaceful. You will see things that will probably give you a stomach ache, I know I had one. The mountains of personal items taken by the Nazi's, the hundreds of pictures of all the people who died, and the barracks where they slept on hard wood beds and all the childrens clothing , pots & pans that the prisoners packed with them, because they thought they were going to be "re situated" somewhere else, little did they know they were about to lose their lives. and you really get a sense of what it may have been like. It was a humbling experience and it really makes you question all the silly, petty things we think are important, "1st world problems" seem minuscule in comparison.
PS, it also helps if you have an awesome tour guide. I HIGHLY recommend Escape2Poland. They were awesome. They handle everything from your airport transfers to your tours.
We took this tour 3/14/15. The driver was prompt to pick us up at our hotel and to drop us off on time. The van was comfortable for our party of four and another couple. The tour itself was very good. The female guide was very knowledgeable and kept the group engaged and moving in order to stick to the schedule.
The negatives were that the driver did not introduce us to our traveling companions. In fact, he didn't talk at all. He drove us for over an hour to the camps and made sure we matched up with our guide and got our headsets. He also handed us our 'lunch' as we completed the Auschwitz tour and had a small break before going to Birkenau. The lunch was the other negative. It would be much more accurate to advertise it as a 'free snack' instead of lunch. It was a bottle of water and a sandwich of bread, very thinly sliced tomato, and cheese. There was no meat.
From the official website:
"Taking pictures on the grounds of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oœwiêcim for own purposes, without use of a flash and stands, is allowed for exceptions of hall with the hairs of Victims (block nr 4) and the basements of block nr 11."
That are the official rules but there are also decency rules.
I was shocked when I saw at the wall of executions between block 10 and 11 at Auschwitz I a woman (about 40) and her daughter asking another visitor to take a photo of them posing and smiling before the Death Wall where thousands prisoners were shot by the SS.
How can some tourists be so stupid to confuse Auschwitz with Disneyland!
I have been many times in Poland, almost always in transit in my way to Spain overland, staying for one or two days in cities such as Warsaw and historical Cracow.
The last time that I crossed Poland was in the year 2009, when I was coming from Lvov, in Ukraine. Then I visited a place that was impacting and didactic at the same time, teaching me more about the human nature. I refer to Auschwitz, which pronunciation has connotations of horror.
I stopped in Cracow and took a bus to Auschwitz, which is not far.
There were many tourists and curious people wishing to visit that place.
The first thing that I saw when I crossed to the territory of Auschwitz was the sign: ARBEIT MACHT FREI, which I compared to the Russian phrase in times of the Soviet Union: SLAVA TRUDU (Glory to the Work).
I also saw the barrack for Gypsies where they slept until they were sent to the crematory.
After Auschwitz I walked 3 kilometers until Birkenau, also known as Auschwitz II.
You feel like crying after that visit to Auschwitz/Birkenau.
I much hesitated to join the VT euromeet for the visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau. The reason may sound paradoxical, I feel too much concerned, impregnated by WW II and its horrors.
I was a child when Belgium was invaded - again - and occupied by Germany and I'm unable to forget.
I read a lot about WW II and the concentration camps, visited Breendonck (a small camp in Belgium) Dachau and Mauthausen. So I knew what to expect.
I didn't want a guided visit of Auschwitz; I wanted to be alone with my thoughts. This is only possible after 15.00 h (or before 10.00 h) when the groups have left and when individual visitors are allowed.
One of the blocks of Auschwitz, with nearly no visitors and not on the guided tour, is dedicated to the deportation of the Jews from Belgium.
About 70.000 Jews were living in Belgium before the German invasion, a large number of them were refugees from Poland and Germany. Between 1942 and 1944 the Germans (there was a German military governor "Militärbefehlshaber" for Belgium and the North of France) deported 25.000 Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau from the transit camp "SS-Sammellager-Mecheln" (Caserne Dossin in Mechelen) by 28 trains. Less than 2.000 survived.
I saw photo's of children of my age or a bit older on their way to death.
I could only think that if my parents had been Jews we would have ended our life at the railway terminal of Birkenau.
If I had not been visiting Auschwitz I would have felt guilty in some way I think.
These were the most infamous and largest of the Nazi concentration camps of WWII. Located about an hour from Krakow, a visit here is a must for anyone with an interest in the subjects of Jewish History, the Holocaust, the Nazi Party, WWII, etc.
Because of the amount of data and the pictures I want to share, I have opted to place those reviews and tips under the heading of the town near where the camps are located. Thus, in order to read and see, go to my pages under Oswiecim.
From the 28 one store brick buildings at Auschwitz I five have been transformed in museums with a permanent exhibition with photographs, documents, historical exhibits including prisoner garments, bunks and other furnishings from prisoner rooms, and items seized from Jewish deportees such as suitcases, shoes, spectacles, prosthesis, brushes, hair.
The themes of the permanent exhibition at KL Auschwitz I are the following:
Block 4 – Extermination
Block 5 – Physical evidence of crime
Block 6 – The life of the prisoners
Block 7 – Living and sanitary conditions
Block 11 – The death block
The Death Wall (reconstruction)
Crematorium I and the first gas chamber.
These are the blocks visited by the general guided tour. You can imagine that when there are many visitors (summer), groups are waiting after each other to move on. They leave no time for reflection.
That's why I visited these blocks 4 - 11 well after 15 h on an individual visit when the groups are gone. I prefer to be alone because I can not control my emotion when I see all the shoes of children or that photo of a skeletal Belgian young woman weighing only 35 Kg.
After Auschwitz I the general tour goes to Birkenau (Auschwitz II) to see some residential barracks nearly as they were, the unloading ramp, the ruins of gas chambers and the ruins of crematoria II and III.
This "General Tour" takes 3 1/2 hours.
There are also one-day study tours (6 hours) and two-day study tours (8 hours).
It should be noted that Blocks 13 - 21 at Auschwitz I contain interesting national exhibitions. I will come back on them. Ref. my review The National Exhibitions
Aside from the permanent exhibitions there are in blocks 13 - 21 & 27 at KL Auschwitz I permanent displays known as the national exhibitions.
These are from countries occupied by the Germans whose citizens were deported and died in Auschwitz. These exhibitions show the history of invasion and occupation, the fate of the citizens and the story of the resistance movement.
We visited block 20 shared by France (ground floor) and Belgium on the upper floor. It was not without emotion that I saw photos of kids from my age embarked for the deadly trip to Birkenau. They were assembled in the Caserne Dossin, Mechelen, a transit camp from where in 1942 they were transported by train to Auschwitz. Twenty six transports of 25.000 Jews. The Caserne Dossin is now a memorial and museum.
We also visited block 21 with Holland where are shown photos from Anne Franck and her family before the invasion.
Most terrible was block 15 for Poland. From all occupied countries Poland is the one that suffered most from the Nazis who considered the Poles as slaves. Six millions Poles, 18% of the population were killed during WWII (read "They lived under the nazis" by Laurence Rees).
What is unbelievable is the fact that the SS took so many photos of their own crimes. I can't forget that photo of a German soldier shooting in the head of a woman keeping a child in her arms.
The exhibition in block 27 on the martyrdom, struggle, and destruction of the Jews, 1933-1945, was installed by Poland.