Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum
While unspeakably sad and heart-rending, a visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum is an important one. Located in the small town of Oświęcim (better known by its German name, Auschwitz, as this area of Poland was part of the Third Reich during World War II), this was the largest Nazi concentration and extermination camp, where more than 1.5 million people—90 percent of them Jews from Poland and throughout Europe—died from 1940 to 1945. The former camp consisted of three parts: Auschwitz, Birkenau (where the gas chambers were located), and Monowitz (where a chemical camp was run by prison labor). Today, the barracks at Auschwitz have been turned into the Aushwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, while Birkenau has been preserved to look much as it did after the liberation. Admission to the grounds is free, but visitors must reserve a time slot online to help control crowds—about 2 million people visit every year. Alternatively, you can book a guided tour to learn more about this significant site.
By Dorota Wąsik, AFAR Local Expert
Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum
About 30 miles west of Krakow is the sleepy town of Oswiecim, better known around the world by its German name of Auschwitz and for the infamous concentration camp that bore that name. It was here and in the neighboring site of Birkenau that around 1.1 million people, about a million of them Jewish, were killed during the war by the Nazis. The two camps now serve as important memorial sites to the horrors of the Holocaust. There are several tour companies running guided day trips from Krakow to Auschwitz-Birkenau and it's fairly easy to travel independently by train. A visit to Auschwitz is something that no visitor will forget.
By Andy Jarosz, AFAR Local Expert
Remembering at Auschwitz-Birkenau
The sobering Auschwitz-Birkenau tour is a must-do activity when one is in Krakow, Poland. This infamous site of genocide is a reality check for most visitors who know about the terrors perpetrated by the Nazis through texts. Visiting the camps is chililng: one sees the bombed ruins of the site, the blocks where millions were gassed, the collection of belongings brought by the prisoners, the cramped wooden planks that functioned as 'beds' for the prisoners, the endless lines of barbed fences and much much more insanity in the hell on earth, all bring a sobering image of the evils and insanity committed by and endured by man in recent history. A visit is definitely an experience for all to remember. There are many tours in the city that organize excursions to the camp but best ask your hotel/hostel for a reputable one. Don't forget to allow more than half-day for the trip. Bring some food along.
By Eva Miller
A Grueling Recall of History
Reading texts of the historical trauma provides only the slightest of introductions to stepping on the physical grounds of the largest concentration camps. Auschwitz became one of Europe's best connecting ports via rail giving rise to what the Nazi's believed to be a supreme location. Pictured here, is a Nazi watchtower in which the camp observed strict surveillance over those suffering starvation, torture, and disease. Behind is the electric fence that punished those who attempted an escape. Further on the grounds, appear settlements that cramped millions of desperate families and evidence of destruction as the Nazis' attempted to destroy evidence of their work. Though chilling, this walk through histories most shameful act depicts a past reality and remains an important part of tourist visits to Poland.
Auschwitz is located roughly 60 km from Krakow. The Polish name is Oswiecim but is more commonly known by its German name, Auschwitz. It was a concentration camp originally meant for detaining Polish prisoners of war. The Nazis turned it into a concentration camp for the Jewish population as part of the "final solution" plan to rid the world of Jews and others they thought inferior to the German race. The tour continues at Auschwitz II (Birkenau) where you see the actual sleeping quarters as well as of remains of the crematoriums where the victims went to "shower". A visit to Auschwitz is sobering and you leaves you feeling disturbed, but l believe it should be seen so we don't forget the past. Tips on visiting: Only smaller bags and backpacks are allowed, so make sure to leave the bigger bags at home. You should also bring some water in plastic bottles with you as you spend a lot of time walking.
Więźniów Oświęcimia 20, 32-603 Oświęcim, Poland
+48 33 844 81 00
Sun - Sat 8am - 3pm