Header Ads

Visiting The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

The concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau are located in Oświęcim around 70kms west of Krakow. These camps which saw the cruel massacre of more than 1 million people during the World War remain one of the most inescapable reminders of human cruelty and human suffering.

We had read and seen documentaries on these concentration camps and on our recent visit to Poland we set aside a day for Auschwitz. We had no idea what to expect from the visit considering the horror associated with the place and the sheer scale of the human massacre.

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Auschwitz


Arriving at the Auschwitz camp, we went through a quick security check and then found ourselves walking through the infamous Auschwitz gate with the sign 'Arbeit Mach Frei' ('work sets you free' in English). This slogan can be seen at the entrances to a number of concentration camps and one can only imagine the psychological impact it would have had on all those who walked through the gates in those days.

The camp contains a number of buildings, some of which house exhibitions now and are open to the public. These exhibitions depict various aspects of the camp, the life during the war, the living conditions and the treatment of the prisoners. We spent around an hour at this camp looking at all the photographs and the stories listed out in the exhibitions. It was incredibly sad. How could human beings have been so cruel to fellow human beings?

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum


Birkenau


From Camp 1 we then took a shuttle bus (runs every half hour between the two camps) to Birkenau. Located 3 km away, Birkenau is the bigger camp where millions of innocent people lived and died in absolutely inhuman conditions. When we reached Birkenau, we were shocked by the scale of the camp. It stretched as far as our eyes could see - so many barracks! And we learnt that the camp was being expanded even as the allied army was approaching.

The train tracks, the gatehouse tower, the rows of barracks - everything reminds you of the people who were brought into the camps and never managed to make their way out. Absolutely horrific. Towards the end of the camp is the place where the crematoriums used to be. Birkenau is also where the infamous gas chambers were located. These were eventually destroyed to get rid of the evidence.

We wandered around the camp looking at some more buildings which used to house the prisoners - places where they were stripped both of their belongings and their dignity. It was a disturbing experience. We just couldn't comprehend how human beings could have been so cruel to their own kind. As we headed back to Krakow, we were mentally drained. The visit did have an impact on us. And I guess that is the reason, the camps have been preserved/reconstructed - so that no one forgets the horrific events ever.

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum


Auschwitz Tickets and Guided Tours


Based on our experience, I would recommend that you set aside around 90 minutes for the Auschwitz site and around 2-3 hours for the Birkenau site. You also need to factor in the time travelling to Oświęcim from Krakow or wherever you are based.

Admission to the sites is free; however, you need to book your free entry pass on the Auschwitz-Birkenau website prior to your visit. This will entitle you to free entry without a guide/educator. If you prefer to go for a guided tour in a group, there is a fee payable. You can do this directly on the Auschwitz-Birkenau website or use one of the many private tour operators who run daily tours to the camps. It is also possible for individual visitors (at certain times of the day) to assemble into a group and engage the services of a guide.

Getting There


If you engage the services of a tour company, they will arrange for hotel pickups, so you don't have to worry about transportation. These tours (via local agents) were priced at 150PLN per person (when we visited) and include the services of a tour leader (guide).

If you want to do the tour on your own, there are many ways to reach Oświęcim.

Oświęcim is around 70kms from Krakow and there are direct trains from Krakow (Main Train Station Krakow) to Oświęcim (takes less than 2 hours and trains run once every hour or two). There is 20-30 minutes walk from the train station to the Auschwitz Camp. Alternatively, you can take a bus from the railway station which involves a journey time of around 10 minutes. When we visited the fare was around 16PLN per person one way.

Another mode of transport is by bus. Buses (from a number of different bus operators like GT Trans, Lajkonik etc.) depart regularly from the Krakow Dworzec MDA station and tickets cost around 12PLN per person one way. Tickets can be purchased from the main ticket office or directly from the bus driver. The Auschwitz stop is closer to the camp (museum) - around 10 minutes walk.

Note: The prices mentioned in the article are based on what it was during our visit in February 2018. 


Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

12 comments:

  1. I know many people say to visit Auschwitz, but I don't think I could stomach it. It's horrifying enough watching documentaries about the holocaust, so to visit and feel the energy would be too much for my sensitive soul! Thanks for the tips anyway; if I do ever visit, I'll be prepared.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This was a very humbling and moving experience. If you go to Krakow, I would recommend taking this tour.

      Delete
  2. Ahhh visiting Auschwitz is one my bucket list! I'm surprised to hear you recommend spending more time at Birkenau than Auschwitz. It's so nice to read someones suggestion like this- thank you! This made me so much more excited to book our trip and visit!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, based on our experience visiting both the sites, I would recommend setting aside more time for Auschwitz II or Birkenau (which was a concentration as well as a n extermination camp).

      Delete
  3. After visiting the Holocaust museum in Washington, DC, I'm sure visiting Auschwitz is such an emotional experience. Just seeing the box of shoes and the photos on the wall had me crying before we left. Your post just left me with the same feeling and I know this is something I'll have to do one day soon. In the times we're in, I feel it's so important to remember things like this so that we don't do it all again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a haunting place but as you rightly say 'that' horrible time in history shouldn't be forgotten!

      Delete
  4. This is such an sad and dark place but it is part of our history, so I would definitely like to visit here someday. I can imaging how I might feel and I have heard from so many who visited, that it really affected them strongly. Thanks for the very informative post for those who are planning a visit.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have seen enough documentary and movies and read a lot about the cruelty. Though I agree that visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum would be an experience of a lifetime. I still don't know whether I can hold my emotions seeing it real, but I would definitely like to visit.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I haven't heard about this place earlier. This is indeed dark and sad part of History. Your photographs took me aback. I wonder If I have guts to visit such a place.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Although I find such places quite depressing, however, being a history buff, I would still like to visit this place that provides an insight into some chapters of a bygone era. The chapters that have seen the worst behaviour of mankind and the ones that remind us not to repeat it in future. The chapters that preserve the tears and sufferings of the victims. The energies of this place must be heart-rending but at the same time remind us that we have come out of that dark period. Thanks for sharing the helpful tips.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This must have been such an emotional experience as the story behind this was so heart breaking but it's important that we do not forget as to ensure that Auschwitz never happens again. I love the effect that you have done with the photographs and it really compliments the tone of your post :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment, Lisa. Yes, it was an emotional experience.

      Delete

Powered by Blogger.