A visit to Krakow creates an opportunity to take a trip to several places in the area around the city. The Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau is just over an hour away and commemorates the suffering of millions of prisoners and victims of the Nazi genocide. A tour of Auschwitz is an extremely moving experience and a look inside one of the darkest chapters of human history.
The exhibit on the grounds of the former concentraion camp documents how the facility operated and what life was like for prisoners inside the death camp. The museum is spread over two locations. The first, referred to Auschwitz I, was a pre-war Polish army barracks and is known for its gateway, above which is the infamous “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work makes you free”) sign. The other part of the museum, called Auschwitz II, includes the Birkenau extermination camp and gas chambers. Transport between the two locations is included in Auschwitz Tours but can be easily covered on foot if you prefer.
Block #4 in Auschwitz I houses an enormous collection of personal items taken from prisoners. The number of items and the manner in which they were collected testifies to the scale of the crime and cruelty of the regime that turned the camp into such a hellish place. The terror of what happened at Auschwitz is illustrated by many small pieces of history like empty cans of Zyklon B, used to lethal effect in the gas chambers. In the part of the exhibition devoted to representing daily life in the camp, visitors can see part of the extensive documentation collected by the Nazis in the form of photographs taken of prisoners along with their date of arrival and date of death. Attaching faces to the anonymous fate of so many leaves a deep and moving impression on visitors.
An especially meaningful stop on the tour of Auschwitz I is the so-called Block of Death and the reconstructed Death Wall. Here visitors learn about the purpose of the building and some of the methods of punishment, torture and execution that were used. Most visits to Auschwitz I end with a stop at the gas chambers and crematoria.
Auschwitz II at Birkenau lets visitors walk freely among the ruins of the crematoria and wooden barracks that housed prisoners. The shower and processing building is also open to the public as well.
Preparing for Auschwitz Tours
A visit to Auschwitz is very unique for obvious reasons. Preparing both mentally and in terms of what you will see there and its historical background is often helpful.
It’s easy to arrange a guided tour of Auschwitz with transportation from Krakow. Remember to dress accordingly and not to bring bags larger than size A4. The recommended minimum age for visitors is 14. You can find more information at Auschwitz Tours.