Whilst Auschwitz tours are an extremely sad and sombre affair, far removed from the other sightseeing activities one can enjoy when visiting Krakow, it is something that many people feel they must see and experience once during their lifetime. Auschwitz museum is located 70km west of Krakow.
Auschwitz concentration camp was established near the town of Oswiecim in 1940 where it was first of all used mainly to house Polish prisoners, with some Polish Jews and also a few representatives of nationalities as well. After 1941 and the beginning of battles between the Third Reich and the USSR, many Red Army soldiers were sent to Auschwitz. At its peak there were 150,000 inmates at any one time at Auschwitz. A second camp was then established in Birkenau which was designed as a death camp. It is here the mass extermination of more than a million Jews took place as well as many others. The liberation of the camp happened on 27 January 1945 and since 2005 liberation day is celebrated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau
Two years after the end of World War II a museum was established in the camp, with its main tasks being documentary work, research, conserving the original buildings and grounds of the camp, as well of course serving to educate. Over one million people from all around the world visit the camp each year, with an estimated half of these being Polish.
Whilst it is possible to visit the camp as an individual visitor (please note this is only between the hours of 8am and 10am), a trip to Auschwitz is much more worthwhile if you take one of the knowledgeable guides available. The tour can be taken in a variety of different languages and begins at the main camp. Here you will see a number of exhibitions relating to life at the camp as you learn about the conditions suffered by the prisoners during their time here. There are some very harrowing exhibitions here; most notably pictures of the prisoners who arrived at the camp, as well as a huge collection of personal belongings which starts to bring home the scale of what went on at the prison. Most of the buildings here are open to the public, however be aware that they can get particularly busy during peak times.
After visiting the main camp you then get the chance to visit the second camp, Birkenau. Birkenau is situated 3,5km from Auschwitz and transport is provided between the two camps. Birkenau has less of a ‘museum’ feel to it as it’s been left to give you an impression of what life was like without the need for exhibitions. During this part of the tour you will visit barracks and living quarters as you try to gain an understanding of how the prisoners tried to live during their imprisonment at the camp. At the back of the camp are the remains of the gas chambers where so many people lost their lives during the operation of the camp. This is no doubt perhaps the eeriest part of the tour.
Krakow Guide can help with the arrangement of Auschwitz tours by arranging transfers, booking visit cards, as well as arranging guides in a number of different languages.