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Auschwitz

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Travel Guide Europe Poland Auschwitz

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Introduction

Train line with a chilling end - Berkenau

Train line with a chilling end - Berkenau

© All Rights Reserved carosterns

The concentration camp of Auschwitz (in Polish: Oświęcim) is one of Poland's major sights. Even today it is not hard to imagine what this place must have looked like in the 1940-1945 period. The fortified walls, barbed wire, barracks, 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, which was the largest concentration camp. It is believed that as many as 1.1 million people were systematically murdered in the camp's gas chambers, those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, lack of disease control, individual executions, and medical experiments. 90 percent of those people were jews. The other were mainly Polish citizens, Roma, Sinti and prisoners of war. It is surprising how close the camp is to the village itself. The day Auschwitz was liberated (27th of January) is commemorated around the world as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

These days, it stands as a symbol of humanity's cruelty of the holocaust. The camp serves as a museum. From the hundreds of original barracks only 19 survived.

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Sights and Activities

  • Auschwitz I - was the first camp to be used (therefore called Stammlager). It consists of old Polish military barracks. Inside some of them you will find information material, boards, photos and personal belongings to illustrate the life and cruelties of this camp. The only remaining gas chamber is here but note that, as indicated in the chamber, it was reconstructed to its wartime layout after the war.
  • Main Building - The entrance to Auschwitz I has a museum with a theater where a 15-minute film is shown, shot by Ukrainian troops the day after the camp was liberated. It's too graphic for children (if indeed you bring them to Auschwitz-Birkenau at all), and costs 3.5 zł (included in the price of a guided tour). Showings between 11:00am and 5:00pm (in English at the hour and Polish at the half hour). Highly recommended, but disturbing. Bookstores and bathrooms are here. Consider buying a 5 zł guidebook or 5 zł map.
  • Auschwitz-Birkenau was the second camp and is around 3 kilometres from Auschwitz I. You can still see the entrance gate, the railway track and ramp and many old barracks. The site is huge. You can also see the buildings where incoming prisoners were shaved and given their "new" clothing, the ruins of the four crematoria and gas chamber complexes, ponds where the ashes of thousands of people were dumped without ceremony, and a memorial site. Note that walking through the whole site may take several hours. Some visitors find the experience harrowing. If visiting during cooler months, be aware that in the evening (which comes early during the winter months), the temperature drops very quickly across such a flat open space.

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Opening Hours

  • 8:00am - 3:00pm December through February
  • 8:00am - 4:00pm March, November
  • 8:00am - 5:00pm April, October
  • 8:00am - 6:00pm May, September
  • 8:00am - 7:00pm June, July, August

The camp is closed on January 1, December 25, and Easter Sunday.

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Cost

Krakow 096_Auschwitz Rev

Krakow 096_Auschwitz Rev

© All Rights Reserved david.byne

The entrance to the museum is free.

Guided tours are organised and a general tour which takes about 3.5 hours, costs PLN 236.00 and can be booked on the website.

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Getting There

By Train

The train station of Oświęcim is about 2 km from the museum and there are public town buses connecting them (2.70 zł). There are several local trains each day, both from Kraków and from Katowice, about each 1.5-2 hours. The trip to or from Kraków central station takes a leisurely 2 hours, as the train goes slowly and stops frequently. It costs 9.50 zł.

By Car

Driving from Kraków takes about one hour and you have to leave the A4 motorway at the Oświęcim/Balin exit. There is a big parking lot in Auschwitz I that costs 8 zł for the whole day. 200 metres from Auschwitz II there is another parking lot that costs 2 zł per hour, but also free space for around 40 cars near the main door.

By Bus

There are quite frequent and inexpensive buses (14 złoty each way) to and from the main bus station in Kraków and minibuses (12 zł each way) that depart from the basement level of the main bus station. The bus takes about one and a half hours; it is usually busy and stops locally along the way.

Please take into consideration that the last bus returns at 19:30 to Krakow. Trains also stop running early. If you plan to stay until closing time make arrangements regarding your return beforehand.

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Getting Around

The Auschwitz Memorial and Museum is easily navigated on foot. In order to acquire a proper sense of the place it is essential to visit both parts of the camp.

Tours provided by the museum in various languages cost 40 zł (discounted price for students up to 24 years of age is 30 zł) and are recommended if you want a deeper understanding of the site, but they are unfortunately somewhat rushed, and you can get a pretty good feel by buying a guidebook and map (small simple guide costs 5 zł) and wandering around on your own.

Each exhibit is described in Polish with other language translations. The scope of the evil and terror that occurred here is almost unimaginable and a guide can help to put in context what a room full of human hair or what a thousand pairs of infant shoes means. They'll also tell you about former prisoners who have returned to see the museum.

There are toilets at the Auschwitz-I site which cost 1 zł to use. At Auschwitz II-Birkenau there are free toilets at the back of the camp.

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Eat

There's a basic cafe and cafeteria in the main visitors' centre of Auschwitz I and a coffee machine in the bookshop at Birkenau. More options are in a commercial complex across the street from Auschwitz I, although the quality of one (the Art Hamburger) is rather poor, but a cheap and quick eat. There are hot dog stalls and similar outlets outside the main museum at the end of the bus/car park, with food and drink combinations costing 10-12 zł.

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Sleep

You cannot sleep at the camps. The closest accommodation options are in Oświęcim.

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Galicja Hotel - OswiecimDabrowskiego 119Hotel-

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This is version 15. Last edited at 10:44 on May 16, 17 by Utrecht. 5 articles link to this page.

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