Auschwitz – Birkenau Travel Guide For Those Thinking Of Visiting Or Making A Tour To The Auschwitz Memorial Musem & Birkenau
Important Note: Some if the images and pictures on this page may be disturbing and may not be suitable for younger children
Advice & Information for Visitors Planning To Visit The Nazis Concentration & Death Camps At Auschwitz Birkenau Which Were Probably The Most Notorious Camps During The Holocaust
Things To Consider Before You Visit Auschwitz
For those who were imprisoned, tortured and died at Auschwitz and Birkenau near Oswiecim Poland there was little or no dignity. Equally, for the few that miraculously have survived the trauma of experiencing and being witness to the pure wickedness of Auschwitz and Birkenau their survival may have been as painful. The friends, relatives and descendents of both have, along with others since tried to understand this calculated systematic wickedness and other similar atrocities committed against the Jews during the the Holocaust.
Even if you have no relatives or or friends who were murdered here a visit to the Nazis Death & Concentration Camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau sixty six years after it was liberated, however informed or prepared you are at the outset, it is likely to be a distinctly sobering experience. For some, after travelling to Auscnwitz and Birkenau, the experience will broaden their perspectives on life.
Auschwitz & Birkenau Today
Today the enviroment of Auschwitz is designatd as the Auschwitz Museum and it incorporates buildings built before and during Wotld War Two.. Though these buildings have been santised compared with the conditions that prevailed there during the war there is no attempt to censor what they were used for.as the ethos of the Auschwitz is to document the truth about the purpose of the camp in the memory of its victims and in the hope that it will educate humanity about the possible consequences of hate and prejuidice
It is advisable to visit ‘the Auschwitz Museum’ before the ‘Birkenau Camp as the former explains the history of the two camps. Simplified at the outbreak of World War Two ‘Auschwitz was a Polish army barracks which was commandered by the SS. It was here that Dr Mengele conducted horrendous medical experiments on children many of them twins. It was here that the gas for use in the gas chambers of Auschwitch and other camps was developed. To facilitate the ‘final solution’ the Birnkenau camp was subsequently built.
Birkenau, the purpose built factory of death which evolved from the initial extermination of prisoners in the gas ovens of Auschwitz is a vast open air area populated by buildings designed to process the victims of the Holocaust. These buildngs sparsely surround the railway sidings which where the end of the journey for train loads of Jews forcibly transported from other parts of Nazis occupied Europe. Little has changed here since 1945 apart from the post war marble and stone Memorial beyond the end of the sidings. Even on a warm day this place can have a distinct coldness about it which is compouned by it’s sheer enormity which iis difficult to describe and bewildering to actually experiemce..
Taking Children and Teenagers To Auschwitz
Today, day trips to Auschwitz and Birkenau are for many European children and students an integral part of their education whether it be from a historical or humanities syallabus. However many adults are often ask is a trip to Ausxhwitz and Birkenau is suitable place for young children or teenagers ? Obviously the answer to this question depends on the maturity of the imdividual child. With teenagers there is a rational argument for a day trip to Auschwitz and Birkenau as it highlights the ultimate consequences of political extremism. (leftwing or rightwing) racial hated and religious persecution. A similiar argument can be made for children between seven and twelve years of age if they are emmotionally stable and accompanied by an adult who has a rational comprehension of what happened and a willingness to answer a barrage of difficult questions.
Under the age of seven the merits of taking childen to Auschwitz and Birkenau diminish dramatically as their cognitive devolopment is likely to be insufficient to rationalise what they see.and any knowledge they absorb from the visit. Very young children especially those who live in safe and secure ‘walled garden’ might find such a trip traumatic and far to rude awakening to the real world and possibly a recipe for nightmares..
Visiting Auschwitz & Birkenau – Travel Information Guide
.Travelling To Auschwitz
Travel Guide Advice & Information for Visitors Planning To Visit The Nazis Auschwitz & Birkenau WW2 Concentration & Death Camps.
To visit both places may take several hours so this is effectively a day trip. Some tour operators and local coach companies will suggest that that you it is possible to do visit both camps in two – four hours. This is not sufficient time. Please read the advice given carefully.
Admission to the Museum is free It is open seven days a week as follows:
- 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM December through February
- 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM March, November
- 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM April, October
- 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM May, September
- 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM June, July, August
On Arrival At The Auschwitz Museum
Please note this is not like any normal museum as it is the place where the the methods of imprisonment, torture and murder were tried and tested before the death camp at ‘ Birkenau ‘ was built. Close to the main entrance there is a small cinemea which screens a very informative short film about the history of Auchwitz and Birkenau. This documentary is strongly recommended as it gives visitors an insight to the the sequence of events that culminated in the worst genocide of the 20th century. The English version of the documentary is generally shown at 11am daily.
You can go around the camp alone or you can join a guided tour. The cost of this is €45 -€50 for a three and half hour tour with 15 other people. Full details on the official Auschwitz site. The guided tours are very informative and detailed and available in many languages.
For some, visiting the Auschwitz Museum and its many attendant horrors is very personal experience and emotional experience. It can be disturbing and may be something not everyone wishes to share with strangers . For those who choose to go around alone detailed information in english is displayed throughout the museum.
There is also a good cafe which is very useful if your visit is at a sedate pace Unaccomapanied it is very easy to spend 3-4 hours here.
Travelling Between The Auschwitz Musuem & The Birkenau Death Camp
The distance between these places is about 1.5km. There is a free hourly bus service.
Birkenau Death Camp
Watching the film and viewing the pictures of this place at ‘The Museum’ before coming here gives you a basic understanding of Birkenau. However, it is still very sobering walking around what was simply a factory of death.
Birkenau was the final stop for thousands of prisoners who had been brought here by trains from all over europe. It’s sheer size makes it very difficult to comprehend the scale and size of the operation of slaughter which took place. The fact that around 75% of each train load of prisoners died in the gas chambers within hour of arriving here preys on your mind as you walk alongside the rail tracks.
Even on a warm summers day it has a definite air of coldness and that with the rarity of birds gives you the feeling that you have reached a place which was hell on earth. A place from which for so many there was no escape and where there was was no dignity in dying or in the life of the few that survived to burn the dead.Now sixty four years on though sanitised it has an unnerving eerie silence about it.
This is a vast place – it’s enormity is frightening & it is easy to spend 3/4 hours here.
Travelling To Auschwitz 1km from Oswiecim
GPS coordinates: GPS coordinates: 19.20363 E, 50.0266 N
International Airports: Krakow International & Katowice.
Nearest Major Towns: Krakow and Katowice.
Closest Railway Station: Oswiecim. Oswiecim is accessible by road from Krakow and Katowice the above places using the A4 & 933.
Public Transport: It is possible to travel by train from Katowice or Krakow to Oswiecim Stn which is about 1km from The Auschwitz Museum. These train services can take up to 2.5 hours. The services from Krakow are not recommended as they depart at breakfast time and arriving 2 hours before the screening of a short but informative film (in english) at 11am.
Recommended Travel: The most practical journey is by coach from the terminus outside Krakow main railway. station. This leaves daily at 9am arriving at The Auschwitz Museum at 10.30 costing around €6.00 or 20PLN.
When waiting for the bus you may be invited by touts to travel to Auschwitz in a luxury private minibus. These services, cost anything from €20 or 70 PLN upwards (you will be asked for double these amounts at first), have a serious drawback as your stay is limited from 2-4 hrs which is not long enough to visit Auschwitz and Birkenbau
Return Jouneys: Check with the coach driver on your out-ward jouney the time of the last return jouney. This is usually about 6pm from the main road directly outside The Museum. Please note the return services unlike the out-ward services do not enter the car park. You can check these details on arrival at the information desk.
Alternative Return Journeys:
After this time you may have to walk to Oswiecim Station and get a train or alternatively a minibus from the opposite side of the road to the station. The minibus servicess cost approx €1-2 approx 8-10pln
Polish National Rail Network Services To & From Oswiecim: Full details of these services can be found at the following Polish Railways link.
Important Note For Travellers: When purchasing tickets to Auschwitz at rail stations etc you should ask for ‘ Oswiecim’ . (Auschwitz was the name given to the Camp by the Nazis and many Poles refuse to recognise the name even if they know what you mean).
For further information on the cities of Krakow Gdansk & Warsaw in Poland please go to our Poland Page
Editorial Advice & Comment
For those who were imprisoned, tortured and died at Auschwitz there was no dignity. Equally, for the few that have survived the trauma of experiencing and being witness to the pure wickedness of Auschwitz their survival may have been as painfall. The friends, relatives and descendents of both have, along with others since, sought to understand this and similar atrocities against humanity.
Though The Auschwitz Musuem offers no explanation of the mindset of the perputrators of this barbarism, but it illustrates the methodology and consequences of this genocide - both in historical and contemporary terms. Being able to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau is a privelege simply because one is free to walk away. It is an opportunity to pay one’s respects, contemplate and perhaps to understand one’s own mortality, vunerabilty and weaknesses.
Today the one saving grace in Auschwitz and Birkenau is the way the Polish Authorities, The International Council of Auschwitz and the Management and Staff of the Museum have empathetically preserved and maintained the site.
Thankfully this is is not a commercial enterprise, admission is free and transport between The Museum and Birkenau is also free. Wherever you are in Poland this is the one place you must visit.
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Auschwitz & Birkenau Video video contribution from Yad Vashem @ YouTube
The Auschwitz Album- Visual Evidence of Mass Murder at Auschwitz-Birkenau
The Auschwitz Album is the only surviving visual evidence of the process of mass murder at Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is a unique document and was donated to Yad Vashem by Lilly Jacob-Zelmanovic Meier