Auschwitz – Birkenau Visitors Travel Guide Advice And Information Before Visiting The Auschwitz Memorial Museum & Birkenau

includes information about Auschwitz and Burkina Camps their connection to the Holocaust – advice on taking children to them and how to travel; them plus a video

Auschwitz & Birkenau Symbols Of The Holocaust

By definition the ‘Holocaust ‘ was  the systematic  persecution of around six millions Jews which was state sponsored by Germany’s ruling Nazis party.  The Nazis central justification for this was that the country’s economic ills were compounded by the influence and wealth of it’s Jewish community which had to be annulled if following World War 1 Germany was going to become a credible European power again.   To do this  the Nazis party proposed that Jews should be identified, disenfranchised  and then denied any rights that were afforded to non Jews.

Thus when the Nazis first gained power they legislated that German Jews could have their assets and money expropriated and that they could be imprisoned indefinitely in detention camps and forced to work, The first of these camps was Dachau was opened in 1933 by Heinrich Himmler. These policies encouraged or forced many German Jews to emigrate.

Woven into this anti-Semitism were the imperial aspirations of Hitler and his inner circle  in the Nazis Party to expand German influence beyond the borders it inherited when Hitler became the German Chancellor  in 1933.  This meant that any exodus of Jews from Germany to neighbouring countries where Jews were a  significant percentage of the population (Poland for example) would only defer what the Nazis perceived as the long term ‘Jewish Question’.

By 1938 the Hitler’s Nazis Party had decided that their revitalised Germany could successfully occupy Czechoslovakia and Poland,  Initially under German rule the Jews in these counties would like those in Germany be suppressed and detained but ultimately because of the numbers involved they would have to be exterminated.  This policy referred to as the ‘Final Solution’ subsequently resulted in there being 22 concentration and death camps established between 1933 and 1945.

In contemporary terms,many people if asked to give a symbol of the Holocaust would probably cite the World War Two concentration and extermination camps at Auschwitz and nearby Birkenau.  Auschwitz was at the outset of WW2 a Polish military base and where the Nazis experimented on how to kill hundreds of people quickly with gas..  When these experiments were over they built Birkenau  2km from Auschwitz.  Birkenau was a factory of death with a rail spur from the national rail network where thousands of people from all over Europe where transported daily to be gassed.

Though these death camps have become the most notorious and prolific examples of the Holocaust one should not forget that thousands of people suffered and died at the other camps  Others were killed or slaughtered in their homes or publically in occupied towns and cities.

Auschwitz and Birkenau  are symbols of the Holocaust  and for many people visiting them it is a pilgrimage especially with those that had family or friends that perished there or elsewhere. For others it is an attempt to understand hate prejudice and  mans inhumanity to man.  Whatever your reason for going you might find it very sobering  and decide that the troughs in your life are not as bad as they might have seemed.


Advice And Information Before Visiting The Death & Concentration Camps At Auschwitz – Birkenau

Auschwitz & Birkenau  Camps Today

Today, over 72  years after it’s liberation by Russia’s Red Army, 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 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 experience..

When visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau  you will be left in doubt that those who were imprisoned, tortured and died at Auschwitz and Birkenau near Oswiecim Poland there was little or no dignity. Equally you will realise that 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.

For the friends, relatives and descendents of people sent to Auschwitz and Birkenau  trying to comprehend what happened here can be a very emotional experience, Trying to understand what drove people  to commit  this calculated systematic wickedness and other atrocities during the the Holocaust is equally daunting.

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 over seventy 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 and leave them wondering the next time acts of religious or racial genocides is reported in the media whether mankind has learnt any lessons from the Holocaust.


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 Information Guide

Click the travel guides for Gdansk Krakow of Warsaw if you are based in one of those cities

For location and travel information see the travel guide section below

We strongly advise you to visit Auschwitz before visiting Birkenau as the film and background documentation to the building of Birkenau is held at Auschwitz,

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  Without a  guide  it is very easy to spend 3-4 hours here  before you go to Birkenau.

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. This is a vast place – it’s enormity is frightening

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 no dignity in dying or in the life of the few that survived to burn the dead.  Now over seventy years n though sanitised it has an unnerving eerie silence about it.


Auschwitz Travel Guide  – Travelling  To Auschwitz Birkenau

 GPS coordinates: 19.20363 E, 50.0266 N

Coordinates: 50°02′09″N 19°10′42″E

The Auschwitz Camp and Memorial Museum is about a kilometre from the town of Oswiecim. When travelling by road and on public transport follow the signs for this town as Auschwitz is not shown as a destination on some maps and timetables. It is shown on road signs from Oswiecim

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.

Cautionary Note:  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 €2-4 approx 16-20pln

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


Travelling Between Auschwitz  & Birkenau  Camps

The distance between these places is about 1.5km. There is a free hourly bus service.


Euromost Editorial 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.


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



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