When going to Krakow, it is worth visiting Oświęcim to pay a visit to the Auschwitz Birkenau Memorial and Museum. The Auschwitz camp was the largest center for the mass extermination of European Jews and at the same time the largest concentration camp for prisoners of various nationalities. Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, it is not only a testimony of history, but also a symbol of war, terror, genocide and the Holocaust.
The shocking history of Auschwitz
The Nazi concentration and extermination camp was built by the Germans during World War II in Oświęcim, located approximately 70 km away from Kraków. Originally established as a labor camp for political prisoners, it soon became an extermination camp, the largest murder place of Jews, Poles, Gypsies and many other nationalities in terms of the number of victims. It is estimated that at Auschwitz-Birkenau, over 1.1 million men, women and children lost their lives.
A place of homage and remembrance of a cruel story
The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim, together with the Memorial Site, covers the area of two preserved parts, the main camp Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau, three kilometers away. Within the boundaries of Auschwitz, the original and partially reconstructed railway sidings and ramps, gas chambers, prisoners’ barracks and fences have been preserved. In the museal part, there are historical exhibits – photograps and documents, prisoners ‘clothes and private belongings taken from prisoners, as well as barracks’ equipment. The cinema located at the main entrance to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum shows films about the history of the camp, including a 15-minute documentary showing the first moments after the liberation of the camp.
When planning a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, it is worth taking into account that for many people it can be a difficult experience. However, it is one of those places that should be seen at least once in a lifetime in order to understand the history of the modern world and to shape the individual and collective memory of Auschwitz. Due to the great interest of the Museum in Oświęcim by tourists, the visit should be planned well in advance. The best before coming to Krakow.
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
20 Więźniów Oświęcimia Street
+48 33 844 8000