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Auschwitz-Birkenau Krakow Tour, Auschwitz Tours (from 36€)

Going on a tour to Auschwitz-Birkenau Krakow, you will visit the former concentration and extermination camp built by Nazi Germany. The camp was established in 1940 in Oświęcim (German: Auschwitz), in former Polish Army barracks. The camp is the symbol of Holocaust and terrible suffering of innocent people.

The name Auschwitz-Birkenau Krakow in German means the names of three towns, Oświęcim (Auschwitz), Brzezinka (Birkenau) and Monowice (Monowitz). The area of the camp included:

  • Auschwitz I- the first camp, called the parent camp. It was mainly a forced-labour camp and an administrative centre for the whole complex.
  • Auschwitz II- Birkenau- in the beginning it was a concentration camp, later became the place of extermination, where gas chambers and crematoria were located.
  • Auschwitz III- Monowitz- a forced-labour camp at the Buna Werke, the industrial complex of I.G. Farben.


Auschwitz Birkenau Krakow

After the liberation of prisoners in 1945 and the termination of hostilities in 1947, a memorial and museum was established on the former camp lands. The museum was built to remind of the brutality of Nazis and to prevent similar practice. Nowadays tourists can visit two parts of the camp, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II Birkenau.

On a tour of Auschwitz Krakow you can see a permanent exhibition, which consists of visiting the camp’s grounds and original or partially reconstructed barracks. Apart from that, you’ll see plenty of documentary photographs, photocopies of documents, models and sculptures. In block 11, you can visit Saint Maximilian Kolbe's prison cell. The exhibition holds also original prisoner garments, bunks and other furnishings from prisoner rooms. One of the exhibits which draw attention are the suitcases of deported Jews packed with their possessions, and postcards, signed but never sent to families.

Auschwitz Krakow

At the museum there are more personal exhibits of dead prisoners which could be listed. The exhibition is located in blocks 4, 5, 6, 7, and 11.

Auschwitz tours consist of visiting also the second camp of the network, Auschwitz II- Birkenau. It was the place of extermination, the biggest Nazi German death camp. In Birkenau died the biggest number of Auschwitz prisoners, more than 1 million. It was the place were especially designed gas chambers with crematoria were planned and constructed. In the beginning they were located in makeshift cottages and later in especially designed buildings.

Auschwitz Tours

The area of Auschwitz Birkenau Krakow covered 140 hectares and was divided into a couple of bigger parts:

  • The women’s camp, opened in 1942. In the beginning it was the first part of the camp where about a 1000 of Soviet prisoners of war from Auschwitz were located. Later it was the men’s part of the camp and finally the women’s part.
  • A registration and quarantine camp for men prisoners, opened in August 1943.
  • A family camp for Jews from Theresienstadt, opened in September 1943.
  • The men’s camp, ready in July 1942.
  • The Gypsy camp- the first part was opened in February 1943 for Gypsy families (Zigeunerlager). It was liquidated in August 1944.
  • Kanada, opened in December 1943. It was the name of barracks next to Crematorium IV, which served as a warehouse complex where baggage confiscated from victims was stored. Behind Kanada there was a building called the New Sauna, where new prisoners were brought.
  • Meksyk- the transit camp for Jewish women from Hungary, opened in 1944. There was no light, water and sewage system.
  • The Red and the White House (Bunkier II)- brick cottages of displaced Brzezinka residents, converted into gassing facilities.
  • Crematoria II, III, IV and V- a complex of gas chambers and crematoria used to burn the corpses.
  • A complex of sewage treatment, the SS buildings, huge cargo sheds to store potatoes and many other buildings.
 

Apart from the permanent exhibition, visitors can also see displays known as the national exhibitions, which show the diversity of prisoners’ nationalities. They are supposed to present that the prisoners were not only Jews, but also Poles, Croats, Gypsies, Bulgarians and many others. It’s worth mentioning that the first prisoners of Auschwitz Krakow were Poles from prisons in Tarnów and Nowy Sącz.  

Nowadays, historians estimate that at least 1.3 million people were sent to the camp, among others:

  • 1 million of Jews,
  • about 150,000 of Poles,
  • 23,000 of Romanis
  • More than 30,000 of others of diverse nationalities.
 

Auschwitz Birkenau Tour

The Auschwitz-Birkenau tour is a good lesson of history and lets us get to know the world of the camp’s prisoners. The tour will stay in your memory for a long time. Going under the gate with the sign Arbeit macht frei (English: work makes you free) shows the brutality of Nazi Germans. Despite the fact that the Auschwitz-Birkenau tour is not very pleasing and provides many shocking information, it should be the obligatory place to see for Polish tourists on account of the memory of the camp’s victims and to protect people from similar practice. The most important points on Auschwitz-Birkenau tour are:

  • Crematoria
  • Death Wall
  • Block 11
  • Displays of human hair, artificial limbs, shoes, etc.
  • Displays of photographs and documents
  • Stories of everyday life in the camp told by professional guides
  • Stories of escape attempts and methods of punishment
  • Awareness that we can leave the camp alive
 

The museum is open for tourists almost all year long, with a few exceptions. To visit its two parts, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II Birkenau, you should set aside about 90 minutes for each part. During the visit, a documental film shot by German torturers is shown. The film shows the brutality and cruelty to prisoners and the scrupulosity of Germans because if they hadn’t recorded and photographed their genocide, the world would never have learnt about it. The museum holds a lot of interesting exhibits which are worth to see with concentration, that’s why it’s good to reserve the whole day for the Auschwitz tour.  

Auschwitz Krakow - Categories of prisoners

It is estimated that 1.3 million people were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau Krakow and at least 1.1 million of them died. Among them were:

  • Jews - the biggest group of the camp population after mid-1942. Before the majority group of prisoners were Poles. Around 90 percent of the Nazis’ victims in the camp were Jews.
  • Poles - according to the Nazi plan, after the liquidation of the Polish country, Polish people were supposed to be annihilated and their lands completely exploited and germanized. Poles were to enter the camp as a free labour resource in the war industry, although some of them arrived already with death sentences, for example, political prisoners, the mentally ill, the elderly or the infirm. The Nazis put the plan into operation destroying not only the Polish nation but also its culture and intelligence. It is estimated that 150 thousand Poles were sent to the camp.
  • Sinti and Roma (Gypsies) - considered enemies of the Third Reich, inferior and antisocial, that’s why they were sentenced to extermination too. They had a special place in the camp, called Gypsy camp. Approximately 20 thousand Gypsies died or were murdered in the camp.
  • Soviet POWs - treated exceptionally brutally. Despite the international convention of Treatment of Prisoners of War signed in Geneva, many of them were killed immediately after arriving at the camp. An estimated 15 thousand POWs arrived in Auschwitz.
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses- imprisoned because of their believes and faith.
  • Other ethnic groups, about 25 thousand prisoners of other nationality, such as Czechs, Byelorussians, Germans, French, Russians, Yugoslavians, Ukrainians, Albanians, Belgians, Danes, Dutch, Greeks, Hungarians, Italians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Luxembourgers, Norwegians, Romanians, Slovaks, Spaniards, and Swiss.
  • Homosexuals- unknown number.

    The prisoners were marked according to a system of different colour triangles. However, some groups of prisoners weren’t marked at all or were marked in other way. There were five colours which distinguished categories of ‘crimes’. Political prisoners, who were mostly Poles, were sent to Auschwitz on the basis of a ‘protective custody order’ and had to wear red triangles. Criminal inmates, mostly Germans who had committed a forbidden act, wore green triangles. Asocial prisoners, such as the Roma, vagrants, prostitutes and people imprisoned for a wide range of other ‘crimes’, were marked with black triangles. Jehovah’s Witnesses, considered the enemies of the Third Reich because of their pacifistic beliefs, had to wear purple triangles. The last group, who wore the pink ones, marked homosexuals who were exclusively German.  

    Living conditions in Auschwitz Krakow

    The everyday life of prisoners in the camp was very uncomfortable because the barracks were overcrowded. At the beginning of its functioning, barracks were not furnished at all and people had to sleep on straw-stuffed mattresses laid on the floor. Then three-tiered bunks appeared and were of course occupied by much more than three inmates. In the barracks there was neither heating in winter nor sanitary facilities, that’s why prisoners were dirty and had problems with frequent epidemics of contagious diseases.

    Every working day started at 4:30 in summer and 5:30 in winter. After hearing a gong, inmates got up, tidied their barracks and drank their coffee or tea. After the second gong, they went outside and were counted during roll call. Then they started their work, which lasted minimum 11 hours and was prolonged in summer and shortened in winter. They had one hour break at noon to eat unsavoury soup. Before nightfall they came back to the camp, often carrying the bodies of those who had died during the labour or been killed by SS. After the evening roll call at 7 o’clock, the prisoners got their evening bread and had some free time until 9 o’clock, when after the gong the nighttime silence was announced. They had Sundays and holidays free, it was time when they could mend or wash their clothes, tidy up their barracks or wash themselves. They could also send letters to their families. The insufficient nutrition and hard work led to emaciation and starvation sickness which was a frequent cause of deaths in the camp.  

    Medical experiments - Auschwitz Birkenau Krakow

    Carrying out experiments on prisoners was another way of making life in Auschwitz-Birkenau a horror. Many German physicians and university professors took part in this atrocious crime. The purposes of experiments were to improve the state of Nazi soldiers’ health and increase the population of the Nordic race after war, according to their racial ideology of superiority. Apart from that, experiments were carried out on behalf of German pharmaceutical companies, such as IG Farbenindustrie and Bayer, or to advance academic careers.

    One of the experiments concerned the best method to get rid of nations regarded by the Nazis as undesirable. One of them was a method of non-surgical mass sterilization, during which doctors introduced a chemical irritant into the Fallopian tubes, which caused acute inflammation and their obstruction. Frequent complications led to many deaths and women who survived this procedure were killed anyway, so that autopsies could be performed. The other method consisted in exposure of the men and women’s sexual organs to x-rays, which left them with radiation burns and numerous deaths.

    Probably the most famous Nazi doctor was Josef Mengele, who was researching the issues of twins, dwarfism, different coloured irises and the gangrenous disease. He compared twins’ jaws, teeth and fingerprints, and after collecting these data he killed them with injections of phenol to the heart, so he could compare their internal organs. Prisoners were also used to test new drugs or unnecessary surgeries, just for the sake of practice.  

    Punishments and executions - Auschwitz Krakow

    The inmates of the camp were punished on the basis of many infractions, such as acquiring additional food, poor work, smoking, wearing non-regulation clothes, or trying to commit suicide. To the most common punishments belonged flogging confinement in block 11, ‘the post’ or assignment to the penal company. Flogging in public during evening roll call was a part of everyday life. It was done using a special construction called the ‘goat’ and heavy sticks or a bullwhip. Block 11 was destined to confine prisoners in different types of cells, such as dark or standing cells. It was also the place where inmates confined to death by starvation were sent. The ‘post’ was a very painful punishment, during which the prisoner’s hands were tied behind his back and he was hung from a post, which often caused permanent injuries and made the victim unable to work because he couldn’t move his arms. As a consequence of being unable to work, they were sent to the gas chamber. Prisoners who were condemned to the penal company had to perform the hardest work during which they were beaten by SS men. This punishment lasted from one month to even one year. Other punishments included bans on letters and parcels, penal physical exercise, starvation diet or penal roll calls.

    As a death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau was also a place of execution. Some people were sent there to be killed immediately or after a certain time, others were sentenced to death during their stay in the camp, for example for trying to escape. There were various ways of execution. One of them was shooting in the back of the head, usually in front of a ‘Death Wall’. Another one was hanging, which took place in public to cow other inmates. Starvation to death was often practiced to take the hostages who were to turn somebody in after an attempt to escape.  

    Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau

    With the approach of the Red Army to the camp, the Nazis decided to liquidate it to disguise the camp’s real destination and destroy the evidence of the barbarity they had committed. In November 1944, the mass extermination in gas chambers was ceased and they started to pull down the crematoria, liquidate the pits of human ashes and records of prisoners. In January they started so-called ‘Death Marches’, during which thousands of prisoners were to march out of the camp in evacuation columns and walk many kilometers heading west. Plenty of people died of exhaustion on their way and those who tried to escape or were too weak to follow were shot. It is estimated that around 15 thousand people died during the Death Marches.

    On January 27, 1945, the Red Army entered the camp and found there about 7 thousand prisoners waiting for liberation and first help. Many Polish people living near the camp volunteered to help, mainly the members of the Polish Red Cross.  




  • Auschwitz-Birkenau Tour Overall rating: 5 out of 5 based on 2 reviews.

    Awesome tour to Auschwitz-Birkenau

    ★★★★★
    5 5 1
    Thank you for many interesting informations. Tour to Auschwitz-Birkenau was an unforgettable experience.

    Auschwitz-Birkenau Tour

    ★★★★★
    5 5 1
    Worth to see historical place. Professional guide told us many interesting facts and stories.

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    Adres:

    Oświęcim
    Auschwitz-Birkenau, Polska

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