Not all tourist attractions are attractive and some are outright heartbreaking. But it is important to never forget - so that humanity can remember and learn from the past. The Auschwitz concentration camp was the largest and most notorious of the over 40 concentration camps operated by Germany during World War Two.
Today it is located in Poland and is open to the public. Visiting Auschwitz is something everyone should consider doing, but also with the understanding that this will be a solemn day of their vacation. Another hard story that can be remembered in America is the Indian Removal Act now remembered in the Trail of Terrors in the Southern States.
The Background and History of Auschwitz
When Germany began World War II by invading Poland in September 1939, Auschwitz I was an army barracks. They then proceeded to convert into a prisoner of war camp. Initially, it was mostly just Polish political detainees held there.
In the course of the war, over 1.3 million people were sent to Auschwitz. Of which 1.1 million (mostly Jews) would never leave - including Anne Frank whose house one can visit today in Amsterdam. It was established with the input of her father - Otto Frank - the only one of the Frank family to return.
During the war, the complex was made up of many subcamps but the largest were:
- Auschwitz I: The Main Camp In Oświęcim (Termed Stammlager)
- Auschwitz II-Birkenau: The Concentration Camp With Gas Chambers
- Auschwitz III-Monowitz: A Labor Camp
The camp was liberated by the Soviet Red Army on 27 January 1945. Only two years later with the country in utter ruins and many millions of its population gone, Poland founded the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on the site of Auschwitz I and II. In 1979 it was named a World Heritage Site.
- Escapees: Only 144 Successfully Escaped From The Camp
- Pre-War: It Was A Polish Military Barracks
- Museum: Established As A Museum In 1947
- Designated: As A UNESCO World Heritage Site In 1979
Visiting Auschwitz Today
For those who wish to understand what went on and what life was like inside that camp during the dark years of World War Two. Well for most of us, it's just not possible. Here it will seem that many other problems one thinks of as major issues pale into insignificance.
But it is possible to get some insight and understanding as emotionally moving as it may be. Today it may have been left largely as it was, but still, it's not what it once was. Today there is green grass, if there was any green grass during those years, it would have been eaten.
The camps that are open to visitors are the grounds and buildings of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau camps.
- Duration: It is Recommended to Spend At Least Three and a Half Hours At The Memorial
Remember that this is a memorial and one should remember that the wounds and scars are far from having healed today. It is important to behave with due solemnity and respect. Also, dress in a manner befitting the solemnity of the place. If one is unsure, one can read the "Rules for Visiting" on the official website.
- Admission: Admission to The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Is Free
- Reservations: Entry Cards Should Be Reserved at visit.auschwitz.org
The Museum is open year-round and seven days a week.
- Open: 8.00 am to 2.00 pm - 7.00 pm Depending on The Season
- Closed: January 1, December 25, and Easter Sunday
If one can't visit in person, then see their Virtual Tour of the Auschwitz Memorial. It includes over 200 high-quality panoramic photographs and 360⁰ images. They are complete with historical descriptions, archived documents, original photographs, and dozens of witness accounts.
Guided Tours Of Auschwitz
If one would like a better understanding of the history of Auschwitz consider a guided educator for the camp. While the entrance is free, there are fees for the guided educators.
Individuals may tour the Memorial independently and or with an organized group with a guide. The memorial museum requests that visitors book in advance on their website as there is a huge interest in the guides. It is recommended to reserve at least two months prior. It is also asked to arrive at least 30 minutes before the start of the tour.
The memorial offers the following guided tours - each includes Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau.
- General tours: Duration 2.5 Hours
- General tours: Duration 3.5 Hours
- Guided tours for Individual Visitors: Duration 3.5 Hours
- One-day Study Tours: Duration 6 Hours
- Two-day Study Tours: Two x 4 Hours