24 May Krakow & Auschwitz – The time to remember
Whilst my time travelling I visited the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. I stayed in Krakow for one night and then travelled to the town of Oświęcim (Auschwitz in German) to do the tour the following day. If you are planning on doing this, use Krakow Station’s luggage lockers for you large backpacks as they will not be allowed to be carried around on the tour.
This was my first time visiting a place such as this and was very unsure as to what I would actually see. Arriving at the location of the tour; things seemed oddly touristy. With restaurants, ice cream stands, souvenir shops all available to visitors. This surprised me greatly.
A lovely female of whom had family that died in the camp; carried out the guided tour of Auschwitz. She was so factual and passionate about the place. It made the tour seem so personal and somehow even more heartwarming. The tour begun with a guided tour of Auschwitz I (the original camp) which is commonly considered as the main Auschwitz concentration camps. The famous gate that reads “Arbeit macht frei” is a German phrase meaning “work sets you free” is placed at the entrance of the camp.
It is in fact Auschwitz II–Birkenau that most people think of when they think of Auschwitz concentration camps. Where the two larger gas chambers were located, as well as the infamous train-line and where the majority of prisoners were held.
The day that I visited was an extremely hot day. However, walking around the camp I never heard one person complain. The only mention there was of the weather would be visitors sadly stating “imagine working as prisoners of the camp in this heat”. This was something that I couldn’t imagine.
Whilst on the tour of Auschwitz I the tour guide swiftly moved from barrack to barack; showing us visitors living conditions, torture chambers, rooms filled with prisoners hair and shoes and belongings. Following the tour guide through the era court-yard we reached another building, unlike any of the others we had been in as of yet. The tour guide simply said “And this is the first original gas chamber used at the Auschwitz concentration camp” and then off she went inside. I was not prepared for this. I took a minute before following her inside. This was certainly something that I never thought I would do in my life. To be standing inside a Nazi gas chamber. But here I was. However, I didn’t stay in there long – It became far to overwhelming.
Once the tour of Auschwitz I was complete (which I considerably smaller than Auschwitz II–Birkenau camp) you get 30 minutes to eat and drink before getting a group coach to the second camp location.
Arriving at Auschwitz II–Birkenau and seeing the main watch tower building with the train-line running through it seemed unbelievable. From seeing the train tracks the run through the middle of the camp – to standing on them learning about what happened to those who arrived at the camp. It was something that words truly can’t explain.
The railroad tracks end in front of the international monument which was built-in 1967. This was written on 19 slabs; on for each language that was spoken by the prisoners of the camps. Memorial stones for those that died at the camps show the words:
“FOR EVER LET THIS PLACE BE A CRY OF DESPAIR AND A WARNING TO HUMANITY, WHERE THE NAZIS MURDERED ABOUT ONE AND A HALF MILLION MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN MAINLY JEWS FROM VARIOUS COUNTRIES OF EUROPE. AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU 1940-1945
Nothing compares to the expeirence of visiting the Auschwitz concentration camps. It is certainly something that I will remember for the rest of my life; and is also somehing that changed it. History changes the future. And these camps are part of our European history. If you ever get the opportunity to visit Auschwitz then please do take up the opportunity. I honestly believe that it is something that everybody should do once in their life.
After my one night stay in Krakow and following the day tour of Auschwitz, I then travelled over night to my next destination – Prague, Czech Republic
No.1 Piece of Advice:
- Take the opportunity to do tours such a the Auschwitz concentration camp if you can.
- Tours such as this will change your life
No.1 Place for coffee:
- Visit the visitors cafe/restaurant located at the Auschwitz museum
Collection of my pictures from Auschwitz, Poland:
(I unfortunately do not have many photos from the tour)