I don’t really know how to start this post , as basically i will try to convince you to visit the most depressing , sad place i have ever been to , a place of torture for thousands of people and not exactly what you might call a tourist attraction. BUT , i will sincerely try to , because some destinations are something greater than just a place to have a nice photo in . Some destination are here to change you as a person for ever.
What i call a successful trip , is the one that adds a little something to your personality. The one , that when you return home , you realize that you are a bit different than you were when you left. So i will speak for my self , when i say that for me , this trip / visit to Auschwitz was the most powerful , life changing experience and i will try to convince you to experience it your self!
I will not write all those historical facts about the Camps and WW2 , i believe that we all have to learn and educate ourselves in that topic , especially nowadays when things allover the world are kind of ” fragile”. So get those books open , watch documentaries about the WW2! Educate your self! If you ever find your self in Krakow , Poland , it is TRULY UNACCEPTABLE not to visit Auschwitz and Bikrenau Camp , when you consider that is is only one hour and a half away and there are numerous tour operators organizing day trips , in really good prices.
Tip No1. I strongly suggest you do this day trip , with a tour operator. You will not get the chance to learn all those really important information , our guide provided us or visit all of the areas in the right order , if you go by yourself. Bare in mind that this is not exactly a museum. There are no numbers or arrows to show you the way around , so you ‘ll just end up feeling lost . There are plenty of tour choices in Krakow , we went with SeeKrakow , and we had an excellent experience. I truly recommend them!
Tip No2. Visiting Auschwitz – Bikrenau , is an all day trip. You will probably be going there in the morning , stay for a good five hours and then return back to Krakow ( add two hours more on the road) , so be prepared and have a good breakfast because food is not allowed during your visit. Bring some water and maybe some snacks ( for the bus) , as you will probably feel a bit tired and overwhelmed in the end.
Tip No3. Dont have this trip on the last day of your visit. You will feel quite sad and mentally tired , and you don’t need to leave the country with those feelings. We visited Auschwitz and the next day went to Wielicka Salt Mines ( another magical experience ) which made us all happy again.
WHAT TO EXPECT
You will be starting to get the vibe , from the moment you get to the bus taking you to Oswiecim , the village where the Camps are located. A special kind of documentary referring to WW2 will be teaching you everything you need to know , so when you actually get there , you do have those first information needed.After the necessary security check , you are ready to enter the Camp , walking right under the very famous sign ” Arbeit macht frei “ , which means ” Work will set you free” . For me that exact moment was the first shock of the day , considering just how many people never got out of there alive.
This was a labor Camp , even though almost 70.000 people were murdered there , inside and out of the gas chambers . Blocks of buildings , each one numbered and with a different use.There was one for Jews , one for political prisoners , another for homosexuals and so it goes. Every person , entering Auschwitz was not a human being any more. He was just a number.
Tour starts relatively smoothly. Paperwork , photographs of the time , clothes and general information about the inmates. Average life expectancy , somewhere near two months. You start to feel a bit uncomfortable , a bit sadder. All those things i had read , i was starting to see them all in person!
You enter another building.
Showcases with shoes and eyeglasses. Another one with hundreds of pots and pans . Personal items , basically all of those belongings were shared between German guards. A showcase with hundreds of used Zyclon B cans , the chemical that was used to kill people inside the gas chambers.
Your mind cannot deal with all those information. George and i , hadn’t spoken to each other for hours , we were just walking silently holdings hands. I remember looking at others and them looking me bad , and there was just shame in our eyes. Not for something we did , but everything that other human beings did to others without a second thought.
Going into the room , which is full of women’s hair and braids is yet another shock to come. They were cut off , of them in order to produce fabric , our guide informs us. No photos are allowed in this specific room.
And there comes the moment where you patiently wait outside the gas chamber. Waiting for your turn to come , to enter a place where hundreds of innocent people , died in the most tragic way. That was the hardest moment of my day. I could not take any photos of the inside , so let me tell you that it was just a small dark room with some holes on the ceiling where the deadly crystals where thrown from.
At this point the first part of the tour is coming to an end. You will board on the bus and get off at the second Camp for the day , the Birkenau. If you have watched any movies about the war, you will recognize the gate.
That was an elimination Camp. The most disturbing piece of information came from our guide , when she said that from a certain time on , the incoming wagons didn’t stop for countdown and registration . They stopped right in front of the gas chambers . That means that the estimated number of victims in the camps is actually way bigger , than the official record claims.
No one knew about the existence of these Camps. Don’t forget we are talking about a time where information was limited , you basically didn’t know what was happening in the other side of your town. Interesting fact : Some big German companies , some of them still exist , actually knew and had inmates from the camps , working for them. All of the camps were found and people were released totally by accident , at the end of the war.
Going into the return bus , you can’t stop your brain from thinking too much and trying to absorb what you saw. That is good , that IS the point . If you ask me , that specific visit should be mandatory for all people , schools from all over Europe , should be coming here ( German and Polish schools actually do ) , witnessing in the hardest way , everything they are being taught in books.
I will sum up , with this phrase.