One of the main tourist tours to do when you are in Krakow, and one of the main reasons for me even going to Krakow, is Auschwitz. For those of you living under a rock, Auschwitz was a network of concentration and extermination camps. Many people think it was just one camp, but there was actually three camps (and many many satellite camps), the most known being the main Auschwitz and Auschwitz II – Birkenau sites. Together these were the largest of all the concentration camps of WW2. I actually ended up going their twice, the first time doing the guided tour, and the second time going around on my own more slowly.

‘Why go there?’. I believe everyone should go to Auschwitz, or at least one of the WW2 concentration camps still standing. Places like this need to be visited and remembered, to realise what humans are capable of and to never let it happen again. As it says on the memorial – ‘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.’

‘What was it like?’. This question is a little harder to answer. I guess if you really were that rare someone that had no idea what a concentration camp was or who the Nazis were, then visiting Auschwitz, or any camp, would be an insanely shocking experience. The fact that I know about Auschwitz, and have been to two other camps previously, made it different for me. I knew what to expect, I knew what went on here (as much as one can). However, walking through the gate of Birkenau, along the train tracks that brought in the hundreds of thousands of people for death, and seeing the sheer size of the place, it definitely hits you. Something like 90% of Birkenau is actually flattened, only brick chimneys from the barracks remaining, so you can see just how huge an area it was. And its not like they used the area to spread people out either, they were crammed in as much as possible.

The main Auschwitz camp is a lot different to Birkenau. It was the administrative centre, and all of the barracks were brick buildings that used to be for the Polish military. Because of this everything is still standing, and still original. All of the trees, all of the signs, all of the fences. Inside the barracks is full of original things on display, such as shoes, hairbrushes, briefcases, used gas cans etc. The most talked about, and shocking, is the room that is full of hair, some still in braided ponytails. When ‘prisoners’ were admitted to Auschwitz, they were stripped of everything, including their hair. This hair was then used to make such things as mats, which are also on display. In the Block 11 basement was the first test of the gas Zyklon B, which was later used in Birkenau. These gas chambers, and the crematorium, are all still standing and original.

There is a tonne more information on the Wikipedia page. I think thats all ill say about this, ill let the photos do the rest.