Whilst tours to Auschwitz-Birkenau will always be an extremely sombre and emotional affair, far removed from the usual types of activities associated with a stag party in Krakow, it is something that many people feel they must so whilst they are staying so close to the museum; Auschwitz is located 70km west of Krakow
Auschwitz concentration camp was built in 1940 near the town of Oswiecim and it was originally used to house mainly Polish prisons, with just a few prisoners of other nationalities as well. After the beginning of battles between the USSR and the Third Reich in 1941, many Red Army soldiers were sent to Auschwitz. During its busiest time Auschwitz housed 150,000 inmates, and with it struggling to cope with the numbers a second camp was built in nearby Birkenau which was designed to be purely a death camp. Birkenau was the location of the mass killings of more an estimated million Jewish people, as well as many others. The camp was eventually liberated on 27 January 1945, and ever since 2005 this day has been marked as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
A museum was established at the camp two years after the end of World War II. The main tasks of the museum were documentary work, conservation of the original buildings and grounds of the camp, research, as well as serving to educate. Auschwitz Birkenau is visited by over one million people from all around the world each year, with an estimated half of them being Polish.
You can visit the museum as an individual visitor (however please be aware that this is only possible between the hours of 8am and 10am), but it is always much more worthwhile to take a guided tour when you are there, as the guides are extremely passionate and knowledgeable, and certainly help make the trip a much more educational experience. The guided tours start from the main camp and can be taken in any major European language. At the main Auschwitz camp you will see exhibitions which consist of items relating to the general day to day life at the camp, and with a guide they will only begin to explain the horrific conditions which were suffered by prisoners who were here. One of the most harrowing parts of the tour are the pictures of the prisoners which adorn the corridors in the main buildings, as well as the huge collections of personal belongings which help to get across the message of just how many people suffered here during the war. Most of the buildings on the camp are open to the public, however please be aware that they can get very crowded during the busier times.
One you have finished the tour you then get transports to the second camp, Birkenau, which is located 3,5km from Auschwitz. The second camp feels less like a museum, as rather than exhibitions the camp has been left to give you a feel of how the camp looked, and to give you a better impression of the day to day life which is brought to life by the vivid descriptions given to you by the guides during this part of the tour. At the back of the camp are the infamous gas chambers where so many people were brutally murdered during this time. For most people this is the hardest part of the tour.
If you would like to visit Auschwitz as part of your trip to Krakow then please contact us. We can arrange every aspect of the tour such as entrance, English speaking guides as well as return transfers from your accommodation.