What is it like to visit Auschwitz today?

Auschwitz, the largest and most notorious of the Nazi concentration and extermination camps, stands as a somber reminder of the Holocaust, during which six million Jews and millions of other innocent people were systematically murdered. At Auschwitz alone, approximately 1.1 million people were killed, 900,000 Jews and 200,000 others, including Poles, Romani, and Soviet prisoners of war. 

Visiting this historical site is essential for understanding the magnitude of the atrocities committed and the resilience of the human spirit. 

This blog aims to provide an overview of the experience of visiting Auschwitz today, offering practical advice for planning the trip and sharing insights into the emotional impact of the visit.
If you are exploring Europe’s key WW2 sites, please consider joining Poland at War Tours for one of our Multi-Day Guided History Tours in Poland.

Planning a Visit to Auschwitz

A trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim, Poland, requires thoughtful preparation. The museum offers guided tours in various languages, which are essential for understanding the history and context of the site. The museum offers three tour options: A standard tour of the site lasting 3.5 hours and the more in-depth study tours lasting either 6 or 8 hours. 

Advance booking is strongly recommended, particularly during peak travel seasons (though we can arrange your tickets and visit for you, get in touch). To make the most of your visit, it’s a good idea to delve into the history of the Holocaust and Auschwitz beforehand. This can be done through reading books, watching documentaries, or exploring online resources. 

Additionally, prepare for the emotional weight of the experience by discussing your upcoming visit with friends or family members who have been to the site or by participating in online forums. 

Finally, consider the weather and dress appropriately, as much of the tour is outdoors and involves considerable walking.

Getting to Auschwitz

Reaching Auschwitz can be done through various transportation options. Train and bus services are available from major Polish cities, such as Kraków and Warsaw. Private tours typically include transportation and can also be arranged for a more personalized experience (Poland at War Tours takes our travelers to Auschwitz as part of our Multi-Day Kraków Tour). 

The town of Oświęcim itself, while not a major tourist destination, offers a glimpse into local Polish life and history. Visitors can choose from various accommodations and dining options if they prefer to stay in the town rather than travel back to Kraków or Warsaw on the same day.

Staying overnight in Oświęcim can also provide a more immersive experience, allowing time to reflect on the visit to Auschwitz and explore the town’s other historical sites.

The Auschwitz Experience

Upon arrival at Auschwitz I, visitors face the infamous “Arbeit macht frei” gate, which chillingly translates to “Work sets you free.” This sets the tone for the emotional journey of your tour. 

As you walk through the camp, your guide will provide valuable context and historical insight into the suffering endured by the prisoners. The exhibitions and displays housed within the former prisoner barracks reveal the sheer scale of the atrocities committed, including the “Wall of Death” where thousands of prisoners were executed by firing squads. 

The haunting sight of the victims’ personal belongings, such as shoes, suitcases, and glasses, serves as a poignant reminder of the individuals and families torn apart by the Holocaust. And one cannot help but feel shock and horror at the sight of two tonnes of human hair collected from female prisoners. 

The visit continues to Auschwitz II-Birkenau, which was primarily an extermination camp. Here, the infamous train tracks and ramp where prisoners were forcibly disembarked from cattle cars and subjected to selection processes come into view. 

You will see the ruins of the gas chambers and crematoria, where countless lives were systematically extinguished. The International Monument, a memorial dedicated to the victims of Auschwitz, offers a space for reflection and remembrance.

Reflections and the Importance of Remembrance

The emotional impact of visiting Auschwitz is profound and varies from person to person. Many visitors experience a mixture of sadness, anger, and disbelief at the extent of human cruelty. 

Yet, amidst the horror, stories of courage, solidarity, resistance, and resilience offer glimpses of hope. The lessons learned from Auschwitz extend beyond the historical context and serve as a stark reminder of the need for vigilance against hatred, prejudice, and the dehumanization of others. 

Visiting Auschwitz plays a crucial role in Holocaust education. By bearing witness to the atrocities committed, we ensure that the memory of the victims is preserved and future generations are reminded of the importance of preventing such horrors from happening again.

Supporting Holocaust Survivors and Related Organizations

In addition to visiting Auschwitz, there are numerous ways to support Holocaust survivors and organizations dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust. Donations and volunteering opportunities are available through various institutions, such as the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center

These organizations work tirelessly to maintain historical sites, support educational initiatives, and promote awareness of the Holocaust and its lessons for present and future generations. 

By engaging with and supporting these institutions, we can play our part in ensuring that the lessons of the Holocaust are never forgotten.

Conclusion

Visiting Auschwitz today is a deeply moving and transformative experience transcending time and geographical boundaries. Walking through the remnants of the largest extermination camp in human history, we confront the darkest aspects of our collective past and honor the memory of the millions of innocent lives lost. 

The significance of Auschwitz in the present day is a powerful testament to the need for constant vigilance against hatred and prejudice and the importance of empathy and understanding towards our fellow human beings.

As we bear witness to the atrocities committed at Auschwitz, we are called upon to share our experiences and reflections with others, thus fostering a broader understanding of the Holocaust and its enduring impact. Encouraging others to visit and learn from history is essential in cultivating a world where atrocities such as the Holocaust are never repeated. 

We contribute to building a more compassionate and just society for future generations by engaging in this remembrance, reflection, and education process.

At Poland at War Tours, we specialize in organizing WW2 and Holocaust trips to Poland. Explore our Multi-Day History Tours in Poland and Historical Day Tours in Poland.

Our day tours include Auschwitz-Birkenau Private Tours from Warsaw and Auschwitz-Birkenau Private Tours from Krakow.

If you have any questions, please get in touch

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