Auschwitz Memorial Tour
Visiting Auschwitz was painful. Harrowing. The complete and utter tragedy of this chapter in history is hard to stomach, but I think it’s something everyone should witness first hand at some point in their lives — if only to serve as a reminder of the precious fragility of human life.
A lot of these photos are going to be really upsetting, but I think it’s better to commemorate the lost, and to remind ourselves of the horrors that we can’t allow ourselves to commit again.
The journey to Auschwitz takes about 90 minutes by car. The camp is located in Oświécim, a small town situated 50km west of Kraków.
I booked a tour through the company Krakow Shuttle (which I’d highly recommend), and they showed a short film about Auschwitz as we drove out of the city. The footage was all taken by the Red Army, who liberated the camp in January 1945.
The weather appropriately matched the somber mood to come.
After arrival, I went through security and met up with my “educator,” who was to guide myself and about 30 others through the camp.
The tour is a two-parter. The first 2.5 hour portion is in Auschwitz I, the work camp where most of the more able-bodied men lived. The second portion is a 2km drive away, in Auschwitz II – Birkenau, the main extermination camp.
Here we have the entrance gate to Auschwitz I, and those infamous words.
“Work sets you free.” It was a lie, as we all know.
They’d turned a lot of the barracks into mini museums commemorating the victims. This particular barrack had photos lining the walls, naming the victims, the day they entered the camp, and the day they died.
Most didn’t live more than 3 months once they got to Auschwitz.
This is where they would do executions by firing squad, in front of a special porous wall that would absorb any bullets and prevent ricocheting.
Old cans of Zyklon B, the gas used by the Nazis to murder their victims.
This next portion of the tour was extremely disturbing, as we were taken through a barrack that housed personal items from the victims.
Behind the glass is real human hair, taken from prisoners as they were processed into the camp. The Nazis kept it, and repurposed it into wool for soldiers’ clothing. I think our tour guide said that this room had literally TONS of hair, and it only accounted for the last 6 days of the camp’s operation.
This was inside one of the gas chambers.
No more words.