A tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where 1.5 million people lost their lives
A visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau is not an excursion like any other. In the former concentration camp in Oświęcim (pol. for Auschwitz) more than 1.5 million people were murdered by the National Socialists between 1940 and 1945. The State Museum is intended as a memorial to the many victims of the Holocaust and to educate people about the atrocities of the Nazi regime. When you visit the extermination camp you will be confronted with shocking facts. The aim of today's museum is to reveal all the facts and to educate about the Holocaust, because there must be no forgetting.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum is visited by around 1.5 million people every year. During the high season from April to October, the grounds can get very crowded, so you may be obliged to join a guided tour without a guide. In the low season between October and April fewer tourists come to visit Oświęcim. Please note that the impressions you have gained can be emotionally very powerful. We therefore recommend that you visit the camp at the end of your journey to Auschwitz.
Dec - FebrMarAprMayJun - AugSepOctNov
Mon - Sun8:00 - 15:0008:00 - 16:0008:00 - 17:0008:00 - 18:0008:00 - 19:0008:00 - 18:0008:00 - 17:0008:00 - 16:00
The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum is closed only on 1 January, 25 December and Easter Sunday. The site can be easily entered and visited during the opening hours, because the entrance for the tour is free. However, a guided tour is highly recommended.
A tour of the former Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp is possible from 15:00 hrs without a professional guide. However, we cannot recommend visiting Auschwitz without a guided tour. During a guided tour, a group of maximum 30 people, accompanied by a trained museum guide, will tell you about the cruel history of the former concentration camp and the fate of the inmates. Without a guide, a visit to the museum today is less informative, as only a guide can tell the story that took place here.
At the beginning of the guided tour you will walk through the iron entrance gate of the concentration camp, over whose gate the mocking inscription "Arbeit macht frei" (Work makes you free) is still emblazoned. During the tour you will visit the former concentration camp Auschwitz (Auschwitz I) in Oświęcim, which was also called the main camp, the grounds of the (actual) extermination camp Birkenau (Auschwitz II) in Brzezinka, as well as the railway side ramp between the main camp and the extermination camps Auschwitz and Birkenau, which served as a so-called "unloading station". The distances between the individual stations are covered on foot or by a free shuttle bus.
The journey from Krakow to Auschwitz-Birkenau is possible on your own. You can travel up to three hours by public tram and bus (without ICE) from Krakow. It is easier to book a guided tour including bus transfer in advance. The transfer takes about 1.5 hours from Krakow. During the trip, an expert tour guide will give you initial information about the Holocaust memorial and prepare you with great sensitivity for the upcoming tour of the former concentration camp Auschwitz.
Admission to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and the tour is free. However, depending on the type and duration of the tour, the guided tours cost from 10.00€ per full-paying person. Please note that during the main season you will have to join a guided tour due to the high number of visitors. Important to know: To ensure the silence in this place and the respect for the murdered, any guided tours are transmitted on headphones, which you can borrow for a fee.
Auschwitz-Birkenau was, in the time of the 2nd World War, the largest human extermination camp of the National Socialists. Between 1940 and 1945, more than 1.5 million people were brutally murdered at this site, including about one million people of Jewish faith. Today the site is home to a museum, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 under the name "Auschwitz-Birkenau - German National Socialist Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945)".
In 1940, the Auschwitz I concentration camp, also known as the main camp, was built as the administrative center of the camp complex. This was followed in 1941 by the concentration camp Auschwitz II, also Auschwitz-Birkenau, which functioned as a work and extermination camp with a total of six gas chambers and four crematoria. In the summer of 1941, Adolf Hitler ordered the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question", whose goal was the extermination of European Jewry. As a result of the decision, over 1.5 million people, including about one million Jews, were murdered in the gas chambers and other facilities of the death camp, burned in the crematoria and buried in mass graves.
When World War II was in its final phase and the Red Army had already recaptured many of the areas occupied by the Wehrmacht, the SS guards decided to dissolve the camps located on the borders and "evacuate" the inmates. In the period from 17 January 1945 to 23 January, about 60,000 Auschwitz prisoners were sent on the so-called death marches, to the west and the centre of the German Reich. Most people died of exhaustion or were shot by the guards. About 7,500 prisoners who were too sick or too weak for the death marches were left in the barracks of Auschwitz - unprovided for. More than 300 people were shot without further ado while still on the premises. It is speculated that the extermination operation was only interrupted by the rapid advance of the Red Army, which liberated the death camp on January 27. A few days later the world public was informed about the Nazi atrocities.
In 1947, after the end of the Second World War, the Polish Parliament decided to transform the concentration camps Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II into a memorial and museum. The former extermination facilities were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979 and since then have been listed under the official designation Auschwitz-Birkenau - German National Socialist concentration and extermination camp. Because of the particular importance of these former camps, a reminder text was adopted by the Commission, which reads as follows:
"Let this place always be a cry of despair and a reminder to humanity. Here the Nazis murdered over one and a half million men, women and children. Most of them were Jews from different European countries."
Today, this place, which houses a large number of original exhibits, can be visited by everyone in the world. In addition to the exhibits, the fateful story of some of the inmates is told on behalf of all those murdered, thus preserving the memory of the barbaric deeds of the Nazis. Because, as one of the last living contemporary witnesses aptly stated: "The worst thing is forgetting".