It is jarring to see how Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration and death camps have become museums for people to visit. Since there are crowds of people visiting this terrible place all at once the solemnity is often lost in the craziness of the crowds.
The most meaningful way to visit this dreadful place is with an excellent guide who has his knowledge and outlook in life very straight. Most visitors come with a group or join a guided tour. Tour guides and their groups all get headsets tuned into the same frequency and that way each person can hear their guide without all the surrounding noise. We visited as part of the Project Mesorah Tour with tour guide Ari Scharf and speaker Rabbi Paysach Krohn. They know so much about the background and help put things into perspective.
It was chilling to see the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign made to trick the Jews into coming willingly into the death machine called Auschwitz. I was surprised to see that Auschwitz consists mostly of brick buildings while neighboring Birkenau consisted of more open areas. In Auschwitz we saw the terrible barracks, barbed wire fences and the crematoria. We also saw the roomfuls of all different possessions confiscated from the Jews starting with luggage, cooking utensils, brushes, shoe polish and probably millions of shoes symbolizing the millions that came through Auschwitz to be killed by the Nazi beasts.
We also got to look up any relatives names in the “Book of Names” that contain all the recorded names of people that perished in Auschwitz. The sheer size of the book, which takes up most of the room it is housed in, is mindboggling.
We were “welcomed” to Birkenau, five minutes away, by the famous entryway of the railroad tracks leading up through a building to the entrance of the camp. Auschwitz was more of the processing center (although plenty of people were killed there, too) and Birkenau was more of the death factory. In Birkenau we saw the spot where the devil Mengele did the selections of the new inmates sending the women, weak and infirm to the gas chambers. Adjacent to that spot stands a cattle car that was used to transport Jews to the camps. The actual site of the gas chambers were destroyed and is a pile of rubble but definitely heartrending when we thought of all the people and their future descendants murdered there.
Krakow is the closest large city to Auschwitz and is about an hour away.
Posted: December 18, 2019
Information, prices and hours posted here are current as of the posted or updated date. It is advisable to call ahead or check online to confirm hours and prices.
Więźniów Oświęcimia 20
+48 33 844 81 00
Admissionto the grounds of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial is free of charge. The fees are charged only for engaging a guide, renting a headphone guiding system and watching a documentary movie.
Groups of more than 10 people are required to hire a headphone guiding system.