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Auschwitz Memorial Museum, Auschwitz history

A Journey to The Past: Remembering Auschwitz History

The invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany is considered to be the official beginning of World War II. Those events are forever marked in Polish history and people’s minds. Today we can see signs the war was present in the country. Among the most important parts of Auschwitz history are the memorial museums that pledge to uphold the national heritage and serve as a testament of the horrible acts we should not leave forgotten in the past. And though it is incredibly hard to face the history of such evil acts it is necessary to allow guests to (respectfully) visit these sites to ensure that it is not forgotten, that these acts do not repeat themselves, and that we remember those who lost their lives.


Auschwitz History and The Auschwitz Memorial Museum


In Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum you will follow the terrifying story of Auschwitz history and the Holocaust. Although you probably know it from books and history lessons, it’s always an indescribable experience to see it in person. The site is visited by millions of tourists every year and represents one of the most recognizable museums in Europe. It is also on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Site and cooperates with plenty of international organizations.


The Symbol of Nazis’ Atrocities


During your visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau, you’ll have a chance to see how manipulative and inhuman the politics of the Nazis were. The primary cause for creating the camp by Germans was the increasing amount of the arrested Poles. However, in 1944 there were already 3 existing parts of the camp with people from many more nationalities inside. While the camps were being extended, some new buildings were adapted for mass executions.


Although Germans were trying to destroy all the evidence, both documents, and buildings, they were only partially successful. Due to the preservation after the war, we are able to see those shreds of evidence and reconstruct this frightening history. In Auschwitz Memorial Museum, you can visit some of the most notorious camp buildings of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau. You can see the gas chambers, where the biggest executions took place, first hand- a sobering moment that many guests aren’t able to bring themselves to go to. Although it is partially ruined, the gas chamber is still terrifying with its authenticity.


There are also Zyklon B cans preserved, which contained the killing gas, used inside the chambers. You’ll see where crematoria II or III were in the camp. Reconstruction of the Death Wall in the yard at the side of block 11 is a zone of silence for all of the visitors. This area was were thousands of people (mostly Polish officers and members of the secret organizations) were shot by SS officers and serves as a place for remembrance and honoring those who lost their lives.


The Nazi’s atrocities are also preserved in collections of the original documents, written by the camp offices in Auschwitz. These are extremely significant to reconstruct all actions took by the Germans while the camp was in operation, not only for the trials that followed the war but also to create a timeline of events and bring truth to unanswered questions. Among the documentation are lists of the names of prisoners, the supply of fuel needed for cremations or block no. 11 bunker record book.


Auschwitz Memorial Museum, Auschwitz history
Auschwitz Memorial Museum


The Symbol of Suffering at the Hands of Hatred


While visiting Auschwitz, it is hard not to imagine how the prisoner’s daily life looked like and it isn’t difficult to piece together as there are many collections that contain personal belongings of prisoners including their pictures or utensils. The piles of glasses, shoes or children’s toys are today exhibited in the museum to show how the prisoners were treated right before entering the camp, what they left behind, and gives a visual to the mass number of prisoners in the camps. Thousands of suitcases, still with the written names and birth dates of their original owners, are gathered in the museum as well. It shows how they were brutally deprived of their private items and identity as they started to be only numbers.


Walking into the places where prisoners lived, you’ll be able to see the poor conditions of their everyday life. Their bed bunks with unbelievably small space to move are squeezed in wooden barracks. There are many of the prisoners’ garments with special camp number patches in the collections as well. You’ll see things created by prisoners in secret, like cutlery or little toys. Among the collection of the documents, you can find personal letters or secret messages sent by the members of the underground organizations. 


The Symbol of Jewish Horror


There is no better way to learn history, than going to the places where it happened. Even if it’s not a pleasant story to follow, like Jewish holocaust, it can be a very important experience to ensure that history is not forgotten. Some people prefer to visit places like Auschwitz alone, some may like to go with family. And the experience touches people in different ways as they try to understand how such evil acts took place. The prisoners’ photographs are usually very striking for visitors. Concerning the inhuman living conditions in the camp, it is a snapshot into one of the darkest parts of human history.


Krakow – City of Jewish Culture


Krakow is a city closely connected with the history of people who were deported to Auschwitz during World War II. It is the place definitely worth exploring. It is famous for its medieval castles (especially Wawel Castle) and for its rich cultural life. The city is located around 70 km from Auschwitz and is one of the most popular touristic destinations in Southern Poland. Together with Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum, it constitutes an absolute ‘must see’ for every visitor of Poland.


Discovering Krakow is also a great addition for those following the story of Jews in Poland. During the time of the Nazi occupation, trains with thousands of free citizens were passing this separated area every day. Today, one of the city districts, called Kazimierz, is the old Jewish quarter. It abounds with the Jewish culture and tradition and is known as the cultural heart of Krakow in general. 


Auschwitz Memorial Museum, Auschwitz history
Auschwitz Memorial Museum


Auschwitz from Kraków


There are many ways to get to Auschwitz and learn about Auschwitz history, especially from Krakow. You can either take a public bus that goes from the main station about every hour or use private transport with a guide. The museum is located around 70 km from the Krakow city center and the ride takes 1 h 10 min each way. The best time to set off is around 8 – 9:00 am. You can walk in Auschwitz on your own however visiting the museum with a guide will let you get much more from your journey. There is so much history that it is recommended by some to book a private tour. To book the private Auschwitz tour with a guide check the KrakowDirect website. It includes Door-to-door pick up, private guide, English speaking driver, all fees and transportation cost. 

Nia McKenna

Nia is an Associate Editor at The Fairytale Traveler and self diagnosed travel junkie. Having traveled to 5 of the 7 continents, her love of good food and culture is a force to be reckoned with. When she isn't off adventuring with her husband, which she writes about on her blog CircaWanderlust, she can be found with a good cup of tea cuddling her pups and taking pictures of her food. She loves black and white movies and could listen to Elvis on repeat.

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