The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum is the resting place for some 1.5 million people, as the site once served as a concentration camp and extermination site of the European Jewish community during World War II. Today, Auschwitz-Birkenau is an important historical area, allowing visitors to reflect on the monumental horrors that occurred during the genocide.
Auschwitz-Birkenau tours take visitors through some of the 13 surviving prison blocks that now feature museum exhibitions, many dedicated to victims and displaying documentary photographs and historical artifacts. In addition the main camp, a much larger camp called Birkenau (or Auschwitz II) sits about 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) to the west. This site has been left almost exactly as it was when the Nazis abandoned it at the end of the war, complete with gas chamber ruins, and is also considered a part of the UNESCO-listed Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. An official visitor’s center can be found at the entrance to Auschwitz I.
The two sites are often visited together on group or private tours from Krakow Old Town, available in a number of languages and generally including transport between the memorial areas, plus hotel pickup and drop-off or airport transfers. It's recommended that travelers allot about 90 minutes for each of the sites. A visit is also sometimes combined with a trip to the nearby Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Things to Know Before You Go
This is a somber place to visit (to say the least), and appropriate solemnity and respect are required on museum grounds. Although you can arrive independently, guided Auschwitz tours can allow for better education and understanding, plus insight from a tour guide.