Serving Witness – touring Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland

To say that we were ‘looking forward’ to our visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau during our trip to Poland isn’t the most accurate way to express the sentiment. This visit was, however, a priority for all of us.

Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp - Oświęcim, Poland

The Second World War has been a fascination of mine since I was about 14. I remember being in history class and learning about the Holocaust for the first time and being truly horrified by the information I was receiving. I continued to read books about the war and watch documentaries in hope that at some point it would all make sense. It seemed as though I must be missing a detail which explained how an atrocity of such vast scale could happen at a time not so distant from my own.

It was as incomprehensible to me then as it remains to me today.

Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp - Oświęcim, Poland
The network of camps that comprised the Auschwitz complex was the largest of the Nazi-German concentration camps and included Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II–Birkenau, Auschwitz III–Monowitz, and 45 satellite camps. Here over 1.3 million people were murdered between 1940 and 1945, 90% of them Jewish.

Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp - Oświęcim, Poland

It is difficult to accurately describe how it feels to be in a place such as this – where such atrocities were committed, where millions of people were murdered.

This is a place where true evil once resided.

Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp - Oświęcim, Poland

Visiting Auschwitz was every bit as disturbing as I expected, it brought me to tears and I still feel physically ill when I recall the stories that were told to us by the tour guide. This is the type of place that one cannot help but be moved by and the type of place that stays with a person long after leaving.

Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp - Oświęcim, Poland

Auschwitz serves as a memorial, not only to the millions of people who were murdered throughout the course of the war, but also as a memorial of the human capacity for evil. Maybe if more people could experience a place like Auschwitz there would be less racism and bigotry in the world.

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
–Elie Wiesel

Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp - Oświęcim, Poland


Our tour to Auschwitz-Birkenau was booked through isango! and included the one hour bus ride from Krakow to the town of Oświęcim, tours of both Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II–Birkenau with an excellent English-speaking tour guide, and the return transfer back to Krakow. The whole trip was about 6 hours, including the return bus ride, but includes no food so I would strongly recommend bringing something along with you. Make sure you have a raincoat and umbrella as well because the tour of Auschwitz II–Birkenau is all outdoors.


3 thoughts on “Serving Witness – touring Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland

  1. I visited Dachau… I was going to do Auschwitz as well, but didn’t think I could do another one so soon after Dachau, one death camp per trip to Europe is probably enough! Plus, the Anne Frank House was sort of in the similar vein too… I can only take so much sad!

    • I found it really interesting but I’m not sure that I would visit another one, it was emotionally exhausting. I do think that everyone should visit at least one in their life though. It’s an education you couldn’t get any other way.

  2. Pingback: Liverpool Icons – The Bombed-Out Church « A Crafty Traveler

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