Auschwitz Concentration Camp

Oświęcim, Poland

Auschwitz concentration camp was a network of German Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II. It consisted of Auschwitz I (the original camp), Auschwitz II–Birkenau (a combination concentration/extermination camp), Auschwitz III–Monowitz (a labor camp to staff an IG Farben factory), and 45 satellite camps.

Auschwitz I was first constructed to hold Polish political prisoners, who began to arrive in May 1940. The first extermination of prisoners took place in September 1941, and Auschwitz II–Birkenau went on to become a major site of the Nazi 'Final Solution to the Jewish question'. From early 1942 until late 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp's gas chambers from all over German-occupied Europe, where they were killed with the pesticide Zyklon B. At least 1.1 million prisoners died at Auschwitz, around 90 percent of them Jewish; approximately 1 in 6 Jews killed in the Holocaust died at the camp. Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Romani and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, 400 Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and tens of thousands of people of diverse nationalities. Many of those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.

In the course of the war, the camp was staffed by 7,000 members of the German Schutzstaffel (SS), approximately 12 percent of whom were later convicted of war crimes. Some, including camp commandant Rudolf Höss, were executed. The Allied Powers refused to believe early reports of the atrocities at the camp, and their failure to bomb the camp or its railways remains controversial. One hundred forty-four prisoners are known to have escaped from Auschwitz successfully, and on October 7, 1944, two Sonderkommando units—prisoners assigned to staff the gas chambers—launched a brief, unsuccessful uprising.

As Soviet troops approached Auschwitz in January 1945, most of its population was evacuated and sent on a death march. The prisoners remaining at the camp were liberated on January 27, 1945, a day now commemorated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In the following decades, survivors, such as Primo Levi, Viktor Frankl, and Elie Wiesel, wrote memoirs of their experiences in Auschwitz, and the camp became a dominant symbol of the Holocaust. In 1947, Poland founded a museum on the site of Auschwitz I and II, and in 1979, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Oświęcim, Poland
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Founded: 1940
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4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Miha Vardijan (3 months ago)
Very good guided tour. It is worth a visit, because only in this way can one be aware that this must never happen again. After the viewing, you stay pensive all day, because you can't believe that a human could have done that to a fellow human being.
Perhelis Perhelis (4 months ago)
It is very difficult to "star rate" something of that magnitude, a place where so many lifes have been taken. I am giving 5stars but everyone needs to visit the place, experience it and come to personal conclusions and revelations. Taking aside the camp and its tragic events and stories, I can say that the place is well organized, with easy access, plenty of parking spaces and helpful and friendly staff. There are guides and tours and many things are translated into many languages. One word of a warning so to speak - when you decide to visit the camp, be prepared that this is not going to be your happiest day... Still, very much worth to see.
Kent West (4 months ago)
Interesting site of historic atrocities. Definitely a must see on any trip to Krakow.
bhakti patel (5 months ago)
It was heartbreaking to see such beautiful people portrayed considering what they had to go through. I believe everyone should visit this place at least one time.
Dan Simpson (6 months ago)
As you can imagine, a deeply surreal, moving and thought-provoking place. I honestly believe everyone should visit here. The tour guide was very good too.
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On site there is a museum, medieval kitchen, shop and restaurant and coffee house. During summer time there are several guided tours daily. In local folklore, the castle is described as haunted by multiple ghosts and the tradition of storytelling inspired by the castle is continued in the summer events at the castle called "Strange stories and terrifying tales".