Eastern Europe Trip // Krakow: Auschwitz Concentration Camp – I’ve know nothing about Krakow until I’ve got year, only learned that there’s a concentration camp nearby which that was the biggest Nazi’s concentration camp back then. I know about concentration camp, from the movie ‘The Boy In The Stripped Pyjamas’, high school history never talk about holocaust, it’s just a brief history of World War 2 in the text book, I read about them on Wikipedia mostly. Somehow, reading on the Internet could hardly describe the situation of holocaust.
Auschwitz-Birkenau is about an hour and a half out of Krakow. A bus ride from the main bus station would be the ideal way to go there rather than taking the train as it takes you directly to the front of the camp and it runs every hour, price at 12PLN/person. You can easily ask from the bus info at the information counter. Auschwitz-Birkenau is actually 2 concentration camps, which Auschwitz 1 is the museum and gallery area which describes the horror story of the camp and Auschwitz 2, or known as Birkenau is the main camp, where the main gas chambers were situated. Birkenau was the site of most of the killings took place.
Upon arriving at Auschwitz 1, I could feel a gush of silence, chilly and eerie. There were quite many visitors, but no laughter can be heard. It’s a serious and deep atmosphere. Entrance to the camp is free, but you can book a guided tour of various language. Somehow, you can skip the ticket and follow along those guided tour too, you just have to turn yours ear on.
Most of the barracks here are gallery that shows the brutality of the camp. You would get even more terrified after visiting all the gallery and get a true understanding of what’d happened back during the World War 2. Passing through row of pictures of the dead, seeing the dilapidated buildings and interiors of the camp, and places where the inmates were killed by shooting, hanging, and torture, as well as the items that were left by the dead were just horrendously mind shocking.
This experience gets worsen when you are at the gallery that shows the hair, the yes the hair, that Nazi collected from the inmates. 7.7 tonnes of hair were collected from the dead, which the Nazi wanted to resell it to make cloth. This is just disgusting. No photos are allowed, and I don’t think anyone would want to take the pictures of the hair. My mouth hung open, I struggled to breath and a sharp pain hit me somewhere under my ribs. Sad.
Did I mention how many were killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau? It’s about 1.1 million people! A little bit about the horror story, Jews who were under 16 and those who were ill would be sent to the gas chamber directly and got gassed by toxic Zyklon B, then cremated straight away by the inmates. Most of them who came here did not get to live more than 3 months. The most horrifying story was when the victims were told that they were to take a shower by SS officers at a gas chamber disguised as shower room with fake showers and pipes . The victims were asked to undress and be ready to shower, and what happened next was just petrifying where the Zyklon B toxic gas was released into the chamber. Screaming and moaning from within could be heard outside despite the thick concrete wall.
It’s just emotionally disturbed after understanding about the story. After about 2 hours of tour, we’ve decided to skip Birkenau camp and leaved back to town to rush to Wieliczka Salt Mine. If you are in Krakow, I recommend you to spend about a slow day at Auschwitz, and another day to the Salt Mine, so that it would not be as rush like us. Auschwitz is a good visit and it must not be missed, one will definitely not regret it. A tips, check the time table of return bus early to plan your time well, else you will be like us missing bus here and there.