On May 8th we visited Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Oswiecim, near Krakow. It is very easy to get to Auschwitz without a tour from the city center of Krakow. At the main bus station, located behind Galeria Krakowska (and next to Krakow Glowny Train Station) look at the departure signs for the next bus and platform to Oswiecim. For us, it was platform G1, just in front of the bus station office. You don’t need to buy your tickets inside the station, instead just proceed to the bus and purchase your ticket on the bus. The cost was 3 Zloty (about 1 USD) per/person. If there is no bus when you arrive, there will be one shortly as there are many buses that leave for Oswiecim throughout the day. The bus stops several times on its way to Auschwitz, but it does stop conveniently right in front of the Auschwitz Museum. The ride took about 1.5 hours. There are many buses that will depart from this same spot throughout the day. I think the last one back to Krakow leaves at 6:20PM.
Once we arrived at the Auschwitz Museum we opted for the English guided tour which cost 78 Zloty ($35 USD) for the two of us. The tour which includes the Auschwitz Camp as well as Birkenau Camp lasts about 3 hours. You are provided with headphones and a receiver which makes it a lot easier to hear your tour guide as you walk through the crowded buildings filled with tours of several languages. Our tour guide spoke very good English and tried his best to use different tones to make the tour seem very dramatic. While the tone of his voice may have set the tone, the tour itself is not difficult, and if you are the emotional type, there is probably only one place that might leave you in tears – the walk through the gas chamber/crematorium. However, there are some sights that will surprise you. In particular, there is a room that has a glass casing (about 15′ x 100′, depth unknown, maybe 5′ deep) filled with human hair. I think the guide said that it amounted to about 2 percent of all the human hair collected from the murdered victims. The hair was used for many things including making fabric for the German military uniforms. Photography is only allowed outside of the buildings, hence no inside photos.
The Auschwitz camp is very small in comparison to Birkenau (about 1/30 in size), but the camp was left almost completely intact by the retreating Germans, and therefore, serves as the main part of the tour (About 2 hours). For the final hour at Birkenau you have to take a short bus ride (included with the tour) to the camp. This part of the tour is mostly outdoors (as most of the buildings were either destroyed or have not survived the years), so bring an umbrella if the weather calls for rain.
These bunks looked spacious until we were told that up to 10 people would share one bunk!
While we were hesitant to visit Auschwitz due to the emotional factor, we were glad that we did. It serves as a reminder to all of us to ensure this type of atrocity never happens again.