Auschwitz - Birkenau

More than a million people suffered terribly and died in this place. Many wrote about it. It is well documented and the remains of the place is preserved as a state museum. What can I contribute? As usual, I will not repeat everything you can also find in encyclopedias, books, internet etc. I assume you already know about it and give here just some of the basics and how it affected me. If you intend to come here, don’t bring small children with you.

At the beginning, I didn’t feel like making any pictures at all and I made none from Auschwitz 1. Additionally, I preferred to listen to the guide and to look at things rather than being busy with making pictures. As usual with guided tours, you don’t get the time to make proper pictures. The best you could do is a super quick snapshot and continue. But later on in Auschwitz 2 - Birkenau, I made a few. There you can also walk around on your own. I haven’t visited the third part.

I joined the latest tour of the day, so the number of visitors for our guide was relatively small. Around 15. She told us, that they have up to 60-70 people per guide sometimes.. Even with the small group, I found it a bit challenging to look at the things and to follow her. Additionally, different groups intermingle often. So, my advice is: Forget about taking pictures. You can find them in books anyway. Even at that speed, it took about two hours for Auschwitz 1 only and we missed the bus to Birkenau.

The first part were originally military barracks of the polish army. After the German invasion, they have turned it to a prison. At the beginning, it was used to keep Polish and Soviet prisoners of war. Later came also intellectuals, homosexuals, German criminals, political prisoners and of course Jews, Romas and more. About 90% were Jews.

The Polish population around the camp have been removed to other places. The terror and genocide here was kept as a secret as long as possible. The jewish people who were deported here were told that they come here for work. Some of them even had to buy a ticket to come here! They travelled from all over Europe. Sometimes for many days in a train like this with no windows and totally overcrowded.


But immediately after arrival, the selection process started. About 70% of them, most of the women, children, elder people were regarded as useless for slavery work, so they have been sent straight to take a „shower“. In fact they entered a room to undress and the room next door was the gas chamber. The doors were closed, deadly gas was released and everybody died within 20 minutes. Then the gas chamber was ventilated, and next door, the bodies were burnt. The ashes were used as fertilizer in the nearby farms.

The ones who were selected for work, lived in terrible conditions. The next picture shows the three levels of „beds“ they had to use to sleep. Each level was packed like in those terrible chicken farms.


Those who worked in farms and factories were exhausted or starved between weeks and months. There was no lack of new prisoners... In fact there were so many, that even though the gas chambers and crematoria were killing and burning hundreds and even thousands of people per day, that was still not enough. Therefore, some people were also burned in mass graves.

Some were selected to live a little longer, not to work, but for medical experiments..

Since Auschwitz 1 became too small for all that mass murdering, the prisoners had to build Auschwitz 2 (Birkenau). This place is 20 times bigger. Most of it is destroyed today, because the Nazis wanted to hide the evidence as the war was close to its end. Still, there is sufficient documents, photographs and remains of buildings left to see what happened here.

The picture below shows Birkenau, just to give an understanding of the size.. Of course, I couldn’t capture the whole of it in one picture.


Forgive me, if I don’t mention things that you might think that should be here too or my numbers are not precise. Sure, there is much more to tell about it. But I don’t intend to replace all the books and documentaries. This is a personal blog after all.

I stayed in Krakow and came here by car. That took me a bit more than an hour. The landscape is actually quite beautiful. But for me personally, it was rather a spooky experience. By the time I left my camping place in Krakow, it was a sunshiny day as in the picture book. The closer I got here, the sky got darker and darker and yes, when I arrived there were also a few thunders...
Walking around this place can be a bit tiring. Combined with the physical stress of the bumpy roads, the bad pizza in the evening and the mental stress of digesting the horror here made me vomit in the night.

It is absolutely no fun to see and write about it. But I agree that this must not be forgotten. Why? Because I believe such monsters were not limited to that place and time period, but they keep repeating this kind of thing when they get the opportunity to do so. Just look at the news around the world. This was neither the first, nor the last massacre of the human history. So keep your ears, eyes and mouth open to prevent history from repeating under different names, shapes and colors.

Last, but not least, somehow, knowing these things helps to appreciate all the good things we are able to enjoy. So the last lesson to extract from this story is to recognize, how pathetic most of our little problems are and to appreciate all the good things we do have and to enjoy our lives as good as we can. I think, this is an obligation in the name of all those who didn’t have this opportunity.