Auschwitz itself is located approximately 60 km West of Krakow. It is know locally by it’s Polish name Oswiecim and is now a relatively ordinary town with a population of about 40,000 people. The traumatic past of Auschwitz will however lament its place in history forever.
Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps
Auschwitz Birkenau was the largest of Nazi Germany’s death camps and was the site of the worst human atrocity of modern times where it is estimated that 1.1 million people were executed in the 2nd World War according to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State museum.
The majority of the victims were European Jews who were shipped to Auschwitz from a wide catchment area to meet their deaths primarily in the gas chambers using the gas Zyklon B, but also through executions, starvation and disease and medical experimentation. Other victims of the concentration camps included Poles, Soviet war prisoners and Roma gypsies.
Auschwitz was actually made up of a number of camps which served slightly different purposes, namely Auschwitz I, II & III. Auschwitz I was the original camp which was used primarily for administration and is now the site of the state museum. It is relatively small compared to Auschwitz II (Birkenau) the largest of all Nazi death camps in which gas chambers were used to execute en mass with factory like efficiency. Auschwitz III (Monowitz) worked as a labour camp. Auschwitz tours include a visit to Birkenau as part of the itinerary in addition to Auschwitz I.
The murder was finally ended by the arrival of the red army who entered the camp on 27th Jan 1945. After the war Auschwitz served a period as a prison camp but was then taken over by the Polish government where it was eventually restored and turned into a museum memorial in 1947. The site was entered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979.
Guided tours of Auschwitz
Guided tours of Auschwitz are educational and considered to be the most effective way to gain a quick knowledge of the events that took place, within a limited time frame (day trip) and for a modest price. Please note Auschwitz is often misspelled auchwitz or aushwitz