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Auschwitz main gate 

KL Auschwitz Death Camp in Oswiecim 

Site of the notorious German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp of Auschwitz and Birkenau is located seventy kilometers west of Krakow which make an hour’s drive. Between June 1941 and January 1945 about one million men, women and children perished in the three Auschwitz concentration camps – i.e. Auschwitz proper, Birkenau and Monowitz – and their more than forty sub-camps. At its peak the whole complex of the Auschwitz death camp was a deadly prison to some 150,000 inmates that were being either murdered outright or starved and worked to death. 

Visiting the Auschwitz and Birkenau

Currently every year some 1,400,000 visitors come to Oswiecim, an industrial town of 45,000, to see the Auschwitz. Half of them are Poles, and the rest mostly from the USA, Germany, the UK, France, Italy, and Israel. Nearly 30 million people have already visited the place. 

It takes minimum an hour to see the Auschwitz proper, and another to visit the nearby Birkenau site called Auschwitz II. They are open to visitors (except January 1, December 25, and Easter Sunday) from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. June through August, till 6 p.m. in September, till 5 p.m. in October, till 4 p.m. in November, till 3 p.m. in December through February, till 4 p.m. in March, till 5 p.m. in April, till 6 p.m. in May. Archives, library, collections, management, etc. work on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Independent visitors may and groups should employ an authorized guide. Over 150 of them provide tours in Croatian, Czech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Russian, Serbian, and Spanish. 

Admission to the Auschwitz and Birkenau is free. Unfortunately huge numbers of visitors have prompted the management to restrict access to Auschwitz proper to guided tours only between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. from April 1st through October 31st. Individual tourists may join English tours at 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., half past noon, 1:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m., German tours at 10:30 p.m., noon, and 1:30 p.m., French tours at 10:30 p.m., noon, and 1:30 p.m., Spanish tours at noon and 2 p.m., and Italian tours at 10:30 p.m., noon, and 1:30 p.m. Such a tour lasts about four hours and it costs 38 zloties per person. 

Booking office is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays. Phone number (+48) 338448100 or 0338448099, fax (+48) 338432227. Web site www.auschwitz.org.pl  

Individual visitors are free to see the Birkenau site (Auschwitz II) anytime during opening hours. Auschwitz proper and Birkenau are situated some three kilometers apart, a forty minutes' walk. A free bus links the two sites from April 15th through October 31st departing every 60 minutes: from Birkenau on the hour and from Auschwitz 30 minutes later.  

Please note that exhibitions may prove traumatic and visiting the death camps isn't appropriate for kids under 14.  

Travel to Auschwitz and Birkenau 

Oswiecim is easily accessible owing to the region’s extensive railroad and bus networks and the ample road system. When in Krakow, motorists may reach Oswiecim fastest via the paid four-lane expressway to Katowice (exit to Chrzanów after some 20 minutes). 

Every day frequent buses and trains leave for Oswiecim from Krakow's centrally situated bus depot at 18 Bosacka street and the main rail station adjoining the Old Town to the northeast. As to public transport, a bus that stops by the Auschwitz site seems more convenient than a train. 

A number of travel agencies in Krakow offer day trips to the Auschwitz.

History of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Death Camp

In 1939 Hitler annexed the old Polish town of Oswiecim to his Third Reich as Auschwitz, and a year later the Nazis could start the conversion of the town’s abandoned barracks into a concentration camp called Konzentrationslager Auschwitz in German. First inmates, a group of Polish political prisoners, arrived on June 14, 1940. In addition to Poles there were soon imprisoned Soviet POW’s, Gypsies, and other nationals from the rest of German-occupied Europe to suffer and die in hellish conditions. In 1942, notably after the construction of the nearby Birkenau (Auschwitz II) concentration camp, trainloads of European Jews start to come. Most of them were immediately put to death in the Birkenau gas chambers.

  • October 1939: the Nazis annex the ancient Polish town of Oswiecim to the Third Reich and rename it Auschwitz.

  • November 1939: new German administration installs a German mayor.

  • 1940-1944: Polish peasants are being driven out of the area to make room for German settlers.

  • 1940: on Himmler’s order Jewish slave workers change emptied army barracks into a concentration camp.

  • June 14, 1940: the Nazis bring political prisoners, all of them Poles, to Auschwitz Concentration Camp as its first inmates.

  • 1941: all Jews are forced out of Oswiecim.

  • October 1941: construction of the Birkenau Concentration Camp, i.e. Auschwitz II, starts near Oswiecim.

  • 1942: setting up of Auschwitz III-Monowitz Concentration Camp.

  • January 1945: evacuation of the Auschwitz camps.

  • January 27, 1945: the Soviets take over Oswiecim.

  • 1947: new Polish government creates Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on the site of the concentration camps.

  • 1967: erecting of the International Monument to the Victims of Fascism at Birkenau.

  • 1979: UNESCO enters the Auschwitz concentration camp and the Birkenau death camp in its list of World Heritage sites.

  • 1986: launching of the Youth Meeting House in Oswiecim.

  • 1992: opening of the Center Dialogue and Prayer.

  • 2000: opening of the Auschwitz Jewish Center and Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue. 

Auschwitz Jewish Center and Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue 

Before the Nazis came to Oswiecim and set up their monstrous Auschwitz concentration camp here, a small Jewish community had led its peaceful life at that place as in many other Polish towns in the region. In September 2000 the Auschwitz Jewish Center has opened in the newly renovated Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue at 5 Ks. Skarbka Pl. amid the historical quarter of Oswiecim, a twenty minutes’ walk from the Auschwitz Museum. The center both shows and commemorates the life and culture of victims of the Holocaust as exemplified in the largely forgotten history of the Oswiecim Jews. One may see the synagogue itself, an exhibition on the Jewish everyday life in Oswiecim before 1939, and a short film based on a survivor’s testimony recorded by Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation. There is also a family history room for genealogical research and a meeting space. Admission is free. 
The center stays open weeklong except on Saturdays and on the Jewish holidays, between 8.30 a.m. and 8 p.m. from April through September, and from 8.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. since October to March.


Other UNESCO World Heritage sites in Krakow and the Malopolska Province

Krakow's Old Town historic district

Wieliczka salt mine

The Calvary sanctuary of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska

Malopolska's wooden churches

 In the proximity of Krakow
Krakow is Poland's tourist mecca, and also a gateway to many other must-see sites in the region.

Jewish Ghetto in Krakow

KL Plaszow concentration camp in Krakow


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from Krakow to Oswiecim
and from Oswiecim to Krakow.


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