History of Auschwitz Concentration Camp
The history city of Oswiecim ( Auschwitz in German ) dates back to the 12th century. Today Oswiecim is fourth largest city in Lesser Poland voivodeship with about 40 000 inhabitants (the biggest city in that voivodeship is Cracow - about 758 thousands people).
The most tragic part in the history of Auschwitz had begun in 1939 when city has been taken over by German Nazis and incoropreted into the Third Reich. It was also a time when Polish name Oswiecim has been translated again into German version - Auschwitz. Because it's hard to pronounce for non-German speaking people let me use more English friendly word 'Auswitch'.
The main reason German Nazis chose Auschwitz as location for the largest Concentration Camp complex was train line which had links with all big cites in Poland as well as another countries. Oswiecim is located very close to Cracow which during the Second World War had a population of 65 000 Jewish people. Also presence of natural raw materials like coal, lime stone were essential. Nazis planned to use free transport, free row materials and free labour to produce things needed to keep war machine running.
First Camp in Auschwitz was build for Polish political prisoners. German Nazis used them as a free labour mainly in a huge factory (I.G. Farbenindustrie) of synthetic petrol and rubber that was built on the other side of Oswiecim. First Camp - KL Auschwitz I - was established at the area of empty Garizons of Polish Army. When Nazis introduced their horrible plan called 'The Final Solution of the Jewish question' Auschwitz turn into Death Factory which aim was simple: to exterminate as many Jews as possible in the most efficient way.
First Camp - Auschwitz I was not big enough for that purpose therefore Germans decided to build another Camp - KL Auschwitz II - Birkenau, about 25 times bigger than Auschwitz I. Birkenau was built about 2 miles driving from KL Auschwitz I at small village Brzezinka (Birch Wood in English). Birch in German is Birk - that's why they named it Birkenau. Polish original inhabitants had been expelled not only from Brzezinka but also from surrounding villages of Harmeze and Babice. Nazis wanted to conceal what was going there and discourage prisoners from escapes. Most of abandoned Polish houses had been given to Nazis soldiers who very often brought their families there.
Birkenau is the site of largest mass murder in the history of humanity where German Nazis gassed about 1,5 million human beings. After arrival people underwent selection at train unloading ramps. Until summer 1944 unloading ramp (so-called Juden Ramp) was located at the halfway between Auschwitz and Birkenau. Since summer 1944 trains were directed straight to the new unloading ramp located in the middle of Birkenau Camp. Usually about 70% newly arrived people were sent straight to the Gas Chambers. Fate of young and stronger people was exhausting labour in inhuman conditions. Nazis kept them in stable-looking barracks. Sometimes 400 people had to sleep in a 'building' designed for 52 horses. Most of people selected to labour usually died within few months as a consequence of exhausting work, starvation, freezing cold, guards' brutality and horrible diseases.
Auschwitz was liberated on 27th January 1945 by Soviet troops. Just before Russians entered area of Oswiecim, Nazis managed to blow up Gas Chambers and Crematoria of Auschwitz and Birkenau. Blocks, barracks and many evidences of horrible crimes Nazis comitted here survived. In 1947, by decision of Polish Government Auschwitz Concentration Camp was turned into Museum and Birkenau into Memorial Site commemorating all those who suffered and died here. In 1978, state Museum Auschwitz Birkenau has been inscribed onto UNESCO list of the World Heritage.
Nowadays Auschwitz is the most visited tourist destination in the area of Cracow. People from all over the world come to learn this very sad part of the human history and pay tribute for all victims of Holocaust.
Auschwitz Birkenau State Museum is located in the city of Oswiecim, Malopolska Voivodeship, Poland. For visitors who come to Poland by plane the most convenient place to start and end trip to Auschwitz is Krakow Aiport. Located an hour drive from Auschwitz, and half an hour from Krakow is the best place to go. Usually I pick up people in Krakow but it's not a problem to start a tour directly from Krakow Airport. If you arrive in the afternoon you could tour Auschwitz on the day of departure - I set up a tours' itinerary according to your schedule.
Krakow Airport has planty of connections with UK, Scandinavia and another western Europe countries. For people from USA, Canada and Australia who very often must land and take off at Warsaw Airport I have a solution as well. Instead of boring and expensive train between Warsaw and Krakow you can book Auschwitz Tour with pick up or drop off in Warsaw or Warsaw Airport.
Second closest International Airport to Auschwitz is Katowice Airport Pyrzowice located an hour drive from Auschwitz and a bit more than an hour from Krakow. As 1 hour 15 mintues journey between Krakow and Katowice Airport is not so cheap it's worth to consider combo tour - Auschwitz with pick up or drop off at the airport. In most of cases I can offer up to 20% discount for combined services, so apart time you safe money as well!
Below I present map of Auschwitz with ideal route and 'must see' locations. Please note that from June 2023, entry and car park is located at Wiezniow Oswiecimia 61 street: location ( 50.029650382050356, 19.20507305946853 )
Most popular itineraries:
- start and end in Krakow: about 80 miles drive in total (2 hours)
- start in Krakow/Krakow Airport, end in Krakow Airport/Krakow: about 75 miles drive in total (2 hours)
- start and end in Katowice: about 44 miles drive in total (1 hour)
- start at Katowice Airport, end in Krakow: 66 miles drive in total (1,5 hour)
- start in Warsaw or Warsaw Airport, end in Krakow or Krakow Airport: about 240 miles drive in total (5 hours)
- start in Wroclaw or Wroclaw Airport, end in Krakow or Krakow Airport: about 190 miles drive in total (3,5 hours)
If you'd like to start or end your tour at another place it's not a problem at all. Just contact me please and I will get back to you with itinerary and quote.