The reason for my Inter-rail

Auschwitz Travel Blog

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Entrance to the site.
I had the idea in my head that i wanted to visit Auschwitz long before i had thought of inter-railing. I was considering just getting a return flight to Poland and that would be that. Basically my whole trip was planned around the visit of Auschwitz.For some reason I had a great urge to go see the camp, i have no connections to the holocaust at all, it has just deeply interested me all of my life.
 However on arriving in Krakow, the reality of actually going there hit home when booking the daytrip there. We decided to go for a full day trip, with Auschwitz in the morning, and the Wieliczka
Salt Mine in the afternoon-hopefully this would cheer up the day afterwards.
Where the Orchestra would stand.
I cant remember how much we paid for both trips but it was well worth it. Booked from an office in central Krakow. Once booked, i was feeling a real sense of uneasyness and nerves, even considering unbooking the trip. I decided to go along, my trip would have been pretty aimless otherwise.

The bus picked us up fairly early in the morning and took around 45 minutes, we were played an information video with some historical information about Auschwitz before we arrived. When we got there we were greeted by the guide, and each given headphones and a small casette-like box, the guide speaks through the microphone as your walking around and it gets played into your headphones so that everyone can hear, this seemed great but as the tour went on, the guide moving up and down staircases, we lost the signal on our headphones and so missed quite a lot of information from the tour which was a shame as there wasnt much time to go over it again afterwards.
The prison inside the prison.


The guide was a lovely young Polish lady, whose family had been victims during the holocaust, this made the whole thing much more moving and affecting as she talked about the struggles of her grandparents. We were taken around the camp, shown and told in detail about the history of the war, the reasons behind it and the affects.

One of the first things we saw after entering under the "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work makes one free) Sign above the gate, was a concrete building to the left, here, were were told, a brass band would play daily, making the rhythm of the music easier for the guards to head count the prisoners at check times before and after they returned from work. The prisoners would also be told to march to the beat when carrying corpses. When arriving here i was overcome with a huge sense of disbelief, one because i was finally here.
All windows covered around the 'death wall'.
After planning for so long, it felt somewhat unreal that the day was finally upon me. And also, a place that you have learnt about, heard about and seen much information about- Your standing right there, where it all happened, it felt unbelievable that all that horror had happened right where i was standing on an overcast day ,surrounded by tourists...

We were shown around the camp in alot of detail, the rooms containing masses of hair, masses of suitcases, and other mounds of personal items have stuck in my mind the most, i just wish that we were able to spend more time, standing and taking it in, instead of being rushed off. Also taking photos in these rooms is forbidden.  I would have preferred to have spent alot more time looking at these items, and thinking about thier journeys and thier owers. Being rushed meant that we were kind of detatched from the reality of it all.
Entrance to Auchwitz-Birkenau.


I'd say that the thing that upset me the most was the hallway with photos of the prisoners, on one side there is the photo of the person on the day that they entered the camp, in thier own clothes, hair, and many posing smiles. Then next to it, the photo of the prisoner after time living in Auschwitz, some were days, some months. But each person looked the same in the second image, shaven heads, gaunt and ghostly expressions, and the same uniforms in all photos. Underneath the second image is the dates that they arrived, and died. Some were brought in and killed on the same day, some durvived months, but they all died in the end. For me this was the most upsetting point of the whole tour, looking at close up images of peoples faces really brought home the reality that these were real, innocent people. One of the most heart wrenching experiences of my life.
One of the few remaining blocks with bunkers.


In the first camp, Block 11 was the "prison within the prison" where there are standing cells, where up to four men would be made to stand with only one small air vent near thier feet. Also there were starvation cells, and suffocation cells where prisoners would spend thier time until they died.

Also at this camp are the gas chambers, which you are free to walk around inside, this is where the Nazi's would gass people using Zyklon-B, a lethal chemical pesticide. Up to 60,000 people were killed during the one year that these chambers were open. Still here also are the remains of the crematorium, where they would wheel the gassed bodies on huge carts, into ovens.

Also at Auschwitz I ,we were shown the 'Death Wall' where prisoners were executed by shooting.
Toilet block.
Remains of the original wall still stand, and you can still see the bullet holes. We were told by the guide that the windows in the blocks surrounding the wall were bricked up or covered so that the prisoners inside had no idea about what was happening outside.

After the tour of Auchwitz I, you are taken back on the bus to the second camp, before arriving i didn't even know that there were two camps, but Auschwitz I is where all of the 16 brick buildings stand. Originally built for the Polisharmy artillary barracks , then later turned into prisons for the holocaust victims.

Auschwitz II is Auschwitz-Birkenau, this is where the wooden shack buildings stand, each containing three story bunkers, where up to 800 prisoners were housed, in a space that was intended fro 52 horses. Here also is the infamous watch tower as featured in Spielberg's film Schindler's List.
Auschwitz-Birkenau bunker.
This rail track leads right into the camp and ends at the 'sorting platform' where people were chosen to be either fit or unfit to work.

On the tour i learnt many new things about Auschwitz that you dont usually hear about, i would definately reccomend the tour just for the extra information that they can provide you with. But next time i would like to just go alone, and wander around at my own pace, just to have the extra time to absorb all of the information.

travelman727 says:
Hannah, I appreciate your reflections. Like you, I found my visit unforgettable.
Posted on: Nov 28, 2010
laura1810 says:
Been near but didn't have the guts to face it. Enjoyed reading this x
Posted on: Jun 23, 2010
shadowflower says:
Thank you for the detailed and carefully presented blog. I've always wanted to visit this place as well.
Posted on: Jun 08, 2010
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Entrance to the site.
Entrance to the site.
Where the Orchestra would stand.
Where the Orchestra would stand.
The prison inside the prison.
The prison inside the prison.
All windows covered around the de…
All windows covered around the 'd…
Entrance to Auchwitz-Birkenau.
Entrance to Auchwitz-Birkenau.
One of the few remaining blocks wi…
One of the few remaining blocks w…
Toilet block.
Toilet block.
Auschwitz-Birkenau bunker.
Auschwitz-Birkenau bunker.
Windows around this wall were cove…
Windows around this wall were cov…
The shooting wall
The shooting wall
The israeli army.
The israeli army.
Entrance to the second Auschwitz c…
Entrance to the second Auschwitz …
Each level of bunk would sleep 6-8…
Each level of bunk would sleep 6-…
The toilet block.
The toilet block.
Auschwitz
photo by: EmyG