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VISITING AUSCHWITZ – BIRKENAU FROM KRAKOW: All You Need To Know.

In BLOG, DESTINATIONS, EUROPE, POLAND, USEFUL GUIDES by Clelia Mattana32 Comments

AUSCHWITZ BIRKENAU VISIT: TABLE OF CONTENTS

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How-to-get-from-krakow-to-auschwitz-birkenau-the-complete-guide

“How long do you need to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau on a day tour?”

“Is Auschwitz really worth visiting”?

“Can you give me some tips & Info on how to get to Auschwitz?”

These are just a few of the many questions I have received during the years via email and comments, after I literally poured my heart out by writing about my experience of visiting Auschwitz on the 2nd of September 2015. I wrote that blog post almost immediately after my visit, and it’s more about the emotional side of the experience, the numbness, the emptiness of that place.

A few days after the third anniversary of my visit, I decided to address the “practical” side of visiting Auschwitz from Krakow, because, to reply to some of the questions, I do believe that everyone should visit this place. And in here you will find all the useful information you need to plan a MEANINGFUL trip (not rushing or visiting it the “wrong” way because you didn’t know certain things):

1| TAKING PICTURES IN AUSCHWITZ – BIRKENAU: SELFIES & THE “DARK TOURISM” DILEMMA.

Auschwitz-dark-tourism-electric-fences-sign
Sign at Auschwitz I to stop people getting too close to the electric fences.

People and journalists label this kind of trip (including Auschwitz) as Dark Tourism.

Personally? I HATE THIS LABEL. To me, it is a way of saying that we are “commercializing death.” Auschwitz, as I see it, is NOT a touristic place at all.

Yes, there is a “business” behind it—Auschwitz Birkenau guided tour tour from Krakow, fees to pay, and so on—but ultimately, they are just a means to an end.

People should go (independently or with organized tours) not because they are casual “curious tourists.” In that case, I would highly recommend they stay at home or imagine for a second having lost a dear one or their entire family in that place.

The majority of the people I saw while visiting the concentration camps were not there to see a place where millions of innocent souls were killed just out of morbid curiosity. That would be just … wrong.

Visiting Auschwitz is so much more than that,  and you (hopefully) will realize it as soon as you set foot in that damned place. If you visit with the right mindset, your life will never be the same again. You will learn a lot and see with your own eyes (probably without understanding it completely) what men can do to each other.

That’s WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO VISIT AUSCHWITZ.

  • To learn from the past
  • To avoid making the same mistakes again
  • To pay your tribute to the millions of people who died and suffered there
  • To (try) and understand why and how all this madness took place

TAKING PICTURES AT AUSCHWITZ: REFLECTIONS & GUIDELINES 

offensive-selfie-photos-auschwitz-concentration-camp
I can’t even comment on this photo

Unfortunately, if the Nazis were capable of such atrocities, it would come as no surprise that some people actually go to these places and lightly take selfies in front of the victim’s hair or the gas chamber at Auschwitz I. I witnessed such appalling behaviors, and I talk about them in my own experience article.


When I finally decided to visit Auschwitz, I thought about whether to bring my professional camera to the site FOR DAYS.

I wondered if it was the right choice to take pictures there, but then I realized that by taking those pictures, I wanted to try and convey the pain and suffering that went on there.

The thought of being in the photo didn’t even cross my mind. What would be the purpose of splashing my face in a photo with a background of horror and pain?

When we insert ourselves in a picture, that picture becomes a “souvenir.” And there is nothing more wrong than taking a “souvenir” photo at Auschwitz.

If you must take a picture, do it with a more noble purpose, maybe to remember how you felt (even if I can assure you, there is no need to look at a picture to go back to that place in your mind, but at least you are no disrespecting the victims and their families).

Look at it this way: How would it make you feel if you had lost a dear one and a bunch of idiots were taking smiley selfies in front of the grave of that person? Enough said.

Needless to say, going to Auschwitz to take a smiley selfie is NOT the reason you should be there. I feel ashamed for these people, and I wish there were a way to give a massive fine to them.

This way, the word “Dark Tourism” might have a different meaning, even if I doubt I would ever change my mind about the wording used to describe why people should visit these places.


 

WHERE YOU CAN AND CAN NOT TAKE PHOTOS AT AUSCHWITZ:

taking-photos-at-auschwitz-selfies-where-it-is-allowed-where-is-not-allowed
One of the many controversial selfies taken at Auschwitz. I personally find it completely disrespectful.

Where You Can Take Pictures In Auschwitz/Birkenau:

  • Outside, on the main grounds of Auschwitz Museum/camp and Birkenau camp
  • Inside the Museum and Barracks in both Auschwitz 1 and Birkenau (with a few exceptions at Auschwitz Memorial Museum, see below)

Where You Can NOT Take Pictures In Auschwitz/Birkenau:

  • Entirely forbidden in Room 5 of Block 4 (Human air of the victims)
  • The camp detention house was in the cellars of Block 11, which prisoners called “The Block of Death.”
  • In the area of the security check of visitors and their hand luggage.

I decided to embed this video of people laughing and taking selfies at Auschwitz because it’s truly horrifying. If you go there, please, REMEMBER WHERE YOU ARE AND SHOW A LITTLE RESPECT FOR ALL THE SUFFERING THAT WENT THROUGH IN THERE. 

More Info about photos in Auschwitz:

  • Selfies are allowed, but discretion must be used at all times. I personally don’t recommend taking selfies in any circumstances as a sign of respect to the victims. This is even more important in the forbidden areas (I saw people taking selfies when no one was looking) and also in the only crematorium still existing in Auschwitz I).
  • You can’t use the flash or tripods inside the units in the museum.


2|FROM KRAKOW TO AUSCHWITZ BY BUS OR TRAIN: INFO AND COSTS

PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL THE OTHER CHAPTERS ARE STILL MISSING, AS I’M WORKING ON THE ARTICLE’S LAYOUT RIGHT NOW. THANKS FOR YOUR PATIENCE.

Comments

    1. Author

      Thank you, still working on it as some of the info changed.

    1. Author

      Thanks Laura, I hope you’ll have a meaningful visit to Auschwitz when you decide to see the place.
      Cheers
      Clelia

    1. Author

      A perfect example of why automated posts won’t work. The comment is clearly not appropriate given the topic. Please refrain from posting automated comments, nothing good will come out of this practice anyway. PS I just now realized that the IP address is the same as the previous message. As already said, totally pointless.

      Thank you for your cooperation.

  1. Dark Tourism teaches a lots about mistakes done by humans. It is wise to learn something from it and go ahead avoiding same mistakes

    1. Author

      Nothing could be closer to the truth, especially now, as in Italy we are facing a crisis where hate and desperate people are very much resembling the beginning of what became one of the most horrific chapters of modern history. Shame on the Italian in this case. (I’m talking about the Sea Watch ship with migrants that finally arrived in Lampedusa just today).

    1. Author

      You’re welcome. I hope you’ll have a meaningful experience…

  2. Thanks for sharing this set of instructions. Really informative.

    1. Author

      Beauty? How so? I didn’t see beauty anywhere in there. Unless you mean that we are preserving a place to remember people who suffered tremendously. But even in that case, calling it beauty is a tad too much (my opinion).

  3. Found your post interesting to read. I cant wait to see your post soon. Good Luck for the upcoming update.

  4. Even though I am from Poland I havent been to this place and I think I am too weak and emotional to go.

    1. Author

      Hey Anita, I get it… you are certainly not forced to go if you don’t feel ready for it. Maybe one day you will be. If not, the mere fact that you are emotional and sensitive about the topic is already a good thing as visiting Auschwitz, in my opinion, is important to avoid committing the same mistakes again, not for morbid curiosity or as a touristy place.

  5. Overwhelming atmosphere! I also love to travel and I’ve recently switched to a healthier lifestyle and training for a race, which calculates distance, time, pace and calories. Finding new running routes is always a challenge, such as sneaking in my runs into my destinations. Your blog posts are a true inspiration.

    1. Author

      Before trying to link to a commercial app/website in every comment, people should instruct the bots to at least not leaving comments without any connection with the topic. I’m sure the inmates at Auschwitz would have been delighted to switch to a healthier lifestyle and train for races. Unbelievable.

      1. I can’t believe what I have just read above!! Totally irrelevant to the topic. I’m sorry but I really don’t care if you are on a health kick – save your comments for another channel! I totally agree with clelias comment. No doubt Iris would be there taking a selfie as well…..

        1. Author

          Thanks for joining this crazy comment Barbara. I am pretty sure this Iris doesn’t even exist. I receive a lot of messages similar to this and they go straight to spam. It’s Robots usually. They craft nonsense out of a few words and commands. But unfortunately, I got some real people commenting on my other post about Auschwitz. It was a personal attack to my writing style (supposedly) as I was concerned about writing like Hemingway when emotionally writing that piece. What can we do? Try not to take these people seriously and carry on.

          In this case, I put the comment because some companies use bots so they won’t bother anymore, or at least a lot less as their links will be deleted.

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