Why?

I believe that everyone should visit Auschwitz. Witnessing the site where perhaps the biggest tragedy of world history took place is crucial in understanding what our species did wrong. We should learn from the painful mistakes so that we never ever repeat anything like the Holocaust.

In this article, I will be guiding you on how to prepare for your visit.

The entrance gate to Auschwitz
Auschwitz gate© Can

How?

During my time in Germany, I have visited many monuments from the NSDAP era that are, unlike Auschwitz, located inside the borders of Germany. They may of course be easier to get to, however, having a look at the locations of the concentration camps, you can easily see that they are methodically placed outside of Germany. So to visit this location that possesses high levels of importance as a part of German, European, and Global history, one has to leave Germany.

The former camp is located in south Poland. There are multiple flights every day to Krakow from many airports in Germany. Katowice airport is also an option.

If you want to be more mindful of your carbon footprint, Poland is perfectly connected by the train, and you can reach both cities via train.

From the central station of either city, the town of Auschwitz is only one hour away by train. From the Auschwitz station, the memorial is a 20-minute walk.

I recommend booking your tickets in advance from the official website as it gets busy on the site. Normally, you can visit the site for free towards the closing time but I do not recommend doing so. Joining one of the guided tours organized by the memorial adds so much to the experience, and you get to learn the painful stories of the locations that you visit. It is impossible to neither have such an in-depth understanding of the camp nor visit everywhere if you visit it yourself. The guided tour is very budget-friendly anyway and all your money goes to the conservation of the site. Make sure to book your tour via the official website and not via a tour company.

You have to arrive half an hour early, go through x-ray security, and be in respectful clothing. Think of it as visiting a cemetery.

The tour guides do not raise their voices out of respect, so you will be given headsets to hear clearly.

First of all, you will visit the Auschwitz work camp. You will enter through the famous gate that ironically says „Arbeit macht frei“ and see both the preserved buildings and some heartbreaking exhibits. Afterward, you will board a bus for 5 minutes and go to the Birkenau death camp, where there are no exhibits, so you will see the preserved sites. In total, you should expect to spend around 3.5 hours.

Fatal danger sign and fences in Auschwitz
Auschwitz sign© Can

How to prepare

It is a heavy experience. It is where millions of innocent people were systematically murdered, enslaved, and tortured. I have some tips on how to mentally prepare:

  1. Do not visit it alone. Go with a loved one who you feel comfortable with.
  2. Do some research beforehand.
  3. Do not feel like you have to complete the tour. If you think it is too much to handle, feel free to notify your guide and ask to leave.
  4. Be grateful for your life.

No matter how many documentaries you saw, articles you read, or high-quality movies like Schindler’s List / Sophie’s Choice you watched, it will never be anywhere near visiting the camps yourself.

Main gate of the Birkenau camp
Birkenau gate© Can

As a summary …

… it is something everyone should experience. Make sure to follow the steps I described to have a smooth experience.

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