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A haunting visit to the Auschwitz death camp

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

I visited Auschwitz on a day tour during our stay in Krakow. Expecting to learn interesting facts about WWII and the Nazi death camps while I was there, I was in no way prepared for the intensity of the emotions it would make me feel.

The tour included visits to two camps, Auschwitz 1 and 2. The scale of the place is just massive, especially camp 2 (Birkenau). It’s difficult to comprehend the size until you’re actually standing there, envisioning the endless rows of buildings in front of you filled with over 100,000 people at any one time.

69 years after the liberation of the camp and it was a crystal clear day. The long winter shadows made my surroundings look strangely beautiful considering its dark past. I was stood on the same platform where 1.3 million people had arrived in crowded carriages, not realising that they’d just stepped into a death camp where 85% of them would perish.


Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

The entrance to Auschwitz 1 features a sign stating Arbeit Macht Frei (Work makes you free). This was mostly a workers camp and also an administrative center for the whole complex.

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

Bordering the camp are multiple barbed wire fences and watchtowers. There was little chance of escape.

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

The on-site museum features a map of where Jews and prisoners of other nationalities were deported to Auschwitz, and enlarged photos of adults and children walking to the gas chambers who probably didn’t know what was about to happen.

There are also massive piles of used gas cylinders and empty suitcases which were raided for valuables after they were taken from arrivals at the camp.

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

The gas chamber at Auschwitz 1 could hold about 700 people at a time. The crematorium was in the next room. It was hard to imagine how many thousands of people walked through that door and never came out.

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

The entrance to Auschwitz 2 was where the crowded trains entered the camp, bringing people in for their fate to be decided. They were either sent directly to be the gas chambers, or got their heads shaved before becoming workers.

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

Haunting images of the Auschwitz Death Camp / A Globe Well Travelled

Inside Auschwitz 2, the hard wooden beds would hold about 6 people each. As with Auschwitz 1, there was no chance of escape with barbed wire fences and watch towers bordering the entire camp.

Have you been to any of the death camps scattered around Europe? Share your experiences in the comments.


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Ashlea Wheeler

Blogger & Photographer at A Globe Well Travelled
I'm Ashlea, an excitable Australian who loves photography and exploring the world. Find out more about me.

13 Responses to “A haunting visit to the Auschwitz death camp”

  1. Tessa / Bramble & Thorn

    Such a haunting place, but an incredibly powerful experience. Visiting concentration camps throughout Europe really forces you to see just how horrifying these places are.

    Reply
  2. Giulia

    Thanks 4 follow my blog on blogLovin’.
    It’s in Italian yet but I’m planning to translate my posts in English for my worldwide readers.
    I love the picture in your post.

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Giulia

    Reply
  3. Ali

    Oh god, this is so chilling… I am so interested yet freaked out by the Holocaust. I’d love to get the Chance to visit this concentration camp. I went to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Amsterdam and that was already so confronting!

    ———————–
    21 year old travel blogger
    http://the-living-spree.blogspot.co.nz/

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I know exactly what you mean Ali! It’s horrifying but also fascinating, and I think it’s really important that we all make an effort to recognise past events even if they are awful.

      Reply
  4. Camila

    Wow – that seems like quite the visit. It’s almost unimaginable to think of what happened in those camps. The places, even on nice days, just feels haunting. I visited Sachsenhausen when I was in Berlin and it’s like all the stories just hit me in the face so hard.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I’ve heard that some of the other camps scattered around Europe are equally as confronting, I don’t think it’s possible for someone to not be moved by the stories of all the horrible things that went on. Thanks for sharing Camila!

      Reply
  5. helcita

    wow, great photos and yes, such a haunting place, i have never been there, but i was in terezin ghetto/concentration camp in czech republic, not a “haunting” place like this one, but most of the people from terezin were sent to auschwitz to be killed or to become workers…

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Helcita! I think a visit to any of the camps would be just as haunting as many of the people at the workers camps ended up dying from disease or exhaustion.

      Reply
  6. Anni

    Hi Ashlea!

    Impressing post! I’m from Germany and our history is very present in our lifes because our grandparents were part of it. My granddad lived on the way to Auschwitz and saw the people who were forced to walk there without shoes or warm clothes in winter. I haven’t visited Auschwitz myself but Buchenwald. We went there with our school class, everyone was relaxed in the morning and as soon as we entered the camp nobody said a word till we were back home. It’s so shocking and horrible and I can’t believe that all this happened. Thank you for sharing, it’s important to not forget what happened there!

    Anni

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Hi Anni, it’s very interesting to hear your account – I imagine it would be quite a shocking learning experience for a school group, but an important lesson all the same. It would have been especially hard for you having heard your Grandfather’s stories. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

      Reply
  7. Hannah

    This is so accurate and true. I visited Fort Breendonk in Antwerp, Belgium while I lived there and it was so haunting and moving to see where all those people perished or lived out their nightmare. I was there on a clear but cold, snow-covered winter day and it was so peaceful and the sun glistening off the snow made it look almost pretty, which in a way made it feel even more haunting. It’s something I’ll never forget.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      It’s a very eerie feeling, isn’t it! Especially when the place looks kind of pretty (such as on your snow covered winter day) and then you start feeling odd about thinking that it’s pretty, considering what’s gone on there…

      Reply

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