Here you’ll find travel reports about Oświęcim. Discover travel destinations in Poland of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

17 travelers at this place:

  • Day34

    Auschwitz and Schindler's Factory

    October 6, 2016 in Poland

    While in Krakow we knew we had to take some time to reflect on the history of the Holocaust which has deep roots in Poland. Krakow is home to the infamous Schindler's Factory which is also now a museum dedicated to the history of the Third Reich invading Krakow during WWI in 1939 until 1945. The Germans wanted to make Krakow a German city so they displaced the Polish people and particularly Jewish people into the ghetto where conditions were barely livable.

    The following day we took a trip to Auschwitz which is about an hour drive from Krakow. You can visit the grounds of the concentration camp with a guided tour. Walking through the camp and hearing the stories of what the prisoners went through was sombering but definitely worth the visit to reflect upon this dark time in history when over 1 million people were killed at this one camp alone.

    We highly recommend visiting both places -- very impactful. It's hard to believe what humans are capable of doing to each other, and this is certainly a reminder of what we don't want to ever relive as the human race...although there are still crimes against humanity in our world today.
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  • Day29

    Oswiecim - in und um Auschwitz

    November 4 in Poland

    Auschwitz (auf polnisch = Oswiecim) ist wenn man hier ankommt zunächst ein Ort wie jeder andere. Das Wetter und unsere Verfassung riefen förmlich nach etwas "Gemütlichkeit". So haben wir uns mal wieder für eine günstige Unterkunft entschieden und das war auch gut so. Den Sonntag fingen wir dann mit einem ausgiebigem Frühstück im "Take a Break" am Marktplatz an. Bevor wir anschließend durch den Ort bis zur KZ-Gedenkstätte liefen und für unsere Führung morgen erste bedrückende Eindrücke sammelten. Es wurde uns jetzt schon klar, dass das morgen kein einfacher Tag werden würde.Read more

  • Day30

    Wie wir ansatzweise bereits erwartet hatten, war unser Besuch der Gedenkstätte sehr "beeindruckend" und erschreckend grausam zugleich. Wir hatten eine 6-stündige Führung gebucht, innerhalb derer uns viele Details und Hintergründe erläutert wurden. Die Gedanken werden uns vermutlich noch eine ganze Weile beschäftigen. Es ist unfassbar zu was Menschen im Stande sind zu tun und was wiederum Menschen aushalten können. Noch erschreckender ist es allerdings, dass es Menschen gibt denen das alles egal ist. So haben wir am Sonntag einen jungen Deutschen im Ort getroffen, der uns erzählt hat, dass er mit seiner Familie da ist und die Gedenkstätte nicht besuchen möchte, weil ihn das "langweilt"😳😬.Read more

  • Day360

    The storm swept over our wild-camp and meant that most people outside in the park/pub went home, leaving us in peace for the rest of the night. The humidity was high so we were feeling particularly filthy in the morning, despite the wet-wipe-wash the night before. Our 2.5-day no shower hair was the source of great amusement in the morning though :D

    A local guy walking his dog stopped to chat as we were drying our things, he then returned a short while later in his car armed with cheese croissants and doughnuts for us. What a hero!! We were truly touched by this second act of kindness shown to us by locals.☺

    The next challenge of the day was getting water. An unplanned wildcamp had left us with less than 500ml and by 8.30am we were already sweating just standing to pack the tent. Getting water was easier said than done in a undeveloped town with no supermarket with a card machine. Once we'd found our oasis and topped up on water and wafers we set out for an "easy" day to Poland.

    We've unwittingly redefined easy over the last days and ended up doing 85km (I had 50km in mind!). The ride into Poland was pretty sesmless, no signage, just that we were greeted by a friendly cyclist saying "Dzien dobry!".

    Polish cycle tracks have been a mix of small roads shared with farm traffic and totally horrible pot-holed bumpy roads, topped with loose gravel for extra fun factor. As we're spending A LOT of time in Poland we're really hoping they get better!

    Let's see!
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  • Day250

    Day 251: Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial

    October 23, 2017 in Poland

    Harrowing day today. Auschwitz is probably the most popular tourist attraction in Poland, and is very difficult to visit without a pre-arranged tour. So we'd booked a tour a few days earlier. Our bus picked us up just near our apartment, a typical minivan with around 12 seats. 90 minutes ride out to the town.

    These days the town is known as Oswiecim (Auschwitz is actually the Germanic version of the name) and surprisingly large. First stop was Auschwitz-1, original main camp and the site of an old Polish army barracks. This is where the famous "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign is located. We spent the next 2 hours walking around the camp, following the guide. It's very regimented, where basically everyone does the same tour in the same order in roughly 5-minute increments.

    The tour went through the history of the place, the first occupants (Polish dissidents and resistance leaders), and slowly moved through the deportation and incarceration of Polish Jews, but also Jews from all over Europe. It's hard to stomach the stories of not only mass killings, but the profiteering that went along with it. Many people were tricked into paying their train fares to the camp, gold teeth were extracted from corpses and melted down, long hair was shaved off and re-used in pillows, linens etc. People were told to bring their tools and valuables with them, which were of course immediately stolen. Awful stuff. One room had an enormous display with piles of plaited human hair that was quite hard to look at.

    After a couple of hours, we had a quick break and then headed to Auschwitz-2 - the camp known as Birkenau. "Auschwitz" itself was actually a complex of over 40 separate camps, though only these two have remained - Birkenau being far larger. An entire village was razed to make way for it, and it held 80,000 people at one point. This was where the mass killings were taken to their logistical extreme - the train lines into the camp terminated right next to the gas chambers.

    People were disembarked, separated into those who could and couldn't work. If you could work, you were marched off to the prison, if you couldn't it was straight into the gas chambers. Two of the five gas chamber/crematorium buildings still remain, though both are in ruins as the SS blew them up at the end of the war in an attempt to hide their crimes. I've seen them before at the other concentration camp I've visited (Mauthausen in Austria), but it's still an awful sight.

    This tour was quite a bit shorter, as it seemed much less of the camp was open for viewing. We were still herded around on a strict schedule, though there was a huge group of what I assume were Israeli teenagers on a school tour wandering around and behaving extremely poorly. Nothing egregious, just typical teenager shit that doesn't belong in a memorial. Anyway.

    Back to the bus where we drove the 90 minutes back to Krakow, suitably chastened. Chilled out for a while at home before heading out for dinner. Visited an Israeli restaurant nearby that we'd seen a few times and had good reviews - very tasty. Great hummus and our chicken tagine was excellent. Nice way to finish off our time in Krakow!
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  • Day10


    May 23 in Poland

    Unfortunately, we weren't able to get into the primary Auchwitz site because there were so many tour groups. However, we were able to go to the larger Auchwitz-Birkenau site. It wasn't as filled with information as the main site, but it still gave a horrifying glimpse of the atrocities committed in those places.Read more

  • Day45

    Auschwitz, Poland

    May 28, 2016 in Poland

    Today we would devote most of the day to learning more about one of the biggest concentration camps run during WWII by the Nazis. As can be expected, this post will be quite depressing; but the atrocities of war and mankind cannot be forgotten, lest they are repeated. Skip ahead if this topic is too difficult to visit for now.

    Auschwitz was initially built in 1940 to house Polish political prisoners but the SS thought it could provide the Final Solution to the Jew problems; by problems, they mean the existence of Jews. As the number of inmates grew, so did the camp. In 1941, Auschwitz II (Birkenau) was constructed just 3km away from Auschwitz I. This second camp was a lot larger and held approximately 100,000 prisoners by August 1944. There were 4 crematoria and gas chambers in this camp and this was where most of the mass killings were carried out. We visited both camps.

    Jews from all over Europe were sent to Auschwitz by the thousands each day. By the time they arrived in Auschwitz, they would have spent days, if not weeks, without food or water. Naturally, a large number died during the journey. The ones that made it thus far were assembled outside of their train cars. They were told to leave their suitcases but to write their names on the cases so they can be retrieved later on. They were then separated into two groups. Healthy and able men were herded into one group and marched into the camp. The others, mainly women, children, the ill and old, were told to walk to another entrance into the camp.

    The latter went into a room in the basement of a building which looked like change-rooms, where they were told to undress and remember the number on the hooks which they’d hung their clothes on so they can pick them up afterwards. They were to take a shower after their long journey. Naked and scared, they went into the next room which resembled a large bathroom. There were showers hanging from the ceiling; it was all going to be ok. They really were going to have a shower! The Nazis were methodical and brutal. The showers were never connected to a water supply. They were installed to alleviate fear in the Jews so as to prevent any resistance or panic. After the doors were firmly closed, SS guards poured a toxic substance called Cyclon B into the chamber through special openings in the ceiling. Within 15-20 minutes, they were dead.

    Genocide was not enough for the SS. After the gassing, gold tooth fillings, rings, earrings and hair were removed from the bodies. They were then taken to the incinerators on the ground floor. The ashes were used as fertilizer, and for filling in nearby ponds or river beds. Why hair, you ask. They sold the human hair to German firms for tailor’s lining (haircloth).

    The healthy men that escaped selection for the gas chamber were put through extremely unsanitary and unimaginable living conditions. They were subjected to beatings, slave labour and starvation. It did not matter if a Jew died – he was dispensable. If you want to read more about life in the concentration camps, I highly recommend a book written by an Auschwitz survivor, Primo Levi, called “If This is a Man.”

    When the Nazis realised that they were losing the war to the advancing Red Army, they blew up the crematoria and gas chambers to conceal their criminal activities. They left the sick to die in the camp while tens of thousands Jews were forced to march to another camp to be further utilised as slave labour. Without food or proper clothes and footwear, most did not survive the Death March.

    It was a very sobering day for us. And most of you are probably asking why we even went to Auschwitz. Apart from the fact that Flora has been morbidly fascinated by the evil that was the Holocaust since learning about it at the age of 15, we feel it is important to see up close what Man is capable of. Why did none of the SS soldiers who opposed the mass extermination of lives carry out their orders anyway? Only by attending these grounds can you get some understanding of the terror that the place and regime held. It was either kill or be killed. 1.5 million Jews died in Auschwitz alone. This number is likely to be a lot higher as most Jews that arrived at Auschwitz were never registered before they were sent marching to the gas chambers. There are hundreds of other such concentration camps, though perhaps not on as large a scale as Auschwitz. Such evil must never see the light of day again.
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  • Day361

    Oswiecim / Auschwitz

    May 31, 2017 in Poland

    Heute war Ruhetag - der erste auf unserer Reise. In unserem komfortablen B&B blieben die Fahrräder den ganzen Tag auf der Terrasse angeschlossen.

    Wir haben uns heute mit einem unrühmlichen Kapitel deutscher Geschichte auseinander gesetzt. Über diesen Boden zu gehen, fühlt sich sehr intensiv an, die schiere Größe von Birkenau vereinnahmt völlig. Irritierend wirkt der Massentourismus, der hier zelebriert wird. Starke Kontraste werden deutlich, auch die Verblendung derer, die denken, der Schrecken sei mit dem Fall dieses Regimes aus der Welt. Der gegenwärtig zelebrierte, allumfassende, volksverblödende und alles unterwerfende Kapitalismus ist nur eine andere Spielart der gleichen Schreckensidee.Read more

  • Day14


    August 27, 2016 in Poland

    Today we made our way to the Auschwitz extermination camp in a group tour and as you can imagine it was an emotionally draining day. Having read about the Holocaust for many years, I wasn’t surprised at what I was told, but being there and being able to visualise what I had previously read about was powerful. The room filled with the hair cut from Nazi victims is something I will struggle to forget.

    I was amazed to see how packed the camp was with tourists. I must admit that I struggle with the idea of an extermination camp as a tourist attraction (which I admit is ironic considering I came to the camps as a tourist). It’s good that people do come so they can learn and never forget what happened, but on the other side, seeing masses of people queue up to walk through a gas chamber and crematorium was a little difficult for me to watch. While Tessa and I did walk through the gas chamber in Auschwitz I camp, Tessa in particular struggled with being in a room where so many people had been murdered and felt compelled to leave as quickly as possible. In retrospect I wonder whether I should have gone through the rooms at all.

    The memorial near the gas chambers at the Auschwitz II – Birkenau reads along the lines of, ‘let this be a cry of despair and a warning.’ Tessa broke down.
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  • Day46

    Auschwitz - Birkenau

    October 10, 2014 in Poland

    Some say they don't know if they would go well if you have the opportunity and you don't then you have done a disservice to yourself and humanity. Every person who has the opportunity to see this has an obligation to go and talk about it. You can disagree if you want buy if you do I can only assume you have not been. You only know that is the truth if you have been. This happened only 70 years ago and the only prevention we have is educating ourselves about it and discussing it. Books, documentaries and survivor stories are important but I think it is different altogether to stand where it happened and see the well preserved in your face evidence. I had been to Dachau the first Nazi concentration camp and thought that was enough. I was told Krakow was a good place to visit but almost didn't come when I found how hard it was to get here with Poland not participating with my rail pass and not having planned for flights while here. Then I happened to see on the map just outside of the city Auschwitz - Birkenau and knew I had to visit.

    The tour of the camps was 8 hours with a 1 hour and 15 minute bus ride there and back. The first pic is of the entrance to the camp and probably the most fucked up signage ever as it means "WORK MAKES (you) FREE". Second picture: location where the "camp orchestra" played to help prisoners keep in step but as our guide told us to also calm people as they came through the gates as many knew what awaited them.

    Third picture: double row of electrified barbed wire fencing.

    Like most places in europe they had pigeons here which I am not fond of. All the pigeons here are black which I found interesting and had not seen before.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Oświęcim, Oswiecim, Auschwitz, Освиенцим, Οσβιέτσιμ, אושוויינצ'ים, オシフィエンチム, 오시비엥침, Osvecimia, Osvencimas, Osvencima, ओश्फिन्चिम, Освенцим, Osvienčim, אשפעצין, 奥斯威辛

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