The Desolate Atmosphere in Auschwitz-Birkenau Complex

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There’s nothing will prepare you emotionally and psychologically when entering Auschwitz-Birkenau compounds. The eerie and desolate atmosphere feeling, as you walk through its empty grounds.

My visit to the concentration camp was organised a month before my trip to Krakow Poland. Getting to the camp from Krakow is easy, either take the bus or train heading towards Oświęcim. It is situated 50 kilometres west of Kraków about an hour journey. I opted to take the bus, it’s more handy it will drop you near the campgrounds. The grounds entry is free, but if you get there between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., visitors must have a guided tour costing 40 Zloty. I joined the 10:30 a.m English Tour, with an expert tour guide and headphone at hand I was ready for a walk through the past.

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Passing through the infamous gate “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign mounted on a wrought-iron arch gate, a German phrase which means “Work sets you free”.

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Noticing the high barbed wire fence, securing the entire site as you enter the spooky complex, with indescribable feeling of uneasiness as you walk passed.

We then guided towards the “Deportation unit” exhibition room. According to documents it was June 1940 the beginning of the poles deportation of 25,000 prisoners and almost half of them has perished while in the camp. In March 1941 deportation of 1.1 million Jews and Auschwitz became the largest site of the Holocaust, the mass murder of about 1 million as perpetrated by the Nazis using the gas chambers.

Then followed by a visit to the prisoner barracks in block 7 and 11 exhibitions for typical interior of the prisoner’s room laid out with hay on the floor, communal lavatory and wash room. As well as the display of tons of personal belongings from shoes to luggage bag. There’s even a mountain of shaved hairs from the prisoners. I can’t hardly imagine the torture and anxiety they have felt during that time.

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An eerie silence descended over the corridor walls that were filled with photos of the prisoners. As if they are staring at you as you walked away.

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In September 1941 the experimental use with gas “Cyclone B” took place. They also started their medical experimentation with the prisoners. The merciless act that no one could have imagined.

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After the tour around Auschwitz I, we were then taking the free bus that brought us to Auschwitz II or called Birkenau complex.

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Where mostly the mass murdered has occurred. The railway ramp at Birkenau is regarded as the Road of Death. As soon as the train stopped, the unloading and selection process starts. Women and children were directed towards the gas chambers being assured they had a bath for disinfection. They were willingly going and unknowingly what will really happen next. While men who are fit to work were segregated and were headed to the camp. The gruesome act lasted for couple of years until 1945.

The Germans left and destroyed parts of the camps before abandoning them in 1945, much of Auschwitz I remained intact and Auschwitz II Birkenau was badly damaged.
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There are barracks that is open to the public and exhibition displays that are included on the tour. And there are buildings not open due to ongoing preservation or due to safety issue. The usual tourist route does not include building 18 and 27. It is worth going back to visit after the tour in Birkenau compound. It was recommended by Lukasz staff personnel in the press department of Auschwitz. So after the whole tour I went back to Auschwitz 1. I swiftly got through the security and headed straight to building 18 and 27. The first building was dedicated to the Polish prisoners.

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Then I came across to a room dedicated to the kids who were victims. The room was so dim, but you will notice straight away the drawings on the wall. A replicate drawings of kids that were discovered in the camp, and the very lively kids singing on the background music playing in the room. Roaming around the room my heart sunk and my tears slowly rolling down my face, not even realising I was crying in silence. This very moment will remind me and will never forget my visit to Auschwitz.

The visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau Complex was so surreal. I felt and think I wish I didnt go, but a part of me glads that I did. Being able to see and be there in that place makes me understand more of what happen in the past.

Auschwitz-Birkenau was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. Today with the Polish Government and other organisation works together to preserve the place and later converted into a museum and memorial. Up to this time there are continued plans of preserving the authenticity of the place. Requiring a big amount of money to fund the preservations. If there’s one thing we can do, let’s help the preservation of the site by donating directly to Auschwitz-Birkenau

Insider’s Tip:

  • How to get there, it’s either take the train or bus at the Krakow Glowny, but the latter is more convenient as the bus will stop near the campground. Do keep it in mind that there’s two camp sites Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz 11. The tour will start at Auschwitz 1 and there’s a free bus to take you to Auschwitz 11 and back. Travel cost 12-13 Zloty each way.
  • Campgrounds entry is free. But if visiting between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. you need to book a tour guide through their official website Auschwitz-Birken 1&2.

Disclosure:

I was a guest in Auschwitz-Birkenau the press department provided a press pass and free tour guide. As usual, I retained full editorial control and all opinions are my own.

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Anneklien
Hi Im Meanne Anneklien, a part time traveller and photographer. I love solo travelling and through this blog I would like to inspire others to travel more. Lets explore and experience first hand the different cultures, customs and sample the world cuisines, and meeting amazing people along our wonderful journeys.

58 thoughts on “The Desolate Atmosphere in Auschwitz-Birkenau Complex

  1. Your pictures are stunning. Visiting Auschwitz is one of the top things to see on my bucket list. The Holocaust is such an unbelievable period in time and to think that a place like Auschwitz existed, is mind boggling. Thank you for sharing your pictures!

  2. A few years ago, I visited Dachau just outside Munich and it was easily one of the most depressing and psychologically difficult morning of my life. After that experience, I could not bring myself to visit Cambodia’s Killing Fields which is bad. Seeing these places and remembering is important – but also a real decision when you are only in vacation for a few days.

    1. It’s one of those place that you need to visit to understand more of what happen in the past, I know its a bit heavy psychologically and emotionally but im glad I did visit Auschwitz

  3. Your photography is wonderful and really mirrors your words. This would be an incredibly moving place to visit I am sure. I have toured a number of museums around the world dedicated to this subject but to actually be where such atrocities took place would be both fascinating and yet heartbreaking at the same time.

  4. Your pictures are very good for creating the emotions that must accompany a visit to this place. I have not been here but have been to other awful places. They need to be visited to remind us of what can and did happen.

  5. Visiting places like this always gives me goosebumps hehehe. Somehow it feels like there are souls watching over you. But you did an awesome review, great info! By the way your photos are stunning!

  6. This must have been such a emotionally challenging experiance. I would like to visit myself some day but I’m sure it will have the same chilling effect Tuol Slang had on me. Horrible what people can do to one another. 🙁

  7. This is so sad! I went to a concentration camp in Germany, and it was such a sad experience. The one I went to is in Dachau. Visiting these camps reminds you to never forget!

  8. We just went to Auschwitz a few weeks ago and it was a very somber experience, but an important place to go and see. We got there before 10am so we wouldn’t have to pay for a tour and spent about 7 hours on the ground. We felt that not doing the tour kept us from rushing past a lot of sites, and taking a little more time where we wanted.

    1. Actually I do recommend the tour guide they give you more information what to look out at the exhibit, if you felt rushed you can always go back again like what I did after the whole tour.

  9. Have you seen the film “Life is Beautiful”? This article reminds of that movie those clothing and shoes while they were in the camp, and most of the locations in your pictures. I had the same feeling too when I was in Yad Vashem, those years were just unbelievable!

  10. It’s still hard to believe something like this could have happened, and so many people supported it. I really want to visit one of these sites for myself, although I feel guilty even admitting it. Your photos are stunning; you really capture that eerie feeling, like you’re being judged by the ghosts of the past.

    1. I know its a sad place to visit, but its one part of our history that we should never ever forget and visiting the place is a sort of to pay respect to the victims.

  11. Such a heavy place! I’ve not been here myself, but know people went here and came back really kind of shocked and affected. It is good to remember what happened. On the other hand I sometimes feel people only remember exactly that moment then, and harm each other in a little different way all the same! Though, that being said in still relatively one of the most safe times in entire history…. Damn, life is complicated sometimes!

  12. It was literally a year ago today we visited Auschwitz and I don’t think a day has gone past that I have not thought about it. It leave this scar on your heart that you can’t describe but in many ways it makes you even more grateful for what you have also and more determined that ever to contribute to peace and understanding.

  13. It gives me goosebumps just reading your post and looking at the photos, what more if I were there myself. The acts of atrocities in World War II is truly appaling and heartbreaking.

  14. This must have been a difficult place to visit. I know it’s going to be difficult for me., just like when I visited Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and The Killing Fields in Phnom Penh.

  15. That was such a bad time for humanity and such a sensitive moment in history. This place represents on how people were treated back during that horrible time. I salute you for the courage upon visiting this place. I have a very soft spot when it comes to places like this and it brings tears to my eyes to see how people has suffered back in the days.

  16. Have you noticed the toothbrushes? That’s what broke me. Not the shoes, not the hair, not other things, but the mound of toothbrushes of people who were told they were being relocated and dutifully packed their toothbrushes, fully intending to continue their oral hygiene. Little did they know…

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