The Birkenau concentration camp is a place where I was transfixed. I never imagined it had this size. As far as the eyes could reach barbed wire, guard towers, barracks or what was left of it. I think you can compare it to the size of a small to medium city. If you know some cities in Belgium you can compare it to Leuven or Mechelen and what is left is not even the size as it was.
We started our visit at the “Judenramp”. This was the place where the trains stopped in the early days of the camp. From here we followed the same route the jews/inmates of the camp followed. This is about 2 to 3 km from the gates of the Birkenau camp. A wagon, used as transport, is standing as a witness of history. An information board gives a view of the size during the war and the environment.
The place where we’re standing is marked with C. From here we went to the camp marked with D. We took the same road as it was used then.
By taking the same road after a while the camp showed up and we arrived at the main gate.
The gate under the tower was used by the arriving trains, the gate on the left by other transport. In between the entrance to the guard tower where you have an overview of most of the camp. Parts mainly at the sides and before the camp have other purposes now, but the traces are still there. From in the camp, you can see in the distance the mountain where the soldiers went on a short holiday and where most of the pictures from the known “Auschwitz album” were taken. Nearby the camp you can still find the abandoned SS-building.
Going into the tower, we had an overview of the main part of the camp. Pictures are taken from left to right and zoomed to the max of my camera.
Every where you can see barbed wire, and barracks.
This camp existed of sections each separated with one or more inner gates. Every x-meters guard towers, till deep behind the tree lines.
The toilets inside a barrack.
The ruins of the “little white house” where people should undress in the woods, gassed inside and burned. Behind these ruins huge place where mass graves where located. Later the bodies were dug out and burned on open fires. You can still see the traces of these graves.
The Kanada. A collection of personal leftovers from the prisoners. Placed under glass so nothing can be taken as souvenir anymore.
A building with real showers and disinfection gas chambers. These people went in here were selected for labour.
The leftovers from the gas chamber, crematorium 2 and 3. The people went downstairs to undress, gassed and burned.
In the middle a monument for the victims. Under this monument are several hundred bodies buried. The people died directly after the liberation or during the treatment in the first few weeks after liberation. From here you can take a look back to the main gate.
On our way back, you could see the abandoned SS-barracks.
The entrance is free, but you can take a guide which of course you’ll have to pay.
We visited the camp in half a day which is too short to see and read everything. You’ll need a whole day for sure. Best thing is going on your own so you can see everything.
I don’t think it is allowed to drink, eat or smoke, or looking for souvenirs in the camp so be aware of it when visiting. They’re very strict in it. In the front of the main entrance there’s also a bookshop.
More on Auschwitz read the post: Poland under the Nazis. (part 1) – Auschwitz 1 (Stammlager).