70th anniversary of liberation of concentration camp Aushwitz – Birkenau caused the growth (of already big) interest in this place. On the website of Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum one may read that in a first quarter of 2015 the 40% growth of attendance was observed. It’s good because the visit in a former concentration camp is an important history lesson and big experience. That’s why it’s important to know how to plan such a visit, how to behave and – what’s still not obvious – what’s is absolutely forbidden to do.
Short revision of the history
Concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau was founded by Germans in the middle of 1940. On the suburbs of Oświęcim, town which was incorporated to the Third Reich during the World War II. In a top moment of its activity it consisted of three parts:
- Auschwitz I
- Auchwitz II – Birkenau – on the area of a village called Brzezinka, which was located about 3 kilometres from Oświęcim. It was the biggest camp complex and a place were more infrastructure dedicated to mass extermination was located.
- Auschwitz III – Monowitz – one of the many sub-camps of KL Auschwitz, were prisoners were forced to slave work.
About 1,1 million of people lost their life during the KL Auschwitz – Birkenau existence – about 90% of them were Jews (960 thousand).
This is not a text about atrocities which took place in a concentration camp in Oświęcim. One may read about them in many competent works. I may only add that as a date of liberation of the camp is considered 27th January 1945 when soldiers of Red Army entered the camp.
Today the area of a former KL Auschwitz is the only place of such type entered into the UNESCO list where it is included under the name: Auschwitz – Birkenau. German nazi concentration and extermination camp (1940 – 1945).
FEES AND OPENING HOURS
Visiting is free of charge but the Entrance Card is necessary. It’s supposed to secure visitors and establish the maximum number of persons allowed to enter Auschwitz I. Establishing of such cards is a result of growing attendance I mentioned above. It’s most convenient to order cards on the museum’s website – then one may be sure that we shall enter the camp area in a time chosen. Picking up the cards on a spot is also possible but it results in waiting for the first free entry – sometimes really long. Moreover – if we are late for the entry – we shall have to wait for the first free term.
VISITING WITH EDUCATOR
On the museum’s website there is written: from 1st April till 31st October between 10.00 and 15.00 entrance to the former Auschwitz I camp is possible only with a Museum’s educator and the charge is collected for this. There is also written: because it is not possible to return charges for visits please make your reservation intentionally and deliberately. Which means – it’s better not to be late.
HOW MUCH TIME TO SACRIFICE FOR VISIT.
It’s certainly an individual matter. Museum recommends 3,5 hour.
IMPORTANT WORDS: SOLEMNITY AND RESPECT.
Going to Oświęcim we must remember one thing – we shall never be able to imagine the scale of suffering of the people who were unlucky to find themselves there. Never. No film, book or exhibition is able to show it. We may only guess. It’s important not to think about the concentration camp as a “tourist attraction”. It’s a Memory Place. One have to be properly dressed (i.e.: give up provocative and revealing too much outfit) not to take pictures where it is forbidden to, not to eat meals, not to smoke, not to use cell phones in the exposition buildings. I think that I don’t have to mention selfie. It’s the least convenient place for such entertainments.
No one shall stop children at the camp gate but the museum’s recommendation is unambiguous: it is not recommended to visit a museum for people under 14. And I advise to follow such recommendation moreover that the exhibition rooms may not be entered with trolleys. Besides – children, not aware where they are, shall feel bad there.
Writing this text I looked into: