Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp museum

written by Maciek Bogdanski

Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp is a sad witness of what happened in Poland during the Second World War. On the outskirts of the Polish city Oswiecim, Nazis set up a complex of concentration camps that soon turned into extermination camps. In 1947, the remains of the camp were established Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. It became a World Heritage Site in 1979.

Auschwitz concentration camp entrance gate
Auschwitz camp entrance gate with the Arbeit Macht Frei sentence

Krakow concentration camp

Before you leave from Krakow to Auschwitz, you should know that there was a Nazi Concentration Camp in Krakow, too. It was set-up in 1942 in Plaszow district, initially as a labour camp. In January 1944 it was expanded and transformed into a concentration camp. In the Autumn of 1944 Nazis started to dismantle the camp, and sent most of the prisoners to Auschwitz. Among them were workers of Deutsche Emaillewarenfabrik in Krakow, who were later saved by the owner of the factory: Oskar Schindler. This story was filmed in 1993 by Steven Spielberg in “Schindler’s List”, the film that was awarded Oscar for 1993.

This is what Krakow concentration camp looked like
This is what the Krakow concentration camp looked like

Even though you can visit the place where the camp was, there is almost no trace of it. It is also not a very popular destination for foreign tourists. So if you have ever heard about “Krakow concentration camp”, I’m quite sure the term was related to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Oswiecim, not to the concentration camp in Krakow itself.

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Krakow concentration camp exhibition

Until the end of 2020, there is an exhibition at the site of the former Krakow concentration camp. The 19 most important places are marked with plagues, photos and prisoners’ stories.

Getting to Krakow concentration camp

To visit the former Krakow concentration camp you need to get to Plaszow district. There are two entrances to the site: entrance from Jerozolimska Street (landmark: the Grey House) and entrance from Kamienskiego Street (landmark: the Monument to the Victims of Fascism)

Polish concentration camp in Auschwitz?

What you need to remember and understand: just because concentration camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau or Stutthof were set up in Poland, it doesn’t mean they were Polish concentration camps. They were constructed by German Nazis and run by German Nazis who brought the hell to the earth. This doesn’t mean that we now blame young Germans for that, we just want the world to hear about Nazi concentration camps, not Polish concentration camps.

What will you see in the Auschwitz concentration camp museum?

The Auschwitz Concentration Camp Museum consists of two parts: Auschwitz I Stammlager and Auschwitz II – Birkenau. They are situated about 3,5 km from each other. Auschwitz I was the first camp set up here. This is where the first transports arrived in 1940. Auschwitz II was much bigger and soon became the main area of mass extermination.

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The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum consists of grounds and original camp blocks, barracks, and guard towers. Among the building to be visited are the Death block,  Gas chamber, Central camp baths, and the reconstruction of the Death Wall. Except for that, you will see the conditions the prisoners were living in, a presentation about the life of camp prisoners and evidence of German Nazi crimes, including personal belongings stolen from the deceased. There is also an exhibition of objects related to the SS soldiers that run the camp.

Auschwitz camp museum
Auschwitz camp museum

Visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp museum

Reservations and entrance fees

Admission to the museum is free if you are an individual visitor and want to see the museum on your own. You still need to make a reservation here. Choose “Visit for individuals”, select the date, and then look for “Tour for individuals without an educator” to make a reservation.

You may also visit the museum with an educator – the group will be created for all the visitors that made a reservation for the same time and the same language. The guided tour costs 70 PLN/visitor and lasts about 3,5-4 hours.

You should arrive at the museum 30 minutes before the time on your ticket. This is due to the security control at the gate to the Auschwitz Museum.

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Free shuttle buses provide transfer between Auschwitz I Stammlager and Auschwitz II – Birkenau.

Auschwitz Museum opening hours

The Museum is open every day except January 1, December 25, and Easter Sunday. You may enter the museum in the following hours.

MonthEntrance hours
December9.00am - 2.00pm
January, November9:00am - 3:00pm
February9.00am - 4.00pm
March, October9.00am - 5.00pm
April to September9.00 AM - 6.00pm

Taking pictures

Taking pictures in the Auschwitz museum is allowed for own purposes but without the use of a flash or tripod.  It is however not allowed in the hall with the hair of victims (block nr 4) and the basements of Block 11. Using pictures taken in Auschwitz concentration camp cannot make harm to the memory of the victims.

Auschwitz camp
Auschwitz camp

Other rules in Auschwitz concentration camp

This is the place where over a million people were murdered, so you are expected to behave and dress respectfully.

There is a storage area on-site, but if you can, leave your luggage in the hotel or car. The maximum size of luggage that you may take inside the museum is 30x20x10cm.

Eating, drinking, and entering with animals is prohibited (except for dogs accompanying disabled people), and so is using mobile phones inside the buildings.

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Due to the nature of the museum, we advise you not to visit Auschwitz with children younger than 14.

Getting from Krakow to Auschwitz Concentration camp

If you want to go from Krakow to Auschwitz (Oswiecim), you have several options:

Reserving a Krakow to Auschwitz tour with an agency

The easiest way to get from Krakow to Auschwitz concentration camp is to look for a daily trip in any of the tour agencies. They will pick you up in the city centre or your hotel and take you directly from Krakow to Auschwitz Museum gate. This is however more expensive and you need to keep to the schedule. Organizing the trip by yourself is cheaper and allows more flexibility. Expect the Krakow to Auschwitz tour to cost about 150-170 PLN and last about 7-8 hours.

Krakow to Auschwitz train

To get from Krakow to Auschwitz concentration camp first you need to get to Oswiecim. Trains from Krakow Glowny leave more or less every two hours, and the trip lasts about two hours and costs about 10 PLN.

Then you need to either walk (about 25 minutes) to the main entrance to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Camp museum or take a local bus.

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Krakow to Auschwitz bus

You may take a Krakow to Auschwitz bus from the main Krakow bus station (about 1,5h, 12 PLN). Most of the buses go straight to the Auschwitz Camp museum gate. Buses leave frequently from the main bus station in Krakow. There are also buses that go to Auschwitz straight from Krakow Airport.

Oswiecim – another victim of Auschwitz concentration camp

The city of Oswiecim is another victim of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Although the town has an interesting history, and there are numerous places to see in the city except for the Auschwitz camp, it is rarely a destination itself. Even if someone plans to visit the city after visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp museum, in fact, he is usually not in the mood then. Oswiecim has also problems with attracting investors, who simply don’t want to be associated with a place with such a sad history. That’s why the authorities try to mentally separate Auschwitz from Oswiecim, and the Polish name of the city no longer appears in the Auschwitz Museum name.


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