A few years ago, I was refusing to visit Auschwitz. I believe that you need to feel ready for a visit as moving as this one. This year, when we decided to go to Krakow on holidays, I found it obvious that we had to go there. In this article, I’m going to tell you how I felt about the tour.
(Please excuse the raindrops on my pictures…)
First, I have to say the visit of the camps is not recommended for children under 14. It seems normal as some of the things you see but also the explanations that are given could easily shock children. There were still some kids there when we visited, I don’t really understand the parents…
When we arrived in Krakow we hadn’t booked anything concerning Auschwitz. At the tourist information centre inside the station, the lady told us that it would be very complicated to enter as all the tickets were sold out for the next couple of days. In the end, we booked early morning bus tickets for the next day. We arrived in Auschwitz around 8.30. There was a queue to get tour tickets but there were still loads available. In the summer, it is compulsory to have a guided tour between 10am and 3pm. I believe they sell about half of the tickets online and the rest can be bought on site. We chose the tour in English but there are a lot of different language.
I really wanted to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau for a few reasons. First, I study contemporary history so I have learnt a lot about WWII. As I was so close, it was obvious to me that I had to visit it. Then, I feel like it is almost a duty to go where so so many people lost their lives in horrid conditions. I think we should be careful and never forget what happened there. It occurred at that time in history but it can happen again.
The guided tour lasted around 2.40 hours. I found it really well organized. Being in a small group of people (around 20) helps to see the site better. The tour takes you to a lot of places. Because I had studied a lot around Auschwitz and WWII I didn’t learnt a lot during the visit. This helped me not to feel too shocked or too moved. Of course, the atmosphere in this place is quite heavy, silent, but the number of tourists walking around makes it less moving as it could be if you wondered alone. However, the tour as well as the exhibition itself are well arranged to show how people arrived in Auschwitz and how they were treated.
Even if I was interested in visiting this death camp, I was afraid of being shocked by the things I was going to see. I was also worried about how the number of tourists was going to « ruin » the tour. I was afraid some people would have come there as they would have anywhere else.
In the end, I would recommend to anyone who is interested to go to Auschwitz. You learnt so much more about the period but you also become more aware of what happened and how important it is not to forget it. This is the text at the Birkenau memorial.