This isn’t a post that fits in with the rest, but, because I genuinely feel that it is a place where everyone should visit once in their lifetime, I felt the need to write about it.
A visit to the former Nazi concentration and extermination camps of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II – Birkenau is the main reason why I wanted to visit Poland. For many years I wanted to see for myself the greatest standing testament of man’s inhumanity to man, the place that bore witness to the most unspeakable of atrocities only some decades ago.
I’m not sure how you rate your experience at Auschwitz. It is not by any means enjoyable. I had tears in my eyes for the majority of the tour. It is a harrowing place. But it is informative, it is educational, and it is somewhere you will be very glad you visited.
You have two options when visiting – to go around on your own or pre-book (online, and I suggest well in advance) a guided tour. I was unsure which option to go for having read reviews saying that there is plenty of printed information around the camp and others saying that their tour was rushed or their guide left something to be desired. Ultimately I went with my gut and booked a guided tour, and was very glad I did. We were blessed with an excellent tour guide, who took the time to answer any questions anyone in the group had. There is no possible way that we would have learnt half of what we learnt from her from the information available at the museum. While we did skip some of the exhibition blocks at Auschwitz 1, the tour as it was – being 3 and a half hours long, the whole duration of which we were on our feet, either walking or standing – was completely physically draining, especially due to the hot weather.
I picked up a book from there titled ‘Auschwitz : The Nazis & The ‘Final Solution” by Laurence Rees; I strongly suggest it for those who wish to do some further reading.