The Auschwitz concentration camp complex included three main camps. The complex was the largest of its kind built by the Nazis. Auschwitz housed prisoners used for forced labor, and was located approximately 37 miles west of Krakow.
Nazi Purpose for Building Auschwitz
Auschwitz was constructed to serve three purposes:
1) to incarcerate “enemies” of the Nazi regime
2) to supply forced laborers for Nazi construction-related projects
3) to serve as a site to eliminate targeted groups whose death was determined by the SS and other Nazi authorities
The Auschwitz concentration camp complex is divided into two main camps, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II. Auschwitz I included a gas chamber and crematorium, like many other Nazi concentration camps. SS Captain Dr. Josef Mengele conducted medical experiments at Auschwitz I. Pseudo scientific research was carried out on infants, twins, people with dwarfism, and some adults. Auschwitz I is also where the Nazis first experimented with using Zyklon B to kill large numbers of prisoners at one time.
Auschwitz II, also known as Auschwitz-Birkenau
Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest Nazi concentration camp. There were approximately 300 barracks that housed over 100,000 prisoners in 1944. These prisoners included Jews, Poles, Roma, and others. Today, Auschwitz-Birkenau is mostly in ruins. Visitors can see the ruins of the gas chambers, crematoria, fences, and primitive barracks.
Evacuation and Liberation of Auschwitz
As Soviet forces approached Auschwitz in January 1945, the SS began to evacuate the camp. In mid-January, 60,000 prisoners were marched out of Auschwitz. Just days after the Death Marches began, the Soviet army entered Auschwitz and liberated approximately 7,000 prisoners.
It is estimated that approximately 1.3 million people were transported to the Auschwitz complex between 1940 and 1945. The Nazis murdered approximately 1.1 million Auschwitz prisoners.
Historical Sights on Auschwitz Tour
A 90-minute guided Auschwitz tour leads visitors past many historical and emotional sights.
Auschwitz I, Block 4
This section of the Auschwitz tour explores which groups of the population were targeted by the Nazis. Camp records, photographs, and other exhibits illustrate the victim groups who were deported, imprisoned, and killed during the Holocaust. In Block 4 of the Auschwitz Tour, visitors view emotional exhibits, including canisters of the Zyklon B used for mass killing in the gas chambers and collections of victims’ hair.
Auschwitz I, Block 6
Block 6 of the Auschwitz tour examines how prisoners were treated upon arrival at Auschwitz. This section of the museum explores how prisoners were registered, classified, and dressed. Block 6 of the Auschwitz tour also explores day to day of prisoners. In addition to viewing mugshots taken of victims, visitors will also read excerpts from a diary belonging to Mieczysław Kościelniak, a former prisoner.
Auschwitz I, Block 7 – Living and Sanitary Conditions
Block 7 of the Auschwitz tour shows visitors how prisoners lived in the concentration camp. Original camp interiors illustrate the living and sanitary conditions at Auschwitz. Visitors can also view reconstructions, photographs, and prisoner artwork.
Auschwitz I, Crematorium and Gas Chamber
Both Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau had gas chambers and crematoriums. Visitors can view examples of both.
Plan Your Auschwitz Tour
Visitors can reserve tickets on visit.auschwitz.org. Upon arrival, visitors receive a headset and are assigned a tour group with a trained guide. Be prepared to spend 90 minutes at Auschwitz I and 90 minutes at Auschwitz II-Birkenau. While touring the museum, dress appropriately and show appropriate respect and solemnity.
Transportation to Auschwitz II-Birkenau
Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau are 3.5 kilometer apart. Visitors have four options for transportation between Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau.
There are parking lots located near both camps. Visitors can park here for a small fee.
There is a free museum bus shuttle that transports visitors between concentration camps. Between April and October the bus departs every 15 minutes. Between November and March the bus departs every 30 minutes.
Taxis can be found in the taxi rank at the museum entrance.
The walk between Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau is 3.2 kilometers. By walking between the two concentration camps, visitors can see where prisoners were forced to work in German industrial plants and warehouses.
Transportation to Your Auschwitz Tour
Take the bus for Oświęcim from krakow’s main bus station. Most buses stop at the Auschwitz Museum entrance, but not all. Make sure to ask before boarding.
Trains run almost hourly between Kraków and Oświęcim. The Museum is about 2 kilometer from the train station and can be reached by local buses.
Enjoy your Krakow tour!
Krakow Tour Benefits
- Curated Sites
- Audio Tours
- Offline Map