I’m definitely not the person to ask a history related question. I can barely remember my own birthday, let alone the date of some major event from the past. I was never that interested in history but since I started travelling, that has slowly changed.
Berlin is a great place to visit if you are interested in World War II history. There are great museums like the Topography of Terror, which chronicles the atrocities committed by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945, plus you can still see a number of buildings which were used by the SS during that time. But I don’t think you can really understand just how bad the atrocities were until you go to one of the concentration camps like Auschwitz Birkenau.
Auschwitz is an easy day trip from Krakow in Poland. You can do it on your own or take one of the many tours on offer. We did a tour just because it seemed simpler and I figured a tour would give me more information about what went on in the camps. I’m not a huge fan of doing tours but I think it was much more convenient in this case.
There were 3 main camps at Auschwitz, the smaller Auschwitz I which is the first stop when you visit and which holds the museum, Auschwitz II Birkenau which is the huge main camp where most people were put to their death in the gas chambers, and Auschwitz III Monowitz where much of the slave labour worked but is no longer in existence.
Most of the people killed in the death camps were Jews, gypsies, and Polish prisoners.
Many of the belongings of the prisoners were on display which was creepy, to say the least. They included things like shoes, luggage, and personal items like toothbrushes and shaving items.
At Auschwitz I you can walk inside the ‘showers’ ie. gas chambers. Again, creepy.
A few minutes drive from Auschwitz I is Auschwitz II Birkenau. Birkenau was the much larger camp and the remnants of the 100s of buildings can still be seen and a few have been rebuilt for display. Prisoners arrived by train and were either sent immediately to the gas chambers or sent to work in the labour camps.
Obviously the living conditions were appalling. There was little to no heating, people had to share tiny bunk beds, and the once a day communal toilet break was no doubt humiliating.
Although the tour was long-winded and a bit restrictive, I found it to be really interesting and recommend it for both history buffs and newbs like me.