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Between June 1941 and January 1945 approximately one million men, women and children perished in the three Auschwitz concentration camps – Auschwitz itself, Birkenau and Monowitz – and their forty plus sub-camps. At its peak the whole complex of the Auschwitz death camp was a deadly prison to some 150,000 inmates that were being either murdered outright or starved and worked to death. Every year 1,400,000 visitors flock to Oswiecim, an industrial town of 45,000 people, to see Auschwitz. Nearly 30 million people have already visited the site of the notorious German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp

It takes a minimum of an hour to explore Auschwitz, and you should allow another hour to visit the nearby Birkenau site called Auschwitz II. Individual visitors are free to see the Birkenau site (Auschwitz II) anytime during opening hours. Auschwitz itself and Birkenau are situated some three kilometers apart, which can be walked in around 40 minutes, however there is also a free bus service. Please note that exhibitions may prove traumatic and visiting the death camps isn't appropriate for kids under 14.  

History of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Death Camp. In 1939 Hitler annexed the old Polish town of Oswiecim to his Third Reich as Auschwitz, and a year later the Nazis started the conversion of the town’s abandoned barracks into a concentration camp called Konzentrationslager, Auschwitz in German. The first inmates, a group of Polish political prisoners, arrived on June 14, 1940. Followed shortly by Soviet POW’s, Gypsies, and other nationals from the rest of German-occupied Europe. In 1942, notably after the construction of the nearby Birkenau (Auschwitz II) concentration camp, trainloads of European Jews arrived and most of them were immediately put to death in the Birkenau gas chambers.

Krakow is just under an hour away and is a where most people stay when visiting tourist sites such as Auschwitz or other UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the Wieliczka salt mines which date back to the13th century.

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Five Auschwitz Facts

  1. Auschwitz guards had their own athletics team. The camp was like a small town, with its own staff canteen, cinema, theatre and grocery store.
  2. More people died in Auschwitz than the British and American losses of World War Two combined.
  3. About 60 million Reichmarks – equivalent to £125m today, was generated for the Nazi state by slave labour at Auschwitz.
  4. Of a total of about 7,000 staff at Auschwitz, only 750 were ever punished. Many went on to build good careers, including one man who became head of human resources for a large German company.
  5. Some Jewish prisoners secretly wrote eye-witness accounts of the atrocities of the gas chambers and hid them in bottles or metal containers buried in the ground. A number of these accounts were discovered after the war.

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