Birkenau

I wish that I had spent more time at Birkenau.  Since we went there via shuttle with our General Tour group, I felt like we should return back to Auschwitz with them.  I should have just stayed to walk around on my own.  I’m not sure if the only way you can go to Birkenau is with a general tour.  We walked in with our tour guide and didn’t have to show a ticket.  I would think that anyone can enter at any time.  Since a non-tour ticket at Auschwitz is free, I’m sure they wouldn’t charge to go to Birkenau.  There isn’t any ticket booth or anything at Birkenau, so I am pretty sure anyone can enter for free.

To read what I did to get reservation tickets to Auschwitz, see my Auschwitz page.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Official Website is very helpful with a lot of good information to know before you go.  This is also the website you use to reserve tickets.

The following website has some good pictures and descriptions of  Birkenau: Website with History, Maps, and More Pictures

Children

I think it would be fine to bring children to Birkenau any time of day.  Since it is outside and there are so many tours and people talking, nobody would have a problem if your child was being a little loud or had to run around a little.  I would definitely advise them to be respectful and reverent, but it is such a large place that they shouldn’t be a problem with anyone as long as you aren’t on a tour, just walking on your own.

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Our tour of Birkenau with the General Tour was about 1 hour (after the 1.5 hr tour of Auschwitz).  Most of the tour was walking because Birkenau is HUGE!!  I was astounded by how big it was!  From the Main Guard House, to the gate before you get to crematorium II and III, it is 1 mile long.

On the tour, we started at the Main Guard House, then walked up the middle of the camp along the railroad tracks, then to the back where the destroyed crematoriums are, then we walked back and saw one of the barracks.

I had the impression that you are able to go up to the second floor of the Main Guard House, but for some reason it was closed when we arrived.  That would be a good spot to get some view shots of the camp.  When you arrive at the guard house, see if you can go to the second floor!

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The train tracks that went through the archway of the main guard house to the center of the camp. Crematorium II and III are behind those trees at the end of the rail tracks.
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These electrical walls were impenetrable!  I’m surprised that there weren’t double wires here like at Auschwitz, but these look much tougher than those at Auschwitz.
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The North Side of Birkenau.  The Nazis burned all the barracks to get rid of the evidence of the camps, but the chimneys remained (the only brick part of the barrack).
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An old boxcar on the tracks.  How horrible it would be to be crammed inside of one on a long journey to Birkenau.
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This was the area where selections were made — who would go to work, and who would go straight to the gas chamber.

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The Men’s Camp. There were a few plaques around Birkenau to give you an understanding of what you are looking at.

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The Women’s Camp.
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The interior of one of the barracks still standing.  I was surprised to see there were bricks on the floor; I expected it to be dirt.  Up to 8 people would sleep in each compartment!
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A wonderful surprise in the barrack was artwork!!  This artwork showed me that people still had hope.  Look how sweet the artwork is; I’m sure it help many continue on.
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Here is another piece of art in the same barrack as above. 
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The washroom was on the West side of the building.  It was quite small for the amount of people who were housed in this barrack.
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Nails are still in the wood.  I’m sure the were used to hang clothes and possessions.

Gas Chambers and Crematoriums

The gas chambers and crematoriums were in the back of Birkenau.  All that remains is the rubble so it is hard to imagine what they actually looked like and how they worked, but in one of the exhibits at Auschwitz, there is a diorama that helps you understand what they looked like and how they worked.  There is a big memorial between crematorium II and crematorium III.

The following website has a lot of good picture showing and describing  how the gas chamber and crematorium looked and worked when it was in use: Website on Gas Chamber/Crematorium

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The main road toward crematorium II.  You can see the roof of the destroyed crematorium II. 
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Crematorium II.
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This is the gas chamber part of Crematorium II.  The prisoners would go down these stairs, then undress. A and C on map below.

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Above is a plaque that showed how Crematorium II was laid out.
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Plaque showing the number of furnaces!!
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The International Memorial between the two crematoriums. it is here where ceremonies are held with visiting heads of state.
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This is a memorial to those who died here.  Behind the markers is a pit where the ashes of the victims were deposited after they were burned.
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