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My Visit to Auschwitz

Of all the concentration camps in history, Auschwitz was the deadliest. Here are 29 photos that show what it’s really like to visit the Auschwitz memorial.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

One of the main reasons I decided to go Krakow, Poland this summer is because of Auschwitz. I know that may seem like a bizarre choice for a summer vacation. I knew it would be hard, but it was also important to me to visit a place that had such a significant impact on our history. What astounds me is that the unspeakable crimes that happened here were really not that long ago. It’s important for us to remember that, or they could easily happen again today.

Below I will share my account of this visit. Please note that some of the photos and content are unsettling. Please proceed with caution.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

Auschwitz Main Gate

This is the main gate to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where every victim entered. The gate reads “Arbeit Macht Frei” which means “Work will make you free.” The prisoners thought they were going to labor camps, but in reality this was camp designed for mass extermination. Less than 10% who walked through these gates survived.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

All around the camp were gates and barbed wire fences.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

Double barbed wire electrified fences with armed guards made escape virtually impossible.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

Auschwitz Concentration Camp Barracks

This is one of the barracks, still standing. Over 1,000 prisoners were held in one single barrack.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

From the barrack windows, all you could see were gates, fences, and the watch towers where the soldiers would sit with machine guns waiting to shoot anyone who stepped out of line.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

Fear was everywhere.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

Life in the Concentration Camps

This is a courtyard between two barracks. If you look closely you can see the windows of these barracks are boarded and bricked up. The soldiers did not want the prisoners to see what was going on in this courtyard.

This wall is where mass shooting executions took place.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

Also in this courtyard is a torture device. Victims here would have their hands tied behind their backs, then their hands would be tied to this pole. The pole is probably 6 ft high, so they would be dangling there with their hands tied behind their back and pulled over their heads, arms and shoulders popping out of socket.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

You would be shot for even stepping on the dirt near the fence here.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

Auschwitz Memorial

Inside the barracks is a memorial to all the personal items stolen and collected from the victims. There were walls and walls of shoes, suitcases, eyeglasses, hairbrushes, home goods, toys, even human hair that had been shaved and collected. It was disturbing.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

Medical equipment like crutches and braces were confiscated from the victims.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

Auschwitz Gas Chamber

Next were the gas chambers.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

The ovens are still there.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

This was the actual room. Prisoners were handed a bar of soap and a towel, and told they were taking a shower.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

But in reality, cyanide was dropped through these windows in the ceiling.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

You can still see the scratches on the walls from those trying to escape.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

Over 1.1 million people died at Auschwitz.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

Birkenau

Auschwitz wasn’t big enough to hold all the prisoners, so they built a second camp, Birkenau.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

They built a train track that ran directly into the middle of camp for faster deportation of the Jews.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

Train To The Death Camps

These are the cars that transported the Jews. They were originally meant for cattle. If you were standing shoulder to shoulder in a cattle car of this size, maybe 20 people could squeeze in. The Nazis packed in a minimum of 80 people in these cars. They were held captive in these cars for sometimes an entire week while they were being transported. They had no access to food, water, or toilets during the trip. Most did not even survive the trip to the camp.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

Birkenau was much, much bigger than I thought it would be. Although most of the barracks were destroyed, you can see where they used to be. There were rows upon rows.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

The Sonderkommandos

The Nazis destroyed the crematorium here in an attempt to hide their horrible crimes.

After the prisoners were gassed in the crematoriums here, the bodies then had to be transported to the ovens and burned. The Nazis did not want to do such a horrible job, so they made the other prisoners do it. These prisoners were given the name Sonderkommando. The Sonderkommandos were separated from the other prisoners and never lived longer than 6 months because the Nazis didn’t want word spreading about what was actually happening.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

Birkenau Concentration Camp Barracks

The primitive barracks where the prisoners lived at Birkenau were very sobering.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

I’ve read many memoirs from Auschwitz and Birkenau and the accounts described them in exact detail.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

The prisoners slept on these three layer bunks. The bunks are just hard wooden shelves with no mattresses or even straw for cushioning. The bottom bunk is just dirt and brick. I cannot imagine sleeping on bricks then having to get up the next morning and do hard labor all day.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

Each bunk is about the size of a queen size bed. So two people could fit on each level. But no. A minimum of EIGHT people were crammed on each level. Imagine your 7 closest friends and being crammed with them on a queen size bed.

Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camps

Just quietly walking through the barracks, I kicked up so much dust and dirt. I can’t imagine having to breath this stale, dusty air day in and day out.

Books about Auschwitz

Stories from Holocaust Survivors

I am always looking for memoirs and survival stories from World War II. If you want to learn more about Auschwitz, Birkenau, and the war from a first hand account, here are three of my favorite memoirs:

The Hiding Place
Rena’s Promise: Two Sisters in Auschwitz
Unbroken – Not about Auschwitz, but an amazing survival story from WWII.

If you have any other recommendations for me, I would love to hear them.


If you made it this far, thank you so much for reading. It know it was hard, but I think it’s also important that we don’t forget.

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64 Responses
  1. Mickeila Rawlings

    I have litterally come back from this place, and it was like stepping back in time. to think that these people walked into the camp thinking that they were going to be working, and not knowing what lay ahead for them is unbeleivable.
    The crematoria and gas chambers have been pulled down now, and all that is left is rubble. In between these now atands a memorial to those that lost their live with 3 memorial stones with this inscribed on them in 3 different languages
    ” Forever let this place be
    a cry of dispair
    and a warning to humanity
    where the nazis murdered
    about one and a half million
    men, women and children
    mainly Jews
    from various countries
    of Europe

    Auschwitz-Berkenau
    1940 – 1945

  2. Sarah

    Hi, Thank you for sharing your experience and photos of the camps. I have started reading many historial fiction books about this horrible time in history and will soon start to read those books you recommended. I cried while reading and looking at your photos, I hope one day to visit one of the camps in this lifetime.

  3. Emily

    If Netflix still has it, you should watch the documentary called Auschwitz. It’s long, but I watched it all in one day. I think there are 6 episodes. I’ve seen it 2x. We were stationed in Germany for 3 years and visited the Dachau concentration camp near Munich. Such a sadness still in the air there.

  4. Michelle

    This is a very well written post that captures the feeling of being there as a visitor. I visited Auschwitz 2 days ago and I cannot get it out of my head. 
    I got chills walking through the enterance gate and those chills continued to run down my spine all through the visit of Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz 2 birkenau.
    Some more info I gathered during my visit: the barack in Auschwitz 2 birkenau that you photographed (if it was barack 25) was actually nicknamed “the death barack”, where women that were not fit to work anymore would be held while waiting to be transported to one of the gas chambers. Because the gas chambers were always functionning due to the amounts of new deportees arriving, those women would sometimes be there for days without getring any food or water. So most of them died in that barack of starvation, dehydration or because they were too sick. 
    They actually did not sleep only on the wooden planks, they had a thin matrass with straw inside and a blanket that was so dirty that you couln’t tell what colour it was. At least that’s what our guide told us when asked. Not that this made things better.
    It’s truely a slap in the face to visit Auschwitz, but I think everybody that gets the opportunity should go see it. That way we will never forget the horrors that happened there, and what man kind is capable of doing to each other.

  5. MAHALAKSHMI MANJUNATH

    Thank you so much for this virtual tour of the place where the worst ever crime was done to human kind..tears rolled down my cheeks when I saw the scratch marks on the wall..Just imagine what they would have felt when they realised that they were all going to die…wonder why JEWS were loathed so much that they had to go through these horrible crimes..My heart goes out to all the surviving members of the Holocaust victims..may all their souls rest in peace..I sincerely pray that never should a Hitler be born again on this earth…OM SHANTI SHANTI SHANTIHI…OM PEACE PEACE PEACE ….

  6. Steffen Lohse

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I visited Auschwitz three times between 2012 and 2017. Most of visitors ‘know’ what took place here, but it is nearly impossible to understand. We have to realize the social and political conditions which legalized the most horrible crime in mankinds history.

  7. Sara Masini

    I did travel to Auschwitz at the age of 18. That room of people’s belongings – the cloth for the solders made of hair hair. I am haunted by that to this day. Thank you for your post. I could not take photos at that time. 

  8. Rab

    one of the most horrific and harrowing events ever carried out by mankind although I feel mankind is not the proper way to address it but it was human butchering human and very well blogged Amanda

  9. Francine

    I am glad you showed the pictures showing that it did happen. I know it is upsetting but people should know what happened.
    Thank you.

  10. Kate

    This post is sobering. Being of both Polish and Jewish descent, and having family members sent to both Auschwitz and Birkenau these camps were on my “must see” list when I visited Poland. I was 14 (I’m now 33) but at the time – there was a minimum age requirement of 16 … I would love to go back and revisit Krakow and Warsaw … they really are beautiful cities with beautiful people.

    1. Christie Otto

      Just finished the book the Choice by Edith Edger. She and her sister survived Auschwitz can highly recommend

  11. tala

    Amanda, your website was my everyday go to about 7 years ago when I had my fist daughter and was trying to figure out photography! Thank you so much, I was looking for some fonts online and remembered all your cute fonts and then came upon this. I am completely fascinated with work war II and I have seen almost every movie about it. I can’t believe this ever happened. It completely blows my mind. I often wonder if you could ever stomach to go and visit this place. I don’t know if I could. seeing this picture really makes me think i could do it. Thank you for sharing these photos and bringing awareness to these crimes that many try and forget. I think it’s SO important to know and remember those that were lost there. Thank you!

  12. Marjorie @APinchOfHealthy

    I remember learning about this when I was in school. It used to be difficult to imagine that something so horrific actually happened. It’s not as hard to believe now, seeing the state of the world today. Lord, help us to preserve the sanctity of all human life…and stop those who try to destroy it.

  13. Jillian

    Thanks for posting this. I studied the Holocaust in college and it was seriously one of the best classes I took. My professor was Dr. Deborah Lipstadt. Her books Denying the Holocaust and History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier are great. They are making a movie out of the second title I believe.

  14. Lucia

    My boss survived Birkenau. He escaped. He is 90 and has the numbers tattooed on his arm. He is an incredible man and is inspiring. Thank you for sharing this trip.  It is horrific what they did and we mustn’t ever forget. 

  15. Marnie

    Definitely a hard read, and I give you credit for going there. I don’t think I could. So sad and horrifying. I read a good book called ” the lost wife” it was fiction, but based on a true story. I didn’t realize it was about this time, so it was s hard read for me. But very good…
    Thank you for sharing. 

  16. Nancy Eckler

    Amanda, I am so glad that you are telling about your experience. I don’t think that I would be able to handle such a visit. It is important to remind our children and grandchildren of this horrific time in history. It is the only way to keep it from happening again. Thank you for being so brave and sharing with your readers.

  17. Sarah

    I feel that this is such an important story to tell…again and again and again. We can never speak of this enough, because we must never forget. Your mention of this having happened quite recently is one of the most startling things, yet so true. Millions died, and I often wonder if this had happened down the road from me if I’d have been one of the few who were brave enough to stand up and speak out against these atrocities. 

  18. Mel

    Thank you for sharing.   I share a similar interest in reading survivor stories about the holocaust. We can not forget.   While not  a true story you may want to check out a historical fiction book called ‘We Were Brothers Once’. Just finished it and both camps you wrote about were a part of the story. 

  19. Susan

    Thank you so much for writing this piece about such an important time in history. Like you, I have an interest in WWII and the events of the war. The evil that occurred in these places is beyond my comprehension, but it’s entirely important that it be taught and never forgotten. This is the most important post I’ve ever read of yours. Thank you.

  20. Anne

    Thank you for this post. I was a German minor in undergrad, and when I studied abroad, I made visits to several of these camps. I never made it Auschwitz, so thank you for sharing your experience. I will never forget my experience at Dachau–when you went through the creamatorium, past the ovens, and then walked outside, you could smell the ash. It was harrowing. These visits are difficult, and I remember coming close to tears several times visiting camps.

  21. PB

    Thank you for this sobering and vividly descriptive post – my Airbnb guest is from Poland and we were just chatting about this.  As far as other reads about the Holocaust, ‘Night’ by Elie Weisel (who recently passed) is amazing. 

  22. Q

    Well done, Amanda. All of us, who believe these atrocities were real, need to work to discover the identities of the many who deny it and never, ever let them have a say (again) in our government. Do your homework.

  23. Kathy P.

    Amanda, thank you so much.  I cannot imagine being there.  I, like you, have this interest in the Holocaust.  These pictures are riveting and gut wrenching.  We must never let anyone erase this horror from our history.  Thank you for the reading recommendations.  

  24. Rena Berowski

    No we shouldn’t forget. I hope I get to see this someday. It is sobering. I still find it hard to understand the cruelty man can to his fellow man, but I see it has happened again and again. Generations should not forget this. 

  25. Yaya @ Randomly Yaya

    Thanks so much for sharing your visit. The pictures are great and touching. I was cringing just looking at the pictures and imagining what it must have been like to be in those camps.

  26. Patty K-P

    That was a tough read, Amanda. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to have personally visited. Thank you for your account and reminding us to NEVER forget.

  27. Megan

    Wow this was so painful to look through! I’m sure if was difficult to walk through and see face to face & then relive while you wrote about it! Such a horrible in time in history but an important one to remember. In high school my teacher made us all read This way for the gas ladies and gentlemen by Tadeusz Borowski. I cried and cried and cried but it is a good memoir written from an author who survived the camps.

  28. valerie

    Thank you for sharing your photos and experience. You are correct – it is so important to never forget this horrendous time in our history. My parents traveled to Auschwitz when I was younger, and your photos and account brought back my memories of the photos and stories my mom told me about their visit. So sobering and heartbreaking. Thank you, thank you, for writing and posting this difficult subject matter.

  29. Angie

    Wow. Thank you for sharing this, Amanda. I can’t imagine how horrific it was being right where these indescribable atrocities happened. It’s just something that is nearly impossible to wrap your mind around, but like you said, it was NOT that long ago. I studied the Holocaust in college and still cannot read about it without it literally stopping my day – it’s just so inconceivable. Thank you for this post and pictures, I think it is so important that we never forget this part of history. I read The Hiding Place several months ago, what an incredible book. Ordinary Men is another book that I thought was extraordinary. Thank you so much again for this powerful post. <3

  30. sharla~

    Very sobering.  I toured Dackow back in 1987 when I was 17 years old, and later the Holocaust museum in DC.  It haunts the soul and the air is thick with the echoes of the wicked deeds that were done and the deaths of millions of people.  It is very hard to understand how people could do that to other human beings.  The feel of the place is heavy and I remember feeling a tangible difference once I stepped outside the camp.   Thank you for sharing and for the reminder that this indeed did happen, as I think a lot of people tend to forget the horrible reality.

  31. Becky W

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve read a lot of books about this subject, but reading your descriptions while viewing the photos was very powerful.

  32. alyssa manno

    i don’t have any words right now except thank you for sharing these difficult photos, i had no idea how many people actually lost their lives during this horrible time.

  33. Angela | Big Bear's Wife

    I’ve always wanted to visit Auschwitz. I went to Anne Franks house when I was in high school and it was just  a punch the gut walking around her room and into the attic. I can only image how strongly emotional it would be to visit Auschwitz.

  34. Emily aka The Three Bite Rule

    Well done. Thanks for sharing. I hope you’re proud of this post! You did a wonderful job sharing your perspective of this horrific piece of history we should all remember.

  35. Toni | BoulderLocavore.com

    I will confess I did not read this whole post. I found the subject (though so respectfully written) was like trying to eat something I don’t like and trying to get it over my tongue without tasting it. This is still such an atrocious memory in our history as a civilization. I found the photo of the room was almost unbearable to view; an empty room. The horror found in each building is palpable looking at the photos. I can’t imagine how it was to be there live.

  36. Jennifer Osborne

    Thank you for sharing these. Houston, TX has a wonderful tribute to what these millions of people went through in our Holocaust Museum. It is so important for teens to understand the depth of darkness that occurred SO IT NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN.

  37. Jackie Hamilton

    I teach many novels related to The Holocaust and get emotional every single time….. that being said, your pictures accurately depict the images in my head from reading so many of these memoirs.  Thank you for sharing them and making it real so this will NEVER AGAIN happen.  I am going to share this with my English 2 Pre AP classes today because we in middle of reading “Night.”  I think it is important to raise awareness and honor the memory of all Holocaust victims.  I follow your blog and really enjoy seeing all of your work.  Very tasteful and you are so talented.  Continue to share your gift, it makes the world a better place.  Have a great day.

    Jackie Hamilton

  38. Gina

    Thank you Amanda for this post. Although it is difficult for some to hear the accounts of the atrocities that happened here we must not avoid learning about them. It’s the only way to ensure that they are not repeated. Your photos captured the story incredibly well.

  39. jen

    Thank you Amanda for posting this…I once visited the Dachau concentration camp. Your photographs capture the eerie similarities that I experienced when I was there. This summer I read the book, “The Boy on the Wooden Box” by Leon Leyson–it’s his memoir of his family’s experience before, during, and after the Holocaust and how Oskar Schindler helped save them. His account talks about the two camps you reference in your post.

    May we never forget what happened there

  40. Ruthy

    I’m so proud of you. I was looking out for this blog post as you asked should you post? Yes, you should and you did.  I’m also proud you didn’t overly beautify the pics – they are great photos but your treatment of them are sobering and sharp. 

    As a Jew, one who’s parents were both survivors of Auschwitz, one who has also visited and walked in your/their footsteps – I say thank you. Thank you for going/retelling, and by doing so, you honor the poor souls (and not only Jews) that perished there.

  41. Elizabeth

    It is frightening that there are people that are trying to write this out of history. As the last of the WWII veterans die off, there are fewer and fewer people that saw first hand those prisons. My dad, who will be 91 on Sept 3rd 2016, was there during the liberation of those prisoners. He saw the last survivors and only recently began to talk about it. He also says we should never forget not only that this did happen but how it was able to happen. Thanks for the wonderful pictures that bring truth to light.

  42. Rachel J

    Thank you for sharing Amanda. I read all of your posts and love them all but felt compelled to comment on this one because I agree it’s important for us to know this part of our world history. You did a beautiful job walking us through the camps. So horrendous and unimaginable that this could happen in the last century.  Looking forward to seeing more photos from your trip!

  43. Pamela Seely

    Amanda, this was surely a sobering account of the horrors of the concentration camps. I too have an interest in the stories of this terrible time in history. Soon there will be no survivors remaining so it is so important that we keep their accounts alive. The world must never forget. Thank you so much for sharing your journey.

  44. Michelle

    Thank you for posting, Amanda. I also have read many accounts of this horrific time in our history and been to the Holocaust Museum several times.  Your post was good to read and see the pictures along with it.  You’re right, we must never forget. Thanks again. 

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Kevin and Amanda

We love to travel and to eat! Here we share our favorite quick and easy recipes, plus travel tips and guides for our favorite places around the world. Meet our Boston Terriers. Take a tour of our house. If you have any questions about what camera I use or how I edit my photos, check out my photography tutorials.

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