What will I see on a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau?The permanent exhibition at Auschwitz was opened to the public in 1955 and is located in blocks 4, 5, 6, 7, and 11 at the site of the Auschwitz I concentration camp. Visitors will see the names and belongings of the different groups who were sent to the camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau, photographs of the camp when it was running, copies of camp records, and original items which were present at the camp. There are exhibits which describe the process of entering the camp, reconstructions of living areas and the living conditions, and the block which was used as cells in the prison jail. Visitors will also see the yard where executions were carried out and an original gas chamber. In addition to the permanent exhibition, each country whose citizens were imprisoned or killed in Auschwitz-Birkenau has been given the opportunity to set up a national exhibit, detailing the connection between that country and the camp.
What’s the difference between Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau II?Auschwitz I is the earlier site and was approved in 1940 as a concentration camp for political prisoners. It ended up also being the administrative center for the three camps which made up the Auschwitz complex. Auschwitz I was also the site of the first crematorium and was the location of the first experimental gassing of prisoners with Zyklon B in September 1941. Auschwitz-Birkenau II was a much larger site built in late 1941 and was a combination of labor and extermination camp. It could house 125,000 inmates at a time and had 4 crematoria which were used to gas prisoners. This huge scale meant that most deaths at Auschwitz took place at Auschwitz-Birkenau II. Today most of the exhibits are located in Auschwitz I, but visitors should take the time to see Auschwitz-Birkenau II in order to get a better sense of the size of the camp. The crematoria of Auschwitz-Birkenau II were purposefully destroyed before the liberation of the camp in order to hide evidence, but visitors can still see their remains, in addition to the barracks where prisoners lived, train lines, and some of the freight cars which brought prisoners to the camp.
At what age is a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau suitable?The museum recommends that only children over the age of 14 visit the site, but younger children will be allowed inside if their parents decide they’re mature enough for the visit. There’s no separate itinerary or signage for children, so children will need to be able to follow a guide or their parents will need to explain the exhibits to them.
Are we allowed to take photographs while visiting?In general, you can take photos while visiting the concentration camp, as long as you aren’t using flash or a tripod inside the buildings. Photography is strictly forbidden in room 5 of block 4 and the cellars of block 11. Visitors are also asked not to use cell phones inside any of the exhibition buildings or in the zone reserved for silence in the courtyard of Block 11. The concentration camp is a somber site of reflection and remembrance and visitors are asked to respect this during their tour, and selfies, in particular, are not recommended.