Auschwitz: Black and white photo series

Back in 2008 we visited Krakow, Poland in February and again in June.

On both occasions we visited Auschwitz.

Auschwitz death camp
Why go twice you may be wondering?

On our first visit in February, we couldn’t get to visit the Birkenau section as it was closed off due to stormy weather conditions.

So that warranted a return trip to Krakow few months later.

A Brief History…

Just in case some of you don’t know much about Auschwitz and its cruel past, here’s a short recap…

Auschwitz is one of the many, many concentration camps (better known as “death camps”) that were set up by the Nazis during the second World War.

birkenau auschwitz
It was established in Eastern Poland near the city of Oswiecim and it was the biggest of all the death camps throughout Europe.

At any given time it could hold up to 150,000 prisoners.

death camp auschwitz
The complex was divided up into three main sections and historians estimate that between 2.1 million and 4 million people were murdered there during the war. The vast majority of these were Jews.

It was the gas chambers that killed the most people, but starvation, disease, slave labour and many crazy medical experiments also played a big part in the demise of many unfortunate enough to be imprisoned there.
birkenau death camp
Nowadays, Auschwitz and the Holocaust have become synonymous with the term; genocide.

The site was partially destroyed by the Nazis in 1945 when they were on the back foot. However, a museum was set up to remind and help people understand exactly what happened here.

Auschwitz: Hell on Earth

Prior to visiting Auschwitz, we have visited Sachsenhausen a year earlier, which is situated outside Berlin.

So we had experienced that morbid errie atmosphere that we were told about.
hell on earth
We took the train from Krakow to Oswiecim which is located about 50km away.

Once you get to the train station at Oswiecim, you have to get a short taxi to the camp.
Upon entering the grounds you’ll pass under the infamous sign that reads “Arbeit Macht Frei” – Work sets you free!
work sets you free
The original sign was bizarrely stolen back in 2009 but later discovered.

This has resulted in a replica sign being used since then. There are plans to resurrect the original at some stage.

We took an audio tour which last a few hours and provided an in-depth account of what happened in the various sections of the camp.

auschwitz death camp
The above photo shows Block 16 which shows exhibits entitled “The Tragedy of Slovak Jews”.
death camp auschwitz
You definitely feel uneasy as you wander around the camp and notice the barbed wire fences that secure the whole camp.

gas chamber
One of the many gas chambers that you’ll see there.

gas chambers

Birkenau

It was in Birkenau where all the mass murders took place. The railway that led prisoners into Birkenau was known as the road of death.

road of death

Once the train stopped, women and children were immediately directed in the direction of the gas chambers under the false pretence that they were going for a shower and a disinfection process.

auschwitz railway

Men who were fit to work were spared, while those unfit were also sent to the gas chamber.

In Birkenau there were many barracks open to the public which had various exhibits on display.

beds in auschwitz

This photo above shows a typical bed setup where there could up to 15 prisoners in each little box.

The conditions that prisoners had to endure in Birkenau were beyond horrific. Torture, firing squad shootings, disease outbreaks and other treacherous conditions were all part of daily life.

hang man gallows
There were other blocks and rooms filled with shoes, glasses and clothes – a stark reminder around every corner.

kids shoes auschwitz

It goes to show just how organised and scarily institutionalised the recycling of body parts, hair etc actually was.

auschwitz labour camp

We felt numb as we strolled around on both visits.

What’s extremely frightening is that the world doesn’t seem to have learned from this tragic period in time. Genocide is still taking place in various countries.

genocide auschwitz

Auschwitz is without a doubt a very errie part of the world. Some people will be succumb to tears as they discover the horrors that went on there.

auschwitz genocide

You can read all the books about it that you want, but actually visiting the place and seeing it in person is a sobering experience that not everyone agrees with.

railway to auschwitz
Regardless of whether you agree with visiting a place like Auschwitz or not, we all should be reminded in some way about this terrible part of our history.

auschwitz memorial

“It should not be allowed to happen again” is a statement you’ll hear a lot in reference to Auschwitz and the holocaust, however it has happened since then and STILL is happening.

Some day we plan to return again to Auschwitz to document it a little better.

It’s only taken us 7 years to do something with all the photos we took from our visits there.

Better late than never though!

Have you ever visited Auschwitz?

auschwitz genocide

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About the Author


Carlo and Florence are an Irish couple who left home in 2013 to pursue their dreams of travelling the world while building an online business so that they could work from anywhere. They've both visited over 50 countries together so far. Stay in touch with them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and SnapChat.

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