Category: World War II Sites

Category: World War II Sites

Miedzyrzecz Reinforced Region

Miedzyrzecz

Miedzyrzecz – updated 31 August 2022

Miedzyrzecz Reinforced Region is a fortification system built between 193 and 1944 located between the Oder and Warta rivers in the Lubusz region. It stretches close to 80km between the cities of Gorzow Wielkopolski and Zielona Gora.

Miedzyrzecz

Built by Nazi Germany with the purpose of protecting the most vital section of the eastern border of Germany, Miedzyrzecz Reinforced Region was a line of 106 reinforced concrete bunkers with 25cm thick walls, steel domes and concrete antitank barriers called “dragon teeth”.

Underground tunnels

21 of the concrete bunkers were connected by a 30 km network of 40m deep underground tunnels containing railway stations, war rooms, workshops, engine rooms, stockrooms and barracks. The whole network of bunkers and underground system of the Miedzyrzecz Reinforced Region were fitted with essential equipment such as lighting, ventilation, plumbing, sewage disposal and communications.

Miedzyrzecz

Miedzyrzecz Reinforced Region remains one of the largest and the most interesting systems of this type in the world today. It is also one of the largest hibernation sites for bats in Europe. Each year over 30,000 of them winter here representing 13 different species.

Today, the Miedzyrzecz Reinforced Region is partially open to the public. Visitors can visit the museum and also choose from five different routes with various levels of difficulty, lengths and duration.

Miedzyrzecz

Short Route – This is the shortest of the routes available to tourists. The duration of the trip is 1.5 hours, while the length of the entire route is approximately 1500 meters.

Long Route – The duration of the trip is 2.5 hours, while the length of the entire route is approximately 2,500 meters.

Extreme Route – Depending on the variant, they take up to 3 hours, 6 hours or the longest up to 8 hours of underground hiking.

Surface Route – The option is ideal for people who want less physical effort or do not want to visit the underground routes.

Miedzyrzecz

Detailed information about the routes and prices can be found on the official MRU website

Tours & Attractions

Camp Łambinowice

Łambinowice

Łambinowice – updated 31 August 2022

A village in Opole Voivodeship, in south-western Poland which was the location of Camp Lamsdorf (later known as Camp Łambinowice); which served as a prisoner of war camp during the Franco-Prussian War, First World War and Second World War.

Łambinowice

Invasion of Poland

During World War II, the camp reopened on 3rd September 1939 just two days after the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, initially to house Polish prisoners. Throughout the war, more than 300,000 Allied and Soviet prisoners passed through the gates of the camp at Lamsdorf. The base camp was given the designation Stalag VIII-B.

In 1941 a separate camp, Stalag VIII-F was set up close by to house the Soviet prisoners.

In 1943, the Lamsdorf camp was split up, and many of the prisoners were transferred to two new base camps, Stalag VIII-C Sagan and Stalag VIII-D Teschen. The base camp at Lamsdorf was renumbered to Stalag 344.

In October 1944 soldiers and officers were brought to Stalag 344 from the Warsaw Rising, including over 1,000 women. Later, most of the prisoners were transferred to other camps.

Red Army

After the Soviet takeover of the area, on 17th March 1945 the Red Army took the camp over and continued to operate it, this time the institution housed German prisoners of war.

Łambinowice

A transit camp, run by the Ministry of Internal Security and commanded by Czesław Gęborski (later put on trial for crimes against humanity for his actions in the camp), was also created nearby, serving as an internment, labour and resettlement camp for German Silesians, as a “verification” point for Silesians, as well as a camp for former veterans of the Anders' Polish II Corps, whom the new communist authorities of Poland saw as dangerous. Out of 8000 internees, it is estimated that between 1000 and 1,500 German civilians died in the camp, mostly by typhus and maltreatment from camp officials. More than 1,130 names are listed in the cemetery.

Łambinowice Museum

Currently the memory of the inmates is preserved by a large monument devoted to all the victims of the camp, as well as the Central Prisoner of War Museum, the only such institution in Poland and one of very few in the world.

KL Stutthof

KL Stutthof, Sztutowo

KL Stutthof – updated 15 September 2022

This was the first Nazi concentration camp established outside of Germany during World War II, located in a wooded area near a small town called Stutthof (now named Sztutowo) and 34km east of the Free City of Danzig (now Gdansk).

Crematorium

The camp was established directly after the invasion of Poland and was initially designated as a civilian internment camp prior to becoming a labour education camp in November 1941 and finally a regular concentration camp in January 1942.

Before the war even began, the German Selbstschutz (ethnic-German self-protection units) had created lists of people that were to be arrested and detained. The Nazi authorities had also secretly started to review suitable locations to establish concentration camps in the area.

Stutthof

Liberation

Stutthof was the last camp liberated by the Allies on 9th May 1945 and it is estimated that between 63,000 and 65,000 prisoners of the camp and its subcamps died as a result of execution, hunger, disease, extreme labour conditions, and a lack of medical attention. As many as 28,000 of those who died were Jews. Other inmates of Stutthof included citizens from 28 different countries.

The conditions in Stutthof were incredibly harsh, those who were not gassed, shot, clubbed to death, drowned in mud or given a lethal injection of phenol could just as easily die during one of the two typhus epidemics that swept through the camp.

Stutthof

Initially the camp consisted of eight barracks to house the prisoners in addition to buildings for the SS guards and was surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. Stutthof was enlarged in 1943 with a new camp constructed alongside the earlier one containing thirty new barracks, a crematorium and a gas chamber, all surrounded by an electrified barbed-wire fence. Stutthof was included in the “Final Solution” in June 1944 and mass executions began assisted by mobile gas wagons to complement the maximum capacity of the gas chamber.

Many prisoners were used as forced labourers working in an armaments factory located inside the camp next to the prisoner barracks or in a Focke-Wulf aircraft factory, which was constructed nearby.

Camp plan

The evacuation of 50,000 prisoners from the Stutthof camp and subcamps began on 25th January 1945. Thousands died marching in severe winter conditions combined with brutal treatment by SS guards. Around 5,000 were marched to the Baltic Sea coast, forced into the water, and machine-gunned. It has been estimated that around half of the evacuated prisoners, over 25,000, died during the evacuation from Stutthof and its subcamps.

The camp itself was liberated by Soviet forces on 9th May 1945, rescuing about 100 prisoners who had managed to hide.

Museum

Today, there is a museum at Stutthof. During a tour of the camp, you can see a narrow gauge railway line that runs around the camp, the camp commandant’s villa, kennels, the main entry to Stutthof concentration camp, better known as the ‘Death Gate’, guard towers, barracks, gas chamber, crematorium, the original dual-layer barbed-wire fence and various exhibitions.

KL Stutthof Tours & Experiences

Westerplatte

Battle of Westerplatte

Westerplatte – updated 01 September 2022

A peninsula in Gdańsk; famous for the Battle of Westerplatte on 1st September 1939, which was the first engagement between German and Polish forces during the invasion of Poland and thus the beginning and the first battle of World War II.

Monument

Danzig

During the aftermath of World War I and the reestablishment of Polish independence, much of the region surrounding Gdańsk became a part of the Second Polish Republic with the exception of Gdańsk itself, which became an independent city state.

At the time, Gdańsk was known as Danzig and was a historically important port city, which had a majority German population. The independent city state became known as the Free City of Danzig, which was nominally administered by the League of Nations but in reality, it became increasingly allied with Germany.

Westerplatte

League of Nations

In 1921, the League of Nations granted Poland the right to establish a garrison and ammunition depot close to the Free City. Despite some objections from the Free City, the depot was completed in November 1925 and became operational in January 1926. Westerplatte was the chosen location due to its separation from the port of the Free City by the harbour channel.

Permission to establish the garrison by the League of Nations came with a couple of caveats, namely: the garrison’s size could not exceed 88 soldiers and fortifications could not be constructed.

Westerplatte

The establishment of the garrison and depot was always going to act as a tinderbox in the region with the Polish held part of the Westerplatte only separated from the territory of Danzig by a brick wall and relations became further inflamed on 6th March 1933 when the Polish government decided to land a marine battalion at Westerplatte briefly strengthening the garrison there to 200 soldiers.

The purpose of this was purely political in response to recent comments by German politicians about border adjustment and disagreement about management and control over harbour police.

The extra marines were withdrawn on 16th March after protests from the League of Nations, the Free City and Germany and some concessions were made in regard to control over the harbour police.

Over the following years, Poland disrespected the second caveat for establishing a garrison at Westerplatte by constructing some fortifications in the surrounding area. These were not very impressive defences, just five small concrete outposts, trenches, barricades and reinforced buildings. This all led to rising tensions between Poland and Germany and in the spring of 1939, the garrison at Westerplatte was placed on alert.

Invasion of Poland

Germany began its invasion of Poland by dropping bombs on the city of Wieluń in central Poland. Just a few minutes later, the battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the Polish garrison at Westerplatte. A land battle around the garrison followed between Polish defenders and German Marines.

The Polish repelled two assaults that day using just small arms, mortar and machine-gun fire and over the next few days, they were subjected to multiple bombing raids from Junkers Ju 87 Stukas and shelling from naval and field artillery positions. Eventually on 7th September, the Polish soldiers had no choice but to surrender.

Museum

Today at Westerplatte, visitors can see the ruins of barracks and guardhouses; one of which has been turned into a museum. A Monument to the garrison defenders was unveiled in 1966.

Tours

Riese Complex

Project Riese

Riese Complex – updated 31 August 2022

The Riese Complex was a Nazi Germany construction project from 1943 to 1945 consisting of seven top-secret underground structures located in the Owl Mountains and Książ Castle in Lower Silesia.

Riese

The actual purpose of the project remains unclear and Riese remains one of World War II’s greatest mysteries mainly due to a lack of documentation. Some historians suggest that the structures were planned as a network of underground factories and the tunnels below Książ Castle were to house an HQ element, perhaps an addition to Hitler’s collection of reinforced command centres.

Two things are certain, the size of the project was immense and none of the constructions were finished. Only a few tunnels were reinforced with concrete. Project Riese was abandoned at the initial stage of construction and only 9 km (25,000 m2, 100,000 m3) of tunnels were dug out.

Riese

A massive network of roads, narrow gauge railways and bridges were constructed to connect excavation sites with the nearby railway stations. In total, some 90,000 cubic metres of tunnels were carved into the mountains, the work involved to do this was strenuous and involved cutting down thousands of trees, building dams, digging reservoirs and drainage ditches, blasting rocks with explosives and reinforcing caverns with concrete and steel.

Seven major access points were constructed to separate tunnel systems at Walim-Rzeczka, Włodarz, Jugowice, Soboń, Sokolec, Osówka and Książ Castle.

Książ Castle

POW

To build these giant structures, the Nazis used prisoners of war, prisoners from concentration camps and forced labourers. Many of these workers lost their lives due to disease, malnutrition, exhaustion & dangerous underground works.

Initially, concentration camp prisoners were not used; however a typhus epidemic occurred amongst the workforce in December 1943 significantly slowing down production. Hitler handed over supervision of construction to Organisation Todt, headed by Albert Speer, Hitler’s chief architect and engineer and around 13,000 prisoners of the camps were put to work, many conscripted from Auschwitz concentration camp.

Albert Speer

Interestingly, Albert Speer himself stated that the Riese Project involved some 213,000 cubic metres of tunnels. Today, less than 100,000 are accounted for, suggesting that there are many tunnels and parts of the project still to be discovered. This is technically supported by the existence of narrow-gauge railways and plumbing that appear to lead nowhere, witness accounts also support this account.

Amber Room

113,000 cubic metres of undiscovered tunnels and a lack of documentation as to the purpose of the project has led to numerous conspiracy theories over the years. The favourite is that the tunnels were constructed to hide confiscated Nazi treasure including the famous Amber Room which disappeared from Saint Petersburg and missing gold and art from multiple locations around Europe. An area outside Wałbrzych was the focus of a story about a buried ‘Nazi gold train’ in August 2015 and today, the areas still attracts treasure hunters in search of their fortunes.

Tour to discover the secrets of World War II from Wroclaw

Tour to discover the secrets of World War II from Wroclaw

Let yout guide take you along the track of the biggest secrets of World War II in Lower Silesia. See The Osowka complex, which is a part of Nazi Riese Project and Gross-Rosen concentration camp.

The Osowka complex has been part of an impressive project conducted by Nazi Germany between 1943 and 1945 (code name “Riese”). The mysterious structure called “underground city” still hasn’t revealed all of its secrets. Discover the biggest and the most complex of Hitler’s headquarters in Lower Silesia. This complex is believed to be Adolf Hitler’s secret headquarters built in the Owl Mountains. This part of the tour is with live guide.

Ksiaz Castle is the third largest castle in Poland, placed on a impressive rock cliff by the side of the Pelcznica River. Surrounded by a charming forest which lays 395 meter above sea level, this castle is often called ‘the Pearl of Lower Silesia’. This part of the tour is with audio guide.

Lastly you will visit the Gross-Rosen concentration camp, the biggest Nazi-German concentration camp in Lower Silesia, where inmates worked in particularly harsh conditions in the quarries. The motto of this place was Vernichtung durch Arbeit (Annihilation through work). Around 40.000 prisoners died here: Poles, Jews, Russians, French and Hungarians. This part of the tour is with live guide – Book tickets

Majdanek Concentration Camp

Majdanek

Majdanek Camp – updated 31 August 2022

Majdanek was a Nazi concentration and extermination camp operated by the Schutzstaffel (SS) during the German occupation of Poland in World War II from 1st October 1941 until 22nd July 22, 1944, and was used to kill people on an industrial scale.

Majdanek

Majdanek Concentration Camp was located on the outskirts of the city of Lublin and was initially intended for forced labour. It soon became part of Operation Reinhard, the secretive German plan to exterminate Polish Jews in the General Government district of German-occupied Poland.

The 270-hectare camp was one of the largest of the Nazi run death camps with seven gas chambers, two wooden gallows and 227 structures. Unlike other camps, Majdanek was captured nearly intact due to the rapid advance of the Soviet Army, which did not allow the SS sufficient time to destroy the infrastructure and evidence of war crimes.

Crematorium

Heinrich Himmler

The concept for Majdanek originated with Heinrich Himmler who was Reichsführer of the SS and a leading architect of the Holocaust. Originally, the camp was used as a work camp housing prisoners from 30 different countries and Soviet prisoners of war. The conditions at the camp were horrific, of the 150,000 people who were imprisoned in Majdanek, 80,000 died, including 60,000 Jews. Many succumbed to disease, starvation and the forced labour.

During the beginning of Operation Reinhard, Majdanek was re-purposed as a sorting and storage depot for property and valuables stolen from the victims at the death camps of Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka. The gas chambers were added to the camp in September 1942; at which time, Majdanek began to function as a killing centre.

Majdanek

Victims

The official estimation of the number of victims of Majdanek is 78,000 of those 59,000 were Jews.

In July 1969, on the 25th anniversary of its liberation, a large monument was constructed at the site. It consists of two parts: a large gate monument at the camp’s entrance and a large mausoleum holding ashes of the victims at its opposite end.

One day tour to Majdanek concentration camp and Lublin from Warsaw

One day tour to Majdanek concentration camp and Lublin from Warsaw

Visit a place which is different than Auschwitz or Dachau. Majdanek Concentration Camp is the most complete witness of the terrifying Holocaust. Silent, with no crowds or rush. Chill out at a beautiful old town in Lublin afterward.

After the hotel pick up, you’ll drive with your guide towards Lublin, which is located approx. 190 kilometres from Warsaw (3 hours’ drive). The Majdanek Concentration Camp was a Nazi German concentration and extermination camp established on the outskirts of the city of Lublin during the German occupation of Poland in World War II. The camp, which operated from October 1, 1941, until July 22, 1944, was captured nearly intact because the rapid advance of the Soviet Red Army prevented the SS from destroying most of its infrastructure. Majdanek, also known to the SS as Konzentrationslager Lublin, remains the best-preserved Nazi concentration camp of the Holocaust. Nowadays it’s a quiet and a bit forgotten Museum, which you will visit with our guide.

After the visit in Majdanek guide will take you to the Old Town of Lublin. This city thrived as a centre of trade and commerce due to its strategic location on the route between Vilnius and Kraków; the inhabitants had the privilege of free trade in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Lublin Parliament session of 1569 led to the creation of a real union between the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, thus creating the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Lublin was a royal city of the Crown Kingdom of Poland, and for centuries, the city has been flourishing as a centre of culture and higher learning, with Kraków, Warsaw, Poznań, and Lwów.

Although Lublin was not spared from severe destruction during World War II, its picturesque and historic Old Town has been preserved. The district is one of Poland’s official national historic monuments, as designated May 16, 2007, and tracked by the National Heritage Board of Poland – Book tickets

Visit the Majdanek website.

Wolf’s Lair

Wolfsschanze

Wolf’s Lair – updated 21 September 2022

The Wolf’s Lair (Wolfsschanze in German) is hidden in thick forest in the Masurian woods, 8km east of Kętrzyn and was Hitler’s main headquarters during WWII. The complex, which became one of several Führer Headquarters in various parts of Central and Eastern Europe, was built for the start of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. A famous attempt to assassinate the Führer took place here on 20th July 1944.

Wolf’s Lair

Bunkers

Today Wolf’s Lair is 18 hectares of huge, overgrown and partly destroyed bunkers. During World War II, it was a top-secret, high security site surrounded by three security zones and guarded by personnel from the SS-Begleitkommando des Führers, Reichssicherheitsdienst and the Wehrmacht’s armoured Führerbegleitbrigade.

Wolf’s Lair was an impressive feat of engineering with a remote location carefully chosen far away from typical aerial bombing targets such as transport routes and towns. 3,000 German labourers were involved in its construction consisting of 80 structures. These included seven bombproof bunkers for the top leaders of the Third Reich with walls and ceiling up to 8m thick.

Wolf’s Lair

3 security zones

The decision to build Wolf’s Lair was made in the autumn of 1940. Built in the middle of a protecting forest and located far from major roads. The complex occupied more than 6.5 km2 (2.5 sq. mi) and consisted of three separate security zones.

The most important of which was Sperrkreis 1 (Security Zone 1), in which was located the Führer Bunker and concrete shelters of members of the inner circle such as Hermann Göring, Martin Bormann, OKW chief Wilhelm Keitel and “chief of operations” OKW Alfred Jodl.

There was a total of ten bunkers in this area, all camouflaged and protected by 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) of steel-reinforced concrete. Hitlers was on the northern end, with all its windows facing north to avoid direct sunlight. Both Hitler’s and Keitel’s bunkers had rooms in which military conferences could be held.

Sperrkreis 2 (Security Zone 2) included military barracks and housing for several important Reich Ministers like Albert Speer, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Fritz Todt as well as Hitler’s escort battalion, the Führer Begleit Brigade.

Sperrkreis 3 (Security Zone 3) made up the outer security area of the compound, complete with land mines, special security troops and guard houses.

Close by was a facility for the Wehrmacht Operations Staff, and army headquarters was located several kilometres to the northeast of the FHQ complex. All these installations were served by a nearby airfield and train lines.

About two thousand people lived and worked at Wolf’s Lair at its peak, among them twenty women.

Security

The security around the bunkers was impressive and included barbed wire barriers, gun emplacements and minefields in addition to some of Hitler’s most war-hardened troops. The camp included an emergency airstrip and a backup airfield 5km away to allow the Nazi Elite a quick exit if the need ever arose. The natural camouflage of the forest was further enhanced with artificial vegetation-like screens suspended on wires and changed according to the season of the year. The Allies did not discover Wolf’s Lair until 1945.

Hitler

Hitler spent a long time in Wolf’s Lair. He arrived on 26th June 1941 and stayed there until 20th November 1944 with only short trips away.

Wolfsschanze

Having survived an assassination attempt within the complex in July 1944, Hitler left Wolf’s Lair as the Soviet Red Army approached a few months later.

Assassination attempts at Wolf’s Lair

The Wolf’s Lair was the location of the July 20 plot to kill Hitler. During the period of reconstruction of the Führer Bunker in the summer of 1944, the daily strategy meetings were moved to the little building known as the Lager barrack, where staff officer Claus von Stauffenberg carried a bomb hidden in a briefcase into the meeting room and placed it just a few feet away from Hitler.

At 12:43 p.m. the bomb devastated the interior of the building but left Hitler only slightly injured. However, four others died from their wounds a few days later. The force of the blast was diminished because a staff officer unknowingly moved the briefcase on the opposite side of a thick wooden table leg from where von Stauffenberg had placed it, probably saving Hitler’s life. It is believed that had the bomb exploded in the massive concrete Führer Bunker as originally intended, everyone in the structure including Hitler would have been killed.

The Escape

Just moments before the blast, the would-be assassin and his adjutant, Lieutenant Werner von Haeften rapidly made their way from the conference barrack toward the first guard post just outside Sperrkeis 1. After a short delay they were allowed to pass and proceeded along the southern exit road toward Rastenburg airport.

By the time they reached the guard house at the perimeter of Sperrkreis 2, the alarm had been sounded. According to the official Gestapo report, “at first the guard refused passage until von Stauffenberg persuaded him to contact the adjutant to the compound commander who then finally authorized clearance”. It was between here and the final checkpoint of Sperrkreis 3 that von Haeften tossed a second briefcase from the car containing a second bomb which was also intended to explode in the conference barrack.

It is believed that had this bomb also been placed with the other, everyone inside would have been killed. Checkpoint three, the final barrier located at the outer reaches of the Wolf’s Lair, was expected to prove impenetrable, but the two men were simply waved through to the Rastenburg airport.

Operation Valkyrie

Thirty minutes after the bomb blast the two men were airborne and, on their way, back to Berlin and Army general headquarters. It was in this building, called the Bendlerblock, that “Operation Valkyrie”, a covert plan to react to the breakdown in civil order of the nation and suppress any revolt was transformed into the secret plot to assassinate the Führer of the German Reich.

However, when it was discovered that Hitler was still alive, the plan was doomed and along with it von Stauffenberg, his adjutant Werner von Haeften and co-conspirators General Friedrich Olbricht and his chief of staff Colonel Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim, who were arrested and executed in the courtyard of the Bendlerblock on the evening of July 20, 1944.

Red Army

The Wolf’s Lair complex was blown up on the 24 January 1945, just three days before the Red Army arrived. Many tons of explosives were required to do the job; one bunker required an estimated 8 tons of TNT. The minefield protecting the now ruined bunkers was still active with approximately 55,000 mines and it took 10 years to make the complex safe.

Wolfsschanze

What to see

There’s not a lot to see nowadays, but with a little imagination and a site map or tour guide, you will be able to get a flavour of what life must have been like at Wolf’s Lair. The structures of the complex are conveniently numbered so that you can quickly ascertain what purpose they served. Number 13 is Adolf Hitler’s bunker, which is now just one wall but Göring’s home, number 16 is in surprisingly good condition.

Tours

Wolf’s Lair private tour from Warsaw

Visit Wolf’s Liar – Adolf Hitler’s first Eastern Front military headquarters in World War II. The complex, which would become one of several Führer Headquarters in various parts of occupied Europe, was built for the start of Operation Barbarossa.

Your tour begins with pickup from your Warsaw accommodation in a Mercedes-Benz vehicle. From there, begin your comfortable transfer to Wolf’s Lair. This top-secret, high-security site was in the Masurian woods, about 8 kilometers from the small East Prussian town of Rastenburg (Kętrzyn).

Visiting this one-in-a-kind place is a truly remarkable experience and allows you to learn more about the history of World War II and Hitler’s philosophy. The atmosphere of war is still floating through the air of the ruins, and the whole complex is a perfect example of Hitler’s megalomania and entourage – Book now

Visit the Wolf’s Lair website.

Treblinka Concentration Camp

Treblinka Extermination Camp

Treblinka – updated 01 September 2022

Treblinka was an extermination camp, built and operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II. Together with the camps at Bełżec and Sobibor, the camp operated as part of Operation Reinhard, the deadliest phase of the Final Solution, so called in memory of Reinhard Heydrich, a high-ranking German SS and police official during the Nazi era and one of the main architects of the Holocaust.

Treblinka

The camp was located in a forest north-east of Warsaw, 4km south of the village of Treblinka in what is now the Masovian Voivodeship.

Treblinka operated between 23 July 1942 and 19 October 1943 and during this time, it is estimated that 870,000 people were murdered there. More Jews were killed at Treblinka than at any other Nazi extermination camp apart from Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Extermination camp

Treblinka was divided into three parts and was a highly efficient death factory. One part of the camp was for the use of staff and housed workshops, another part was set aside as a reception area for prisoners and the third part was the extermination area.

The pipe

A narrow alley known as the ‘pipe’ connected the reception area with the extermination area allowing for quick transportation of prisoners to the gas chambers. The extermination area also contained mass graves and woodpiles for the cremation of prisoners.

Concentration camp

Unlike other extermination camps, prisoners at Treblinka were murdered almost immediately upon arrival at the camp. There was no tattooing, no huts, no wooden bunks and no forced labour. People went straight to the gas chambers as soon as they alighted from their transport.

Initially, there were three gas chambers at Treblinka with the capacity to asphyxiate 300-500 people per hour. Ten much bigger gas chambers were added in September 1942 increasing the capacity to between 1000-2000 people per hour.

Prisoners arrived in the village of Treblinka by transport trains, each with forty to fifty trucks carrying 6,000 to 7,000 people. From there, they were transported to the camp 4km away by convoys of trucks. On arrival at the camp, men were separated from the women and children and were forced to strip naked.

They were then driven down the, ‘pipe’ into the, ‘bath house’ where they died of gas poisoning within about 15 minutes.

The bodies were initially buried in mass graves but later were cremated on the orders of Heinrich Himmler who was already thinking about how to cover up the genocide. This was also required of the victims that had already been buried, and so the mass graves had to be opened and the bodies burned. The remains and the ash were thrown back into the graves.

The clothes and items left by the victims in the deportation barracks before the ‘shower’ were sorted. Gradually, bankers and goldsmiths were selected from the transports and formed into a commando called the Goldjuden – Gold Jews. Their job was to collect and classify any valuables, which were then vigorously traded by Germans, Ukrainians and the local population.

The first transports to Treblinka came from the Warsaw ghetto. Between the 23rd of July and the 21st of August 1942, a total of 254,000 Jews from Warsaw and 112,000 from other parts of the Warsaw region were murdered here.

Treblinka Tours

Treblinka Concentration Camp

What to expect from this tour

Visit the museum and memorial to World War II in Treblinka, the second-biggest Nazi extermination camp.

Start your tour at the south end of the Warsaw Ghetto, where now the Palace of Culture and Science is. There, with your guide, you will see the memorial to Janusz Korczak, an educator, children-author and pedagogue, who went to Treblinka with his child students. Next, head for the Umschlagplatz, where Warsaw Jews were selected and loaded on the trains to the camp.

Afterwards, head for Treblinka commemoration place. There, in the middle of the forest, visit a museum with a miniature model of the camp and watch moving testimonies of some of the camp survivors. Next, following the symbolic train tracks, you walk towards the impressive Treblinka memorial. Made of over 17,000 stones, the monument commemorates over 700,000 victims of the extermination camp. Learn dire stories of transportation of the European Jews to this camp and find out more about the revolt that took place in Treblinka in the summer of 1943. After the time of contemplation at the Treblinka memorial, you return to Warsaw, to the original starting point.

Auschwitz Birkenau

Auschwitz Extermination Camp

Auschwitz Birkenau – updated 12 September 2022

The Auschwitz Birkenau complex has left its inglorious mark on human history. A symbol of the Holocaust, during its five years of operation over a million Jews, along with Poles, Romani and other groups, were systematically killed by German Occupiers in WWII. Confronting and emotionally charged, a visit to the complex is an essential part of the human experience.

Extermination camp

Atrocities

Both sections of the camp, Auschwitz I and the much larger outlying Birkenau (Auschwitz II) have been preserved and are open to visitors. Everyone should visit Auschwitz at least once in their lives, it is a stern reminder of the horrors that human beings can inflict on each other and the only way to understand the extent and horror of the place and the atrocities that took place there.

Auschwitz Birkenau

Oświęcim

The Auschwitz extermination camp was established in Polish army barracks on the outskirts of Oświęcim by the Germans in April 1940 and was originally intended for Polish political prisoners. It was then adapted for the wholesale extermination of the Jews of Europe in fulfilment of German Nazi ideology and pursuit of the ‘final solution of the Jewish question in Europe.’

For this purpose, the much larger camp at Birkenau was built 2km west of the original site in 1941/1942, followed by another one in Monowitz, several kilometres to the west.

Auschwitz Birkenau

Birkenau

Most of the killing took place in Birkenau and not Auschwitz. The 175 hectares camp was purpose-built for efficiency with 300 prison barracks housing 300 people each and four huge gas chambers, complete with crematoria. Each gas chamber could asphyxiate 2,000 people at one time and were fitted with electric lifts to raise the bodies to the ovens more quickly and conveniently.

Rudolf Höss

From spring 1942 until the fall of 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp’s gas chambers from all over Nazi-occupied Europe. The camp’s first commandant, Rudolf Höss, testified after the war at the Nuremberg Trials that up to three million people had died there (2.5 million exterminated, and 500,000 from disease and starvation), a figure since revised to 1.1 million. Of the 1.1 million people who were murdered in Birkenau, 90 percent of them were Jews.

Auschwitz Birkenau

Medical experiments

Others deported to Auschwitz Birkenau included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Roma and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and tens of thousands of people of diverse nationalities. Those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labour, lack of disease control, individual executions, and medical experiments.

Selections

By July 1942, the SS were conducting the infamous “selections,” in which incoming Jews were divided into those deemed able to work, who were sent to the right and admitted into the camp, and those who were sent to the left and immediately gassed.

Extermination camp

Daily convoys

Prisoners were transported from all over German-occupied Europe by rail, arriving in daily convoys. The group selected to die, about three-quarters of the total, included almost all children, women with children, all the elderly, and all those who appeared on brief and superficial inspection by an SS doctor not to be completely fit. Auschwitz II-Birkenau claimed more victims than any other German extermination camp, despite coming into use after all the others.

Gas chamber

SS officers told the victims they were to take a shower and undergo delousing. The victims would undress in an outer chamber and walk into the gas chamber, which was disguised as a shower facility, complete with dummy shower heads. After the doors were shut, SS men would dump in the cyanide pellets via holes in the roof or windows on the side. In Auschwitz II-Birkenau, more than 20,000 people could be gassed and cremated each day.

Auschwitz Birkenau

Canada

Sonderkommandos removed gold teeth from the corpses of gas chamber victims; the gold was melted down and collected by the SS. The belongings of the arrivals were seized by the SS and sorted in an area of the camp called “Canada,” so-called because Canada was seen as a land of plenty. Many of the SS at the camp enriched themselves by pilfering the confiscated property.

Heinrich Himmler

The last selection took place on October 30, 1944. The next month, Heinrich Himmler ordered the crematoria destroyed before the Red Army reached the camp. The gas chambers of Birkenau were blown up by the SS in January 1945 in an attempt to hide the German crimes from the advancing Soviet troops. The SS command sent orders on January 17, 1945, calling for the execution of all prisoners remaining in the camp, but in the chaos of the Nazi retreat the order was never carried out. On January 17, 1945, Nazi personnel started to evacuate the facility.

Death March

Nearly 60,000 prisoners were forced on a death march toward a camp in Wodzisław Śląski (German: Loslau). Those too weak or sick to walk were left behind. These remaining 7,500 prisoners were liberated by the 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army on January 27, 1945.

Bergen-Belsen

Approximately 20,000 Auschwitz Birkenau prisoners made it to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, where they were liberated by the British in April 1945. Among the artefacts of automated murder found by the Russians were 348,820 men’s suits and 836,255 women’s garments.

On January 27, 1945, Auschwitz Birkenau was liberated by Soviet troops, a day commemorated around the world as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Today, at Birkenau the entrance building and some of the southern brick-built barracks survive; but of the almost 300 wooden barracks, only 19 remain: 18 near the entrance building and one, on its own, farther away. All that survives of the others are chimneys, remnants of a largely ineffective means of heating. Many of these wooden buildings were constructed from prefabricated sections made by a company that intended them to be used as stables; inside, numerous metal rings for the tethering of horses can still be seen.

Museum

The Polish government decided to restore Auschwitz I and turn it into a museum honouring the victims of Nazism; Auschwitz II, where buildings (many of which were prefabricated wood structures) were prone to decay, was preserved but not restored. Today, the Auschwitz I museum site combines elements from several periods into a single complex: for example, the gas chamber at Auschwitz I (which had been converted into an air-raid shelter for the SS) was restored and the fence was moved (because of building work being done after the war but before the museum was established). However, in most cases the departure from the historical truth is minor and is clearly labelled.

The museum contains many men’s, women’s and children’s shoes taken from their victims; also, suitcases, which the deportees were encouraged to bring with them, and many household utensils. One display case, some 30 metres (98 ft) long, is wholly filled with human hair which the Nazis gathered from people before they were sent to labour or before and after they were killed.

Auschwitz II and the remains of the gas chambers there are open to the public. The camp is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The ashes of the victims were scattered between the huts, and the entire area is regarded as a grave site. Most of the buildings of Auschwitz I are still standing. The public entrance area is outside the perimeter fence in what was the camp admission building, where new prisoners were registered and given their uniforms. At the far end of Birkenau are memorial plaques in many languages, including Romani.

Read about the Dentist of Auschwitz.

Auschwitz Birkenau Tours & Experiences

Lublin (Lubelskie)

Lublin Province

Lublin Province – updated 23 September 2022

Lublin Province is located in south-eastern Poland and is named after its regional capital, the city of Lublin. The region has two National Parks, Polesie National Park and Roztocze National Park in addition to 17 Landscape Parks. It also has a number of historical sites including the UNESCO-listed Old Town in Zamość.

Lublin province

Health Spas

Lublin province attracts visitors and tourists from near and far with a multitude of attractions and things to do such as hiking in the Vistula glacial valley, boat trips along the river in Kazimierz Dolny or treatment at one of the provinces many health spas.

World War II

Prior to World War II, the area was one of the world’s leading centres of Judaism with 300,000 Jews living there. During the war, the area became the site of the Majdanek concentration camp, Bełżec extermination camp and Sobibór extermination camp in addition to several labour camps. After the war, the few surviving Jews largely left the area; today there is some restoration of areas of Jewish historical interest, and a surge of tourism by Jews seeking to view their families' historical roots.

Majdanek Concentration Camp

Kazimierz Dolny

The western part of the province is the most visited by tourists, in particular the town of Kazimierz Dolny, a hugely popular weekend getaway for Warsaw and Lublin residents. Many painters retreat to this small town to paint and sell their work and galleries can be found in almost every street.

Lublin province

Lublin

The city of Lublin is definitely worthy of a day trip, it has a thriving cultural and academic scene, a small but quaint Old Town and an impressive collection of Renaissance and baroque townhouses. There are plenty of sites to explore such as Lublin Castle, the Donjon Castle Tower, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Lublin, the Trinity Tower, and the Lublin Underground Trail.

Zamość

Other popular places to visit in the province include: Zamość with its unique Old Town architecture, the Lublin Renaissance Route, the Museum of Southern Podlasie, Chełm Chalk Tunnels and the Zamoyski Museum in Kozłówka.

Tours & Attractions