Tag: Museum

Tag: Museum

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

Tarnowskie Góry Mine

Tarnowskie Góry

Tarnowskie Góry – updated 30 August 2022

The Tarnowskie Góry Lead-Silver-Zinc Mine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Tarnowskie Góry, Upper Silesia, Poland. Today, it is a museum and tourist attraction.

Tarnowskie Góry

A mining settlement and the first silver-bearing ore mines emerged in the region at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries, today the mine and neighbouring Black Trout Adit are just remnants of a bygone silver mining industry.

During the mid-1930s, the idea to make part of Tarnowskie Góry suitable for tourists was first considered but was put on hold due to the outbreak of World War II.

Tarnowskie Góry

The Tarnowskie Góry Land Lovers Association was founded in the 1950s to look at the feasibility of opening up a tourist route; which led to part of the drainage system called Black Trout Adit being opened to visitors in 1957. For a long time, this was the longest underground boat tour in Poland.

Tarnowskie Góry

Due to safety concerns, it took a while for a tourist route to be opened within the corridors of the mine itself but eventually in September 1976, the route between shafts: Angel, God Bless and Viper were opened for tourists.

The mine was declared a Historic Monument by the president of Poland in 2004 and has been a part of the European Route of Industrial Heritage since 2014. The mine and its Underground Management System were inscribed to the UNESCO Heritage List in July 2017.

Underground attraction

The mine is usually open for tourists with guided tours in several languages. The tour begins in a museum and then goes underground to visit corridors from the 18th and 19th centuries. The underground tourist route is 1,740m long, including 270m travelled in a boat through the flooded corridor. The route includes audio effects such as the sounds of miners working, running carts and blasting works.

Visit the official website

Guido Coal Mine

Guido Coal Mine & Museum

Guido Coal Mine – Updated 23 August 2022

The Guido Coal Mine is a historic deep coal mine and museum in Zabrze, Silesia, Poland. It gets its name from the founder, Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck who opened the mine in 1855.

Museum

Today, the mine is a museum and has been designated as an object of cultural heritage and a cultural monument in Poland. Two levels of Guido Coal Mine are open to visitors with depths of 170m and 320m below ground level, which makes it the deepest visitor mine in Europe. The underground museum is located at the deepest level.

Guido Coal Mine

Visitors are transported down the shaft at a speed of 4m/s in an original Berlin hoisting machine dating from 1927. At the 170m level, there are chambers and galleries containing tools, rescue equipment and perfectly preserved horse stables, which are more than 100 years old.

At this level, visitors learn about the history of Silesian mining and the coal extraction methods which were used and also the role that horses played in the history of mining. On this level you will also find St. Barbara’s chapel.

At 320m below ground, attractions include; a ride in a suspended railway, operational mining machines and a pub.

On this level, you are able to see simulations of mining disasters and visit an exhibition dedicated to the politically repressed soldier-miners of the 1950s who were youngsters forced to work underground instead of doing military service.

The Pub

The pub is the deepest drinking establishment in Europe and you are able to purchase Guido Beer, brewed locally in Gliwice and available as a lager or a stout.

Guido Coal Mine

At times, the route can be steep and dark and visitors must wear a protective helmet at all times, flat shoes are recommended. The route is 3.5km long and takes around 2 ½ hours. The temperature underground is between 13 and 16 degrees Celsius regardless of season.

Visit the Guido Coal Mine website.

Bedzin Castle

Bedzin

Bedzin Castle – Updated 22 August 2022

The Castle is located in Bedzin in southern Poland and dates back to the 14th century. Originally the site was home to an early medieval wooden hill fort, which was then transformed into a stone castle.

Bedzin Castle

King Casimir the Great

Early documentation attributes the building of the stone fortification to King Casimir the Great and the construction of the stone castle was an important factor in securing the Polish-Czech border and trade routes into Poland.

Zagłębie Museum

Bedzin Castle was partially destroyed during the Swedish invasions of 1655 and was rebuilt in 1855 with the castle’s last major restoration taking place in 1956. The castle is now home to the Zagłębie Museum.

The castle was ordered to be demolished in 1825 when a piece of the stone structure fell off and crushed a person; however, before demolition started, the castle was declared a monument and was saved.

Bedzin Castle

The museum has several collections: one of armament, from medieval to World War II times; the second dedicated to the history of the Będzin Castle; the third to the castles of the other nearby castles founded by Casimir the Great (Eagle Nests Trail or Szlak Orlich Gniazd) and the final one, to the military history of the Będzin region.

Jewish community

The town of Bedzin has a dark history linked to WWII. It was once a vibrant Jewish community. According to the Polish census of 1921, the town's Jewish population consisted of 17,298 people, or 62.1 percent of its total population however this was devastated in 1939 by the Nazi SS who destroyed the synagogue and sent 10,000 Jewish residents to Auschwitz to be exterminated.

On January 27, 1945, the town was captured by the Red Army. Subsequently, the castle was rebuilt.

Today, the renovated and partially rebuilt castle is one of the most impressive medieval structures in southern Poland.

Visit the official website for further information.

Lancut Castle

Lancut

Updated 21 August 2022

Lancut Castle is a grand fortress and residence with castle interiors considered to be the most beautiful in Poland. Now a museum, Lancut is accessible by guided tour or with personal audio guides.

Lancut Castle

Fairy tale castle

Łańcut is a town in south-eastern Poland situated in the Subcarpathian Voivodeship. Also located within this region is the fairy tale Krasiczyn Castle

Initially, the building was a 15th century fortified manor house. It was converted into its present form in 1641 by Prince Stanisław Lubomirski and over the years, the building has been remodelled with added neoclassical, rococo and neo-baroque elements.

17th century Grand Hall

The highlights of the tour include the 17th century Grand Hall, the Great Vestibule, the Zodiac Room, the rococo Corner Room and the Renaissance style Eastern Corridor. Also worth exploring is the English style garden, which surrounds the palace complex.

Lancut Castle

17th century

Some of the rooms in Lancut Castle date back to the 17th century and some were created in the 18th century. Many interiors were arranged later on at the turn of the 19th and the 20th century. Today, some of these interiors are used to showcase works of art from the Lancut collections and from other museums in addition to superb collections of furniture, porcelain, silver, glass, fabrics, musical instruments and books.

Alfred Potocki

Lancut Castle was once owned by Alfred Potocki who was one of the richest men in pre-WWII Poland. During his tenancy, Alfred accumulated a very large collection of art works including paintings and horse-drawn carriages among many other items of worth. Shortly before the arrival of the Red Army in July 1944, he successfully moved the most valuable items within the castle to Liechtenstein to keep them from being destroyed or looted.

The Coach House

As part of the tour, you will also be shown the Coach House, which is located 300m south of the castle. Among other interesting exhibits, the Coach House contains a priceless collection of horse-drawn carriages once owned by Alfred Potocki; which were built by some of the most famous carriage makers in Europe.

Visit the official Lancut Castle website

Wawel Royal Castle

Historical & Cultural Sites – Wawel Royal Castle and Wawel Hill

Updated 21 August 2022

Wawel Royal Castle and the limestone Wawel Hill are extremely important historical and cultural sites containing one of the most important collection of buildings in Poland.

Wawel Royal Castle

Wawel was once the seat of Polish rulers, the residence of kings and the focal point of many Polish historical events. The hill is a symbol of the Polish nation and has witnessed some of the greatest moments in Polish history. Many Polish kings have been laid to rest below Wawel Cathedral.

Wawel Royal Castle

Located south of the old town and next to the Vistula River, Wawel Hill showcases an incredible assortment of architectural delights including Renaissance, Gothic and Romanesque designs. Wawel Royal Castle and the Cathedral are must-see attractions and a walk around the castle courtyards and open spaces are highly recommended.

Art Museum

Today, Wawel Royal Castle is home to a superb art museum, which is well-known throughout Europe and the World because of its collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, the Sigismund II Augustus tapestry collection, sculptures, ceramics, period furniture and textiles among others.

Wawel Royal Castle

The museum consists of five individual and separate sections: Crown Treasury and Armoury, State Rooms, Royal Private Apartments, Lost Wawel and the Exhibition of Oriental Art.

Wawel Hill has a long history, which can be traced back to the year 1000 when the first cathedral on Wawel Hill was built. Since then, Wawel has experienced many different timelines ranging from its Golden era from the 14th to the 16th centuries to the start of its decline as a centre of importance in 1609; when the then King moved his court to Warsaw.

Wawel Royal Castle was the cultural and political heart of Poland during the 16th century and today, it stands as a potent symbol and reminder of the Polish national identity. Visitors to Wawel Royal Castle today will see a 16th century Renaissance palace; however, before this, it was a formidable Gothic castle; which was burned down in 1499

Restoration

Over the years, the castle has been repeatedly sacked and vandalised. Extensive restoration work has been carried out since and many of the castle’s external structures and interior decorations have been recovered.

Wawel Royal Castle Tours & Experiences

Krakow Tours & Attractions