Auschwitz Birkenau is well-known for the genocide that went on here during the Holocaust. Over millions of Jewish, Polish, and Roma people were killed by the Germans during the second World War.

Auschwitz I was the main camp, while Birkenau was a bigger camp that was considered to be Auschwitz II. Both are open to visitors, and each had its own share of horrors. The main camp first began in April of 1940 by the Germans who took over some army barracks that were originally Polish. This camp was meant for Polish political prisoners but morphed into a Jewish extermination camp. The Germans needed more space, so Birkenau was created.

Auschwitz still stands today mostly intact. Thirteen of the prison blocks that survived now house museums that are dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust. The museums have many documents and articles that were taken from prisoners who were brought to Auschwitz. Visitors enter through the famous gate with the sign that says ‘Work Brings Freedom.’ This sign is just a replica, as the original was stolen back in the 2000’s.

Birkenau is where most of the extermination happened during the Holocaust. Birkenau had four very large gas chambers that could hold 2000 people each. After everyone was killed by the gas, each chamber had an electric lift that raised the bodies up to be burned to ashes inside of the ovens.

This large camp at Birkenau contained more than 300 prison barracks, which were originally horse stables. Each barrack could hold 300 people. Some of these barracks are open to the public to see. Much of this camp was destroyed when the Germans retreated, so there is not as much left today as there is at the Auschwitz base camp. Visitors can go up the tower at the front to see how large Birkenau really was.

Auschwitz Birkenau is a saddening place to visit but is an important piece of our world’s history to help us remember the horrors that some people are capable of.

2 sites in this World Heritage

  • Auschwitz
  • Birkenau
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Auschwitz Birkenau
German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945)
Selection Criteria (?)
Year of Registered
Registered in 1979