AUSCHWITZ & RICK STEVES

Old Sep 20th, 2011, 08:07 AM
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AUSCHWITZ & RICK STEVES

I am a little confused. In the new Rick Steves Poland book he mentions that the only way to see Auschwitz I is with a provided tour guide. But then he proceeds to give a very detailed self guided tour description. Which one is it?
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Old Sep 20th, 2011, 08:46 AM
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Rick Steves has a comprehensive website - why don't you go
there and ask your question?
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Old Sep 20th, 2011, 08:54 AM
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You have to use an Auschwitz guide so it doesn't matter if you get there on your own or if you book a tour from Krakow. You get the guide when you get there.

After the guided tour you can wander around on your own, outside.
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Old Sep 20th, 2011, 11:16 AM
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You can take a tour from Krakow (they are posted in all of the T-I centers) but they only take you to the complex where an official Auschwitz guide takes you around. The tour then takes you back to Krakow.
You can also take public transportation, bus or train, to the complex but for you to tour the buildings you must be accompanied by an official Auschwitz guide.
I thought his discription was a little confusing also. That is why we elected to join a group from one of the T-I's.
We were not able to wander on our own after the guided tour as the bus leaves immediately after.
So if you want to spend more time than alloted by the tour bus you must find your own way there.
The bus and train stations are so close to Krakow center that I don't think it would be difficult to do.
Of course, you should look at the schedule at the camp to make sure you join an English tour.
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Old Sep 20th, 2011, 11:29 AM
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During the main tourist season of April to October (inclusive), you can only enter Auschwitz I before 10 am or after 3 pm. At other times, individual visitors (not part of an organised group) are only admitted when going with an official guide (you can join there and then, or book in advance). It costs 40 zloty ($13) per person (30 for students) for a tour in English. There is a manned turnstile to enforce the rules. After the guided tour, you are free to linger as long as you like.
There are no visiting restrictions for much larger Birkenau complex (called Auschwitz II).

http://en.auschwitz.org.pl/z/
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Old Sep 20th, 2011, 12:08 PM
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Birkenau to me was even much more interesting than Auschwitz, which was mainly a work camp - at Birkenau you see the rail sidings where folks were divided into workers and those sent straight away to the gas chambers, whose ruins are also near the rail siding.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2011, 06:17 PM
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I just visited Auschwitz a week ago today and I did not have a guide. I bought a small book for 5 zlotys and went on my own. We arrived before 10am so there was no entry fee. Be sure to allow plenty of time to linger on our own. There is so much to see and so many people we must never forget.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2011, 09:04 PM
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? Visited Auschwitz Summer 2010, mid-day and didn't need a guide. We bought our ticket and just wandered on our own. Must have been rogue visitors.

Birkenau is interesting but different. Auschwitz is compact with many buildings while Birkenau is spread out and there are only a few buildings. It's mostly an outdoor museum.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2011, 05:40 AM
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When I was there the only people inside touring the buildings were with guides.
Are you saying you can just walk into any of the buildings and look around by yourself? I understand you can walk around the grounds.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2011, 07:38 AM
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Sher, just a week ago I did that, I walked around the grounds and into the buildings on my own with no guide. Maybe the rules have changed since you were there but as of a week ago we were allowed to walk around freely without a guide.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2011, 07:58 AM
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As did P_M we walked through many of the buildings and all were open. Had an incredible feeling of sadness for the victims and my wife would not step foot into the building with the ovens. Very sobering.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2011, 08:46 AM
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Was it before 10 am or after 3.30 pm? When I was there in July, the restriction was in place, enforced by a manned turnstile just as you exit the entrance building. I suppose you can just walk in with a group that is being guided and provided you look like you belong to it, you probably won't be stopped. But the rule during the above restricted hours from 1st April to 31st Oct is no individual visitors without an official guide, to control crowding and ease congestion. The rule is stll in place, as per the official website I've quoted. Maybe, on days they aren't too busy, they may relax the rule somewhat, but I won't count on it.

Once you are through the turnstile, you can leave your group and walk around at will, going inside any building that's open (Jewish wing was closed when I was there). There is no entry control at any numbered buildings.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2011, 08:47 AM
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We have not been to Auschitz in many years but the most moving thing for many were the glass cases filled with eyeglasses, suitcases, and hairbrushes. It transformed mass murder to a personal tragedies.

We then took a train to Prague and our car was filled with Sol, a Holocaust survivor from Poland, his son, his second wife, a German physician and my wife and myself. Sol told his story as a seven year old hiding in the woods in the winter, living by the grace of other Poles, and seeing most of his family murdered. He said that during his tour of Auschwitz, he started screaming at the tour guide who, in essence, denied the Poles duplicity.

Besides the exhibit cases, the most moving place were the train sidings were people were taken off the trains. One could only think of their fate, while they were filled with horror, despair and hope.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2011, 11:30 AM
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glad to hear you can still apparently visit these camps sans guide, at least at some times - I want to experience these horrors by myself, with my own thoughts, guidebook in hand no doubt, and not some guide's.

I was shocked when I read up top you had to have a guide and glad to hear that is not always at least the case.

These camps are places where you should not be 'herded' around as inmates once were.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2011, 12:35 PM
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Alec, we arrived just before 10. They told us to hurry up and go through the gate otherwise we would have to pay. There was no mention of needing a guide after 10, just that we would have to pay after 10.

Assuming you are right about needing a guide after 10, I suppose we could have gone in after 10 with a guided group, but then we could have wandered away from the group at any time. From what I saw the groups with guides were fairly large and the people were not being supervised to make sure everyone stayed with the group.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2011, 12:57 PM
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For research purposes I have visited a number of K-camps/death camps over the last several decades..and I simply cannot conceive being relegated to a tour group. The most emotional experience of all was being utterly alone (my wife and I) in Treblinka at dusk. The entrance kiosk had closed and all visitors were gone for the day. There was no gate...locked or unlocked. It was like walking with 800,000 ghosts hovering overhead...the number of people eliminated at that particular death camp, to which the Warsaw ghetto had been deported. If you do have to go in with a group...I'd have no qualms about leaving them.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2011, 08:22 PM
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The Dutch exhibit at Auschwitz is what chilled me the most since I lived in Holland in the late 1970s. There is a well weathered train route board, the kind that you still see on trains throughout Europe, on which is printed *Westerbork - Auschwitz* and *Auschwitz - Westerbork*. Westerbork was the Nazi assembly point for all Dutch Jews.
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Old Feb 10th, 2012, 06:43 AM
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Not to hijack this thread, but as the child of Hungarian Holocaust survivors, whose family perished at Auschwitz, I just don't understand the motivation behind visiting. This is causing a rift in my family as my children (young adults in early 20's) and I are planning a visit to Central Europe this summer. The kids definitely want to go and I cannot imagine it. We are planning to go to Hungary, perhaps even to Romania to visit Sutmahr, where my father was born, but to vist a death camp just doesn't seem to be appealing.

Just curious - why did you go?
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Old Feb 10th, 2012, 07:57 AM
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LBloom, I respect your opinion on this issue which must be very personal and sad for you. I certainly do not hold it against you if you choose not to go, as Auschwitz is not for everyone.

I went because I think these people should never be forgotten and this was my way of honoring them. By visiting places like Auschwitz and learning about what happened and how it happened, it might help to prevent situations like this in the future.

My BIL lost an aunt at Auschwitz. This might sound a little crazy but while I was there I spoke her name aloud. I told her I am there to honor her and to let her know that even in the year 2011 she and all the others are not forgotten and never will be. I don't know if she heard me or not but I would like to believe she (or someone else) did.
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Old Feb 10th, 2012, 08:12 AM
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LBloom, I would like to add that a highlight of my trip was in Budapest when by chance I met a Hungarian survivor of Auschwitz. She overheard us talking about our upcoming visit to Auschwitz and she told us she was a survivor. I jumped up and grabbed her hand, telling her what an honor it was to meet her. We chatted briefly, exchanged names and as we said our goodbyes she thanked me for visiting Auschwitz. It brought me to tears, I had never before met a survivor.

I completely understand and respect how painful this subject is for you, and if you don't want to visit then of course you should not. But perhaps if your kids go it will give them a greater understanding and much empathy to what your family endured.
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