Auschwitz-Birkenau features in the Pope’s Polish itinerary this summer.
Plans have been announced for the Pontiff to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp as part of his five-day tour to Poland this coming July, coinciding with his presence at World Youth Day, an international jamboree of Catholic youth, taking place in Krakow. Pope Francis will be the third head of the Roman Catholic Church to visit the death camp, following in the footsteps of his predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI in 1979 and 2006 respectively.
A name synonymous with tragedy, persecution and mass genocide, Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest of the World War II concentration and extermination camps and has come to symbolise one of the most horrific acts in recent human history, And yet today, it represents a poignant and profound place of homage that makes for a most compelling and moving visit for anyone wishing to venture further afield from the city centre.
Specifically designed as a death camp not only for Jews but also for Poles, gypsies, homosexuals, the disabled, Russian prisoners of war and other nationalities deemed fit to be there by the Nazi regime, over one million people senselessly lost their lives at Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945. Sadly and shockingly, only 200,000 inmates were liberated.
Regained by the Polish government following the cessation of war in 1945, rather than raze the network of concentration camps to the ground as occurred with so many of the other Nazi death camps, Auschwitz was swiftly turned into a museum, thereby establishing a lasting legacy and a suitable place of homage to remember the 1.1 million people, predominantly Jews, so needlessly killed there. Indeed Auschwitz represents the world’s biggest Jewish cemetery.
For anyone wishing to visit Krakow for a city break or as part of a multi-centre holiday through Poland, an excursion to Auschwitz is an absolute essential and our Krakow City Experience includes a fascinating full-day excursion to the former camps.
Approximately 90 minutes from Krakow by car, a tour of Auschwitz starts with a short documentary filmed by Russian troops immediately after the liberation of the camps, followed by an in-depth guided tour in English of both Auschwitz and Birkenau (including transportation between the two camps), lasting approximately three and a half hours.
A rather sombre excursion maybe, but undoubtedly one that will resonate for years to come.