Entrance at Auschwitz I

Administration building is now the Visitor's Center at Auschwitz

On my first visit to Poland in October 1998, I was prepared for what I was about to see at the old Auschwitz I concentration camp because I had read about it extensively and had seen many pictures of it. Even so, I was shocked at my first sight of the former camp. If I had accidentally come upon this place without knowing what it was, I would have assumed that the beautiful brick buildings here were part of a college campus.

The photograph at the top of this page is a view of the former camp administration building, as seen from the entrance road, which is at a right angle to the parking lot in front of this building. Buses and taxis deliver tourists to the front door of the administration building, which is now the Visitor's Center, and then park here to wait for their return from the guided tours which take a couple of hours. Then it is on to the Birkenau camp, or Auschwitz II, which is 3 kilometers from here.

The former camp administration building is so nice that my tour guide had to offer an apology for it, saying that this beautiful brick building was built by the Nazis as a brothel for the camp guards, as well as an induction center for incoming prisoners.

The entrance to the Auschwitz Museum at the former concentration camp is on an ordinary street in the Zazole district of Oswiecim, or Auschwitz as it was called by the Germans who originally built the town in 1270. The present tourist entrance was the actual entrance to the camp from 1942 to 1945 and it is the entrance through which the Soviet soldiers came when they liberated the camp on January 27, 1945. Even back then, the camp entrance faced a busy city street.

To the right, as you enter, is the parking lot for tour buses and the taxi cabs that have brought passengers here all the way from Krakow, a distance of about 37 miles. Facing the parking lot is the red brick administration building, shown in the photo above, that was built by the Nazis in 1943. It was designed by Walther Dejaco, the same architect who designed the four brick gas chamber buidings and the Central Sauna at Birkenau, the Auschwitz II camp.

The photo below shows a view of the entrance gate, taken from inside the camp in 1998, with a kiosk for the parking attendant on the right. Across the street one can see some rather run-down commercial buildings. When I visited again in 2005, there was a new parking lot across the street and a small restaurant. There was a proposal a few years ago to tear down these buildings and build a modern supermarket in the location across the street, but the plan was dropped after Jewish protests.

Entrance to Auschwitz I, as seen from inside the camp in 1998

Below is a view of the inside of the camp, looking straight ahead from the entrance gate, down a tree-lined camp street. This part of the camp was an addition, built by the Nazis when they enlarged the former Polish military garrison here. The building to the left, in the foreground of the picture below, is another new building at the camp entrance. When I visited again in 2005, this building, which houses a "Hot Dog" stand, was painted yellow. Notice the pot hole in the foreground of the picture. By the time I visited in October 2005, the road had been repaired.

View from entrance gate of Auschwitz I, looking into the camp

Behind the trees in the 1998 photo below, is part of the addition to the camp built by the Nazis; the former camp buildings in this section, which is off limits to tourists, are now used as apartments for Polish residents and as barracks for the Polish army. When the Auschwitz camp was in operation, this section housed 6,000 women prisoners. It was in this section that the women, who suppied the dynamite that the prisoners used to blow up Krema IV at Birkenau, were executed.

Former camp buildings now used as apartments and Army barracks

A few Auschwitz prisoners, who somehow managed to survive the selections for the gas chamber, now live in one of the buildings of the former camp and act as guides for visitors.

Pictured below is the entrance to the administration building, which now houses a cafe, bookstore, currency exchange, post office, left luggage room, toilets, movie theater, and a hotel, as well as the offices of the museum administrators. Without a guide, most visitors would never guess that this building was once where the incoming prisoners to the Auschwitz main camp were registered, bathed, disinfected, tattooed, shaved and then given a blue and gray striped prison uniform to wear.

According to the book entitled "Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp,"there were 19 delousing chambers installed in December 1942 in this building; the prisoner clothing was disinfected in an attempt to stop the typhus epidemic which had started in July 1942.

Administration building, now a visitor's center at Auschwitz I

Auschwitz I is one of the few memorial sites at the former Nazi concentration camps that has no large monument. Here the only artwork on the grounds of the former camp is a structure which I initially mistook for children's playground equipment. Located in the median strip just behind where the buses are parked and in front of a walkway lined with park benches, it is shown in the photo below, taken in 1998. By October 2005, this wooden sculpture had deteriorated badly and it was now partially obscured by the tree on the right which was in need of some pruning. The small building to the left in the background is a book store and florist shop.

Sculpture in parking lot at Auschwitz I

The wooden sculture shown above was created by Dan Richter Levin; it is entitled "A declaration from a living Jew."

Inside the Visitor's Center

Exit from the Visitor's Center

Entrance through "Arbeit Macht Frei" Gate

Auschwitz Museum Exhibits

Swimming Pool

Block 11 - the camp prison

Prison Cells Inside Block 11

Standing Cells in Block 11

The Black Wall

Kitchen & other buildings in Auschwitz I

Barracks Buildings in Auschwitz 1

Old Sentry Box and camp kitchen

Commandant's house & old theater

Gas Chamber

Introduction to Auschwitz I

Back to Photo Gallery 1


This page was last updated on July 28, 2009