Auschwitz or Dachau?



storrsroars

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Yeah, I know... weird question to ask.

We're just starting to plan a trip to Europe and preliminary idea is to hit Munich and Vienna (and let's throw in Salzburg) since neither of us have been to the latter and I've only been to the airport of the former.

While we're there, we feel we've got to take the opportunity to visit a former concentration camp. Dachau is right outside Munich, but it's been mostly rebuilt and (according to reviews we've read) a good primer, but not the horrifying and moving experience of Auschwitz.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is a trip to Krakow, at least an overnight. , probably a two-day investment due to travel. It's by far reviewed as something you don't forget, if you have the stomach to try and experience it. It's also got negative reviews due to the herding of tourists and the disrespect many tourists show for the place.

As we're only planning to be in the area for 9-10 days, it would certainly be more convenient to just do Dachau. But we both feel we'd be missing the full scope of that history. And it seems Krakow is a delightful city to explore. Just means we'd have to suffer RyanAir for an hour each way.

So, wondering if anyone has been to either/both camps and can offer some perspective. Also, any thoughts on staying over in Krakow for a day or two afterwards?
 
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I've been to Dachau and it is haunting because we know the history, but in a sanitized sort of way. The exterior walls are still there, but most of the buildings no longer exist and just outside the gates sits an almost charming small German town. Dachau was primarily a work camp so it had more than its share of killing and inhumanity, but it was not on the scale of the extermination machine that was Auschwitz. After going to Dachau I certainly felt the history (this was the mid-80s so for days meeting any German over the age of 60 or so brought forth thoughts of "How can you say you didn't know, you b******?") but if I wanted the ultimate depressing effect of one of the lowest points in the history of humanity, I'd go to Auschwitz.
 
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One perspective as a past resident of Wien and Krakow and multi-time visitor to Oświęcim (Auschwitz), Brzezinka (Birkenau), München, and the nearby town of Dachau and concentration camps.

Dachau: Easy commuter train or guided bus trip. <15 miles from Munich. Depressing and important, but as you suggest not quite as dramatic as Auschwitz and Birkenau.

Krakow 3 days: An Auschwitz-Birkenau side trip requires most of a day. Allocating < 2 days to Krakow itself is either a mad rush or massive miss.

On a few visits to Dachau, Auschwitz and Birkenau, very few disrespectful people were observed. Or, they were ignored. Inexplicably, a few non-reverential jerks exist everywhere. Similarly, some parents should know better than to bring young kids or immature teen brats.

Vienna > Krakow: About a 4 hr drive now via Czech on reasonably good roads; mostly if not entirely highway.

Flight: To each his own, but strongly recommend well-maintained LOT (Star Alliance) versus Ryanscare. However, the latter offers stronger likelihood of disgruntled pilots who didn't make the cut with more respected airlines, a few too many trashy and/or drunken passengers, etc. The cost savings isn't worth it IMHO.

@storrsroars Happy to respond to related PMs and to forward info sent to Cohen zone before his trip last summer.
 
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storrsroars

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One perspective as a past resident of Wien and Krakow and multi-time visitor to Oświęcim (Auschwitz), Brzezinka (Birkenau), München, and the nearby town of Dachau and concentration camps.

Dachau: Easy commuter train or guided bus trip. <15 miles from Munich. Depressing and important, but as you suggest not quite as dramatic as Auschwitz and Birkenau.

Krakow 3 days: An Auschwitz-Birkenau side trip requires most of a day. Allocating < 2 days to Krakow itself is either a mad rush or massive miss.

On a few visits to Dachau, Auschwitz and Birkenau, very few disrespectful people were observed. Or, they were ignored. Inexplicably, a few non-reverential jerks exist everywhere. Similarly, some parents should know better than to bring young kids or immature teen brats.

Vienna > Krakow: About a 4 hr drive now via Czech on reasonably good roads; mostly if not entirely highway.

Flight: To each his own, but strongly recommend well-maintained LOT (Star Alliance) versus Ryanscare. However, the latter offers stronger likelihood of disgruntled pilots who didn't make the cut with more respected airlines, a few too many trashy and/or drunken passengers, etc. The cost savings isn't worth it IMHO.

@storrsroars Happy to respond to related PMs and to forward info sent to Cohen zone before his trip last summer.
Anyplace you haven't been yet?

Having read 100s of your posts on travel & culture and having some sense of your worldview, I trust your opinions on travel, so forwarding that info would be appreciated. Anything you particularly like about Krakow? We'll probably try to fit in a Chopin performance while there if schedules align.

Being of half Lithuanian heritage, I feel it's incumbent to actually eat a golabki in its homeland.

Re: RyanAir. I know it's bad. But last I looked there was about $300 difference (two people) for the flight from Vienna. We can deal with it for that kind of money on an hour's flight. I've had surly service on numerous US airlines.
 
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Yeah, I know... weird question to ask.

We're just starting to plan a trip to Europe and preliminary idea is to hit Munich and Vienna (and let's throw in Salzburg) since neither of us have been to the latter and I've only been to the airport of the former.

While we're there, we feel we've got to take the opportunity to visit a former concentration camp. Dachau is right outside Munich, but it's been mostly rebuilt and (according to reviews we've read) a good primer, but not the horrifying and moving experience of Auschwitz.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is a trip to Krakow, at least an overnight. , probably a two-day investment due to travel. It's by far reviewed as something you don't forget, if you have the stomach to try and experience it. It's also got negative reviews due to the herding of tourists and the disrespect many tourists show for the place.

As we're only planning to be in the area for 9-10 days, it would certainly be more convenient to just do Dachau. But we both feel we'd be missing the full scope of that history. And it seems Krakow is a delightful city to explore. Just means we'd have to suffer RyanAir for an hour each way.

So, wondering if anyone has been to either/both camps and can offer some perspective. Also, any thoughts on staying over in Krakow for a day or two afterwards?
Tight time schedule. If you don't want the tourist experience of that adventure back in history, and going to fly from Germany or Austria - I suggest to fly to Warsaw and go to Treblinka instead of Krakow. Treblinka is an experience unlike the others, about an hour drive north of Warsaw. Plenty to do in Warsaw to stay overnight. Otherwise the drive from Vienna to Krakow to do a tour of Auschwitz would be a long day round trip, but not too bad if you don't want to hang out in Poland, and are going to do just the tour. If you're going to be driving around in Austria, and the weather permits - I suggest driving over Großglockner-Hochalpenstraße rather than tunneling the Alps. And in Salzburg, if you don't sing and recreate the Do Ray Me song in the park, I'll be very disappointed in you.
 
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I've been to Dachau and it is haunting because we know the history, but in a sanitized sort of way. The exterior walls are still there, but most of the buildings no longer exist and just outside the gates sits an almost charming small German town. Dachau was primarily a work camp so it had more than its share of killing and inhumanity, but it was not on the scale of the extermination machine that was Auschwitz. After going to Dachau I certainly felt the history (this was the mid-80s so for days meeting any German over the age of 60 or so brought forth thoughts of "How can you say you didn't know, you b******?") but if I wanted the ultimate depressing effect of one of the lowest points in the history of humanity, I'd go to Auschwitz.
I went to Dachau back in the mid-90's as part of a backpacking expedition while I was studying in France for a semester. I did not go to Auschwitz as Poland was not on the EuroRail pass system yet though I do know some friends who Krakow (loved it) and the camp; but, said very little about it for reasons I understand.

Getting to Dachau from Munich is easy and can be done in a half-day. As a WWII history buff, I read a lot about it before I went, so I found it humbling to know what happened there. Dachau felt more sanitized, because 1) its close to Munch and very viable to folks outside of Germany post WWII and 2) Dachau contained a mix of prisoners (common criminals, POW's, political prisoners, Christian religious leaders, etc.) in addition to Jews and they were treated better as the Nazis needed able body workers to fill the needs of their heavy industry in the area. Those who could not hack the grueling work and the Jews were then shipped off to places like Auschwitz for the Final Solution.

That said, to this day, I still remember the tour guide emphasizing that gas chambers were very rarely used in Dachau and that the facility had medical care while excluding that fact the medical facility noted was more or less used for hellish medical experiments on the prisoners. Never forget...
 

cohenzone

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Can’t add too much. Been to Dachau which is definitely sanitized compared to Auschwitz and Birkenau, although the memorial there, actually. a tribute by Dachau survivors to. Auschwitz victims, is haunting. The father of one of my best friends was an early inmate there but was luckily let go through a foreign sponsorship program the Nazis followed for a time and spent the war years in England.

Earlier this year we visited Auschiwitz and Birkenau, which is where most of the killing took place. They are very close to each other. Auschwitz is where there are rooms contains countless items of clothing, shoes eyeglasses , luggage and prosthetics of victims. Birkenau is much larger but partially desconstructed. Auschwitz, originally a military place, is pretty much intact. Chilling plsces
to visit.

Between Kraków (which has a well preserved Jewish cemetery) and Auschwitz, is the interesting and enormous salt mine. A visit there requires a fair amount of walking.

If you get to go to Warsaw, there is a fabulous museum of the history of Polish Jews. It’s called the Polit. Not much remains of the ghetto , but there is one bullet-riddled section of wall and a very large old Jewish cemetery still in use that the Nazis didn’t destroy because they were afraid of disease.
 

storrsroars

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Between Kraków (which has a well preserved Jewish cemetery) and Auschwitz, is the interesting and enormous salt mine. A visit there requires a fair amount of walking.
I saw the salt mine and tours of it mentioned frequently on TA, but I have no clue as to the significance of it or why one would feel compelled to visit it. Is there a specific reason to visit the salt mine when I could be drinking wodka while trying to wrap my head around the horrors of the camps?
 

cohenzone

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I saw the salt mine and tours of it mentioned frequently on TA, but I have no clue as to the significance of it or why one would feel compelled to visit it. Is there a specific reason to visit the salt mine when I could be drinking wodka while trying to wrap my head around the horrors of the camps?
It was one of the great salt mines in the world. But what makes it unusual is that the miners created statues and monuments all over the huge place that are real works of art. There are various chambers including a chapel, and, of course, a gift shop. But it is indeed big and requires miles of walking.
 

cohenzone

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Just an example of some of tge statuary in the mine. As far as vodka goes after the death camps, I don’t remember there being a saloon inside the mine. But it’s hard to find bad pyrogies and various types of kielbasa in Poland.

125067D2-5496-44BE-ABF0-2651DB315C0A.jpeg
 
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It was one of the great salt mines in the world. But what makes it unusual is that the miners created statues and monuments all over the huge place that are real works of art. There are various chambers including a chapel, and, of course, a gift shop. But it is indeed big and requires miles of walking.
@storrsroars Most people I know who've visited Wieliczka Salt Mine (Vee-ah-LITCH-ka) find it pretty interesting. Whether you allocate time is TBD, but established in the 13th centry its' multiple carved figures, Last Supper, etc are great; impressive enough for multiple UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage recognition. You can scan related yuotube videos.

With an early wake up call, you can arrange hotel pick up with Auschwitz-Birkenau and Wieliczka Salt Mine visits in a single day. Here's one tour company providing tours or your hotel/B&B can arrange similar, but multiple exist.

@cohenzone Did you take the longer miner's tour? Or, the considerably shorter tourist route with regular elevators? With areas which can be skipped past, the latter tourist tour never used to require miles of walking.

@storrsroars The Wieliczka Mine Health Resort is interesting, but whether the salt, air a few hundred meter underground, water, massages, etc. magically transform one's health may be subject to one's imagination.
 

storrsroars

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@storrsroars Most people I know who've visited Wieliczka Salt Mine (Vee-ah-LITCH-ka) find it pretty interesting. Whether you allocate time is TBD, but established in the 13th centry its' multiple carved figures, Last Supper, etc are great; impressive enough for multiple UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage recognition. You can scan related yuotube videos.

With an early wake up call, you can arrange hotel pick up with Auschwitz-Birkenau and Wieliczka Salt Mine visits in a single day. Here's one tour company providing tours or your hotel/B&B can arrange similar, but multiple exist.

@cohenzone Did you take the longer miner's tour? Or, the considerably shorter tourist route with regular elevators? With areas which can be skipped past, the latter tourist tour never used to require miles of walking.

@storrsroars The Wieliczka Mine Health Resort is interesting, but whether the salt, air a few hundred meter underground, water, massages, etc. magically transform one's health may be subject to one's imagination.
Thanks for the input. Unlikely to add to the itinerary. Have seen lots of older stuff above ground :)

Besides, once you've seen Rafail's Cross up close and heard the story behind it, other religious iconography starts to pale in comparison. Even the Sistene Chapel ceiling seems like a low-effort job.
 
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cohenzone

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@storrsroars Most people I know who've visited Wieliczka Salt Mine (Vee-ah-LITCH-ka) find it pretty interesting. Whether you allocate time is TBD, but established in the 13th centry its' multiple carved figures, Last Supper, etc are great; impressive enough for multiple UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage recognition. You can scan related yuotube videos.

With an early wake up call, you can arrange hotel pick up with Auschwitz-Birkenau and Wieliczka Salt Mine visits in a single day. Here's one tour company providing tours or your hotel/B&B can arrange similar, but multiple exist.

@cohenzone Did you take the longer miner's tour? Or, the considerably shorter tourist route with regular elevators? With areas which can be skipped past, the latter tourist tour never used to require miles of walking.

@storrsroars The Wieliczka Mine Health Resort is interesting, but whether the salt, air a few hundred meter underground, water, massages, etc. magically transform one's health may be subject to one's imagination.
Our whole tour through Poland was private for 4 of us and they hooked us up with various tours at particular places like tge mine.

We walked down several flights of steps into the mine, something like 300 or so stairs. We walked through many chambers, mostly on wooden walkways. We took the elevator back up, the elevators were a considerable walk from the last chamber we visited (probably the gift shop) and probably seemed longer than it was after already having walked a lot. The last stretch to the elevator was almost all through mine tunnel and tracks, so uninteresting. I’d guess it was between 3/4 of a mile and a mile if not slightly more. The sheer size of the mine is impressive, although I don’t know how it compares with other salt mines or any other mines for that matter. The sculptures are a whole other thing. There were a whole lot of undiscovered Michaelangelos down there.
 
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Besides, once you've seen Rafail's Cross up close and heard the story behind it, other religious iconography starts to pale in comparison. Even the Sistene Chapel ceiling.
Plus, Munich, Vienna, and particularly Krakow have a tad more than one cathredral/church you'll likely visit.
 

cohenzone

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Thanks for the input. Unlikely to add to the itinerary. Have seen lots of older stuff above ground :)

Besides, once you've seen Rafail's Cross up close and heard the story behind it, other religious iconography starts to pale in comparison. Even the Sistene Chapel ceiling seems like a low-effort job.
The mine is unique. That’s what makes it interesting There are certainly many older sites in the world.I wasn’t blown away by the Sistine Chapel. I did get yelled at when I tried to sneak a photo of it.

In Kraków, visit the old Jewish cemetery. The Nazis didn't destroy it and it has these interesting small metal roof like things on most of the headstones. We were told that during some point in its history there was an open market very close by and pigeons hung out there and often landed and crapped on the headstones. So these metal things were placed on them to carry the load and keep them clean.
 

cohenzone

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Plus, Munich, Vienna, and particularly Krakow have a tad more than one cathredral/church you'll likely visit.
We often travel with Polish Catholic friends and have been to many European countries. Even my friends are becoming Cathedraled out. I think this Jew has been in more cathedrals than the Pope. The woman of that couple is a church goer but also critical of the church. She gets kinda po’d at the opulence of the cathedrals.
 

Fishy

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Really hard topic to make a recommendation on.

We spent a month in Dachau with family once and were taken to the camp several times. It's certainly worth a visit.
 
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The whole travel topic related to concentration camps and murder of million is sickening beyond belief. Being casual about this most sensitive topic sickins me.
 

storrsroars

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The whole travel topic related to concentration camps and murder of million is sickening beyond belief. Being casual about this most sensitive topic sickins me.
You'd prefer there were no monuments to those atrocities and that people would just forget, or worse, deny? Ever heard Santayana's maxim, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"?

Did you actually read the thread? That I'm the one who started it aside, I believe all the replies dealt extremely sensitively with the topic, and that those who've been to one were very moved by the experience.
 

cohenzone

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The whole travel topic related to concentration camps and murder of million is sickening beyond belief. Being casual about this most sensitive topic sickins me.
Nice lack of comprehension.
 

temery

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The whole travel topic related to concentration camps and murder of million is sickening beyond belief. Being casual about this most sensitive topic sickins me.
A married couple who met in a camp in the 40s lived upstairs from me when I was a kid. They would disagree with your opinion. The last thing they would have wanted is for the holocaust to be forgotten.
 
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A married couple who met in a camp in the 40s lived upstairs from me when I was a kid. They would disagree with your opinion. The last thing they would have wanted is for the holocaust to be forgotten.
I think that all of the Europeans running around clamoring for the 'good old days' of European nationalism, with help from Steve Bannon, should be required to tour places like Dachau, Auschwitz, Normandy, Hiroshima & Nagasaki to remind folks that extreme 'Nationalism' has a dark side. That should never be forgotten so that it will never happen again. Bannon and a few of his buddies should be sent over, too.
 

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