Scrapbookpages Blog

June 22, 2011

all visitors to Auschwitz will be shepherded by guides

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: — furtherglory @ 12:07 pm

On February 18, 2011, the New York Times published an article written by Michael Kimmelman with the headline “Auschwitz Shifts From Memorializing to Teaching.”  The article has this sentence:  “All or nearly all visitors will be shepherded by guides to field questions and keep crowds moving.”  I’m glad that I got to see Auschwitz when it was still possible to tour the camp without a guide.

Piotr Cywinski, the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, was quoted as saying this:

“To me the whole educational system regarding the Holocaust, which really got under way during the 1990s, served its purpose in terms of supplying facts and information. But there is another level of education, a level of awareness about the meaning of those facts. It’s not enough to cry. Empathy is noble, but it’s not enough.”

This is the theme to which officials here return often. Auschwitz, they say, must find ways to engage young people (some 850,000 students came last year), so they leave feeling what the director called “responsibility to the present.”

As I understand it, this means that students learn at Auschwitz that they must take responsibility for stopping genocide in the present day.  What this also means is that the days of investigators going to Auschwitz and taking samples from the walls of buildings is now in the past.  Visitors must stay on the beaten path and listen to their tour guide.  They cannot poke around on their own and discover things.


  1. […] I have said the same thing several times myself in my blog posts.  I have particularly criticized the British for taking young students on a one-day trip to Auschwitz to be indoctrinated.  Visitors cannot tour Auschwitz on their own now; I wrote about this here. […]

    Pingback by Does Holocaust education teach hatred of the German people? « Scrapbookpages Blog — January 3, 2012 @ 8:58 am

  2. Are we talking about Auschwitz Stammlager only or the whole of Auschwitz-Birkenau? Birkenau is so big there surely can’t be a problem with crowds there.

    I went there in 2005 and didn’t have a guide. I subsequently came to feel I was conned, by being allowed to see piles of what may well have been insecticide canisters as evidence of gassing of humans and not being told that the gas chamber in the Stammlager was a rebuild. I’ve just been reading Robert van Pelt ‘Auschwitz 1270 to present’ – which seemed far and away the most rational book I’ve read on the campt – and it made clear what I was coming to suspect, the Auschwitz I saw was a Polish rather than a Jewish con.

    Comment by Ethelred — June 22, 2011 @ 5:30 pm

    • I don’t know, but I assume that they are talking about the main camp and also Birkenau. Birkenau is big but most of the tourists go to only a few spots, so you have to wait in line to see the ruins of Krema II and Krema III and to go up into the tower at the entrance. Also, the parking lot is small. There is room for only a limited number of buses. I also went there in 2005 and I had to go early in the morning on several different days to beat the crowds so that I could take photos with no tourists in the photos. Even then, I had to wait for the tour guides to give their talk and move on before I could take my photos.

      In 2005, there was a sign outside the gas chamber building in the main camp which illustrated how the gas chamber had been reconstructed. You can see a photo of the sign on this page of my web site:

      I stayed in the town of Auschwitz for a week and went to the camp every day in order to take photos. The first morning, I arrived by taxi at the main camp before 8 a.m. but there were already three tour groups lined up outside waiting to get inside the main building. Tourists must go through the administration building and there were two more groups inside the building waiting to go out to the Arbeit Macht Frei gate to enter the camp. I could not get a good photo of the Arbeit sign because there was not enough time between tour groups to compose a picture. The best I could do was to get there at sunrise and sneak in to take a photo. I was able to get good photos of the gas chamber because I took a short cut to get to it before the tour groups. There is probably a guard posted there now.

      I read the book “Auschwitz 1270 to Present” before I went to Auschwitz for the first time in 1998. This is an amazing book; I really enjoyed it and have read it several times since then.

      Comment by furtherglory — June 23, 2011 @ 7:02 am

      • I went at the beginning of April 2005 and propbably arrived at Birkenau 2.30 to 3 in the afternoon, but can’t remember. I don’t recall many people at all. The last pope had just died and the funeral had not been held so perhaps this had something to do with it.

        I was in Poland for other reasons so took the opportunity to go. I didn’t have the advantage of prior reading. Probably the sign was there and I missed it, but it’s just possible that you, Further Glory, went later in the year and the sign went up between our visits. I might have saved myself quite a bit of hassle if I had read Van Pelt before Laurence Rees book on Auschwitz.

        Comment by Ethelred — June 23, 2011 @ 8:26 am

        • I went to Auschwitz in the first week of October 2005. I decided on this date because I thought the tourist season would be over and all the students would be in school. I also thought that the weather would be cool. I was wrong. It was hot and crowded. Before my 2005 trip, I read the Lawrence Rees book. I am glad that I had already read the Van Pelt book. At the airport, I met a tourist who told me that he was going to Auschwitz with a tour group. I advised him that he should go alone. I met him while he was in Auschwitz and he told me that he wished he had taken my advice. I think it is very unfortunate that one cannot go to Auschwitz now except with an organized tour. I would definitely advise anyone to read the Van Pelt book before going to Auschwitz.

          Comment by furtherglory — June 23, 2011 @ 10:02 am

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