Poland and the death camps
In this, an eight-day tour to Poland, we visit the sites of the former ghettos in Warsaw, Lublin and Krakow alongside four of the concentration and death camps – Treblinka, Majdanek, Belzec and Auschwitz-Birkenau - that played such a significant role in this genocide. We look at the struggle of both the Jews and the Poles against their oppressors, visiting the scenes of the Ghetto Uprising in 1943 and the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. You will see the shift from complete physical destruction of ghetto and camp to the actual remnants due to the rapid advance of the Soviets.
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Some six million Poles died during the Second World War, half of whom were Jews murdered in the forests in the east of the country or the death camps set up after the German occupation of their country. By far the largest of these was Auschwitz-Birkenau which was the site of over one million deaths, mainly Jews brought here from all over Europe. The smaller, purpose built 'killing' camp of Treblinka where Warsaw's Jews were taken, was said by its commandant SSObersturmfuhrer Franz Stangl to be able to murder over 1000 people per hour at its peak. With the positioning of the Majdanek camp on the outskirts of Lublin, the Germans made no effort to disguise the killings, its gas chambers and crematorium being plainly visible to passers-by. The overarching narrative of the tour is about the shift from Polish Jews to European Jews and the evolution of policy from concentration camps to death camps.
Day 1 - Depart.
Fly London to Warsaw. Check-in to our central hotel for two nights. Introductory talk.
Day 2 - Warsaw.
Guided tour around Warsaw including the Warsaw Rising monument, '44 Rising Museum, Nozyk Synagogue, and the Jewish Cemetery. We walk the 'memorial route to the struggle & martyrdom of the Jews' in the site of the former ghetto.
Day 3 - Treblinka & Lublin.
Visit the death camp of Treblinka before driving to Lublin, with its imposing castle/prison which served as a Nazi processing centre. Check-in to our hotel for one night.
Day 4 - Belzec & Majdanek.
Visit the concentration camp of Majdanek, where the barracks, guard towers, the only remaining gas chamber that is completely intact and long lines of (formerly) electrified double barbed wire remain just as they were over fifty years ago. Thence to Belzec, the precise location of which was not identified until the 1990s. Check-in to our hotel in Zamosc for one night.
Day 5 - Krakow.
This morning we drive to Krakow where take a change of pace and emphasis with a guided tour of the architectural wealth of Krakow's Old Town with its busy street life. Check-in to our hotel for three nights.
Day 6 - Auschwitz and Birkenau.
We travel out to the concentration and death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. To enter the camp of Auschwitz, one passes under the infamous inscription 'Arbeit Macht Frei' mounted upon its main gate, before visiting the exhibitions in the surviving prison blocks. In the afternoon we visit Birkenau, also known as Auschwitz II, the purpose-built camp that had hundreds of barracks and 4 massive gas chambers and functioned as the epicentre of the Holocaust during 1943 and 1944.
Day 7 - Kazimierz and Wieliczka.
WW2, some 70,000 Jews lived in Krakow,
mostly in the suburb of Kazimierz. We
explore this tiny area including the Old
Synagogue Museum and there will be an
opportunity for an optional unaccompanied visit to Oscar Schindler's Factory. This
afternoon we visit the awesome 700 year old
salt mine at Wieliczka, its labyrinth of 300km
of tunnels revealing chapels, underground lakes and a museum.
Day 8 - Home.
We catch the express train to Warsaw for our return flights to London.