Back in 2015, my work took my on a trip to Kraków for an eGaming tournament. It was my last trip for work, as our company changed their focus and that meant no more traveling. I found out just a few months beforehand that I'd be going there. As soon as I found that out, I knew I had to make time to get to Auschwitz. At the time, I thought there would never be another chance to go. I was going to MAKE time to go. I took a couple extra days off from work that coincided with my trip.
Since I was going to have no car, I booked a spot on a group tour. I very nearly missed it, as the first leg of my flight to Toronto was delayed. Thankfully, the tour company let me move my booking to the next day.
I really didn't know what to expect when the tour would arrive. And how it felt was completely different than what I really expected.
We went so fast through Auschwitz I (the original camp). It felt rushed. I think part of it was the tour group itself. It felt like they wanted to rush us through everything. There wasn't time to stop and read all the informational signs. There wasn't time to ponder what went on wherever you happened to be standing.
Auschwitz II (Birkenau) is something else entirely. Most of the buildings are gone, but you still see a lot of what was.
I don't know how to describe the feeling other than disbelief. By that I mean, it was SO overwhelming and SO large, that it was hard to comprehend anything like that could have happened.
At the Auschwitz I camp, I found myself a bit uncomfortable using my camera in some of the exhibits. It just didn't feel right taking pictures of piles of items that once belonged to the victims. I did take one or two, but after that I stopped. I only took outside pictures from that point on.
If I ever make it back, I think I would go on one of the self-guided tours in the morning. From what I understood, the afternoons were tour groups only.