We recently visited Kraków in Poland, and we took along our almost 15 month old, Martha. Auschwitz was on our list of things to do, because you can’t go to Poland and not visit, right? However, we had one problem, the baby! It crossed my mind that we may not be able to take her after a few people had suggested it may not be suitable so I searched on Google for answers but I found very limited information on children visiting the concentration camp. I read a couple of forums regarding older children, but that was it. Nothing about babies, and their website didn’t offer any useful information either. So I’ve decided to give my own information and review from my personal experience, so hopefully it can help someone who was in the same boat as I was.
Are Children Allowed?
My main concern was taking a baby, on their website and on the tour websites it advises that no children under 14 attend, however this was only an advisory and not a rule. And after reading the forums it’s for no other reason than children may not be able to cope with the nature of the visit and the upset it causes. People wrote on the forums that it’s a sad place and it’s ‘too much’ for little ones to witness, especially when a lot of adults get emotional and they went on to say that they’d sense the atmosphere. It’s correct to a degree but I personally think it’s okay to take a child, at a parents own discretion. It is of course sad, and children do pick up on these things. But if they’re old enough to understand it can be explained first, and you don’t have to show them everything that’s there if you think it might upset them. Just keep them out of sight of the worst blocks. To be honest I only saw 3 children throughout the whole day, and it was very busy. These were around 6/7/8 years old. Martha was the only baby I saw.
Anyway, I decide to take her regardless of the forums I read as one, it was probably our only chance to do it, and I think we would have regretted not going. And two, she’s too young to understand any of it and she wouldn’t have known what anything was. The only thing I was worried about what her playing up, crying or misbehaving when people were feeling emotional. But this was never an issue, luckily she’s very well behaved and despite people glaring at us at the beginning, they soon warmed to her tagging along with the group and some commented on how well she was doing. So I’m glad we went, and I didn’t need to worry at all about any of this.
Baby Ticket Price
Despite reading a few different things regarding prices, Martha was free. I’m not sure what age you have to start paying but we didn’t have to get a ticket for her. I looked online before our trip and almost purchased tickets as they appeared cheaper if pre-booked (this isn’t true), and this way would have also meant I would have paid for Martha too so I’m glad I waited. In our apartment, there was a poster on our door with a day trip to Auschwitz & Birkenau (I’ll get to Birkenau shortly), and it was much cheaper than I’d seen online at 160PLN each (around £32), but it didn’t sit right with me that you paid the bus driver in cash as you arrived for your tour, it may well have been genuine but I felt more comfortable booking it with a reputable company, and I wasn’t sure if this price would also be for a baby ticket too. So we went to a tourist information and booked it through them, this cost us 180PLN each (around £36), which was more than the poster, but legit at least. Then we walked no more than 2 minutes down the street where we saw another touristy information shop advertising the same trip for only 130PLN each (around £26) in their window, typical! So I was quite annoyed that I’d just paid more than I should but hey ho, I got over it. So when you go, have a quick browse to check for the cheaper deal!
Traveling With A Baby
We didn’t have a car seat with us, so we were told Martha could just sit on our laps. It’s the same in most countries that if you’re using public transport, you don’t need to have a car seat. However, regardless of the law, you never know if there will be a crash, so I wore her in a baby sling throughout the 1.5 hour journey from Kraków, there and back. So at least then if we did crash, she’d be secure to me. It was a long time for her to be ‘trapped’ but she was surprisingly okay, I just took lots of snacks for bribes. We had a little mini bus which held around 16 people and you could tell people weren’t impressed that a baby was aboard when they saw her, but luckily she proved them wrong and was good as gold.
We arrived at Auschwitz and had a quick 10 minute break to go to the toilet before entering the camp, however as expected, there was no baby changing as I guess it’s not a popular place for babies to go. So I had to change her on my lap. Definitely do this during this break and before entering the camp, as there’s literally no time once you’re in there, and nowhere decent to do it. It was so busy and fast paced that we couldn’t take a break even if we wanted to.
There’s a restaurant outside of the camp, where the busses park. But nothing inside the camp for food or drinks, and you’re not allowed to take anything in either. I’d planned on taking our lunches but they said strictly no eating on the grounds out of respect. I snuck in an emergency snack bar just incase it was a last resort to stop Martha from moaning, but I didn’t have to use it. We were allowed to take in her juice bottle and milk. But make sure you take a very small handbag to pop your baby bits in as any bags over 30x20cm (around the size of an A4 bit of paper) aren’t allowed in. And bag sizes and the contents are checked. You actually have to empty your bag and go through a metal detector just like at the airport!
The only and most awkward thing about taking a baby is that you can’t take a pram. I wondered why but after visiting I realise why. You’re in and out of blocks, a lot of the time it’s single file down a narrow hall way, and there’s lots of steps. There’s no way at all you could even attempt to take a pram. Not unless you did a self guided tour and took it in turns to go into the blocks. Even still, it’d be a bumpy ride on the cobbled pavement. I wore Martha in the sling, she doesn’t really go in it nowadays because she’s too heavy, and although my back and shoulders were shattered by the end of the day, I’m so glad I wore her as I would have really struggled otherwise. It’s way too much walking and would have been too long to hold her, even if we’d alternated. It kept her cosy and quiet too! She can walk, but even for a toddler of 2/3 it wouldn’t be practical at all due to it being busy and fast moving. Some of the ceilings and doors are also very low so the high carriers where baby is sat higher than your height wouldn’t work either. In Birkenau, you'd be able to take a pram around that as it's mostly a big outdoor space, but on our tour this was just a short visit.
This post isn’t a review on Auschwitz & Birkenau itself, but I’ll give you a quick low down..
If you're thinking about it, definitely do it. We originally just wanted to visit Auschwitz but we're so glad we did the double tour that included Birkenau too, as it completed the story. Both camps are extremely sad and eery, it's apparently one of the most haunted places in the world, and whether you believe it or not, Martha kept waving at thin air and saying "hiya" as if someone was there. I personally thought Birkenau was more upsetting and 'spooky', I don't really know why, it was just a personal feeling.
We did the guided tour, with a group of around 25, we wore a headset and the guide would talk into a speaker so we could hear her, it was so busy and numerous groups were there so we never would have heard otherwise. I'd definitely advise doing a guided tour so it all makes sense, although the downside to this was that you were constantly on the move and it was in and out and no time to stay in each place long. However, it might be confusing not having any information at all and just wondering around, although it would have been better with a little one I think.
I feel awful for saying this, and I hope it doesn't come across wrong, but it wasn't as upsetting as I thought it would be. Don't get me wrong, it was extremely sad, and when you're there it really hits you how awful this place was. But after what people had told me I was expecting a lot worse, maybe I'd worried myself too much beforehand, I don't know. I was under the impression that everyone would be crying and from what I'd read, and I'd panicked myself that I wouldn't cope, but it wasn't like this. People weren't exactly laughing and joking, but they were 'normal' with a few exceptions of people getting teary. I did tear up myself when I saw the hair and possessions of the victims, especially the children's clothing and shoes, that really choked me up.
So I hope this little review on taking a baby along to the concentration camps helps someone. If you want to go and you have a baby with you, just do it. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks, if your baby does play up, you can just walk off, as long as you're not bothered about possibly missing something. It's definitely worth a visit, it really opens your eyes and I know I definitely would have regretted not going if I'd have decided against it.