We Snuck Into an Abandoned Concentration Camp

When people think of Hitler’s Nazis and where they did the most damage, obviously concentration camps come to mind. And the most notorious of them all is of course Auschwitz.

Before we get to that, did you know Poland passed new legislation this month outlawing the phrase, “Polish death camps”? Under the law, it’s also illegal to accuse Poland of any involvement in Nazi activity or the Holocaust, punishable by a fine or up to 3 years in prison.

So this is me NOT saying some Polish people may or may not have been involved with Nazi activity. But it’s evident Poland as a nation was not complicit with the Nazi regime as their borders were invaded. WWII was a terrible time for their country and from my experience, they’re sick and tired of talking about it.

That’s probably why there is an abandoned concentration camp in the middle of Krakow, now relabeled as a “bird sanctuary”, and it’s totally forgotten. Formerly known as the Liban Quarry, a former limestone quarry, Nazis converted it into the concentration camp known as Płaszów.

If you want to find it too, it’s behind the Krakus Mound toward the nearby cemetery. There are trails that go down but enter at your own risk. Signs are posted intermittently (Uwaga: Careful!).

On another note, Spielberg filmed Schindler’s List here. Schindler recruited workers and subsequently saved them from certain death from this very camp. With this in mind, we went down into the quarry and here’s what we found.

Płaszów Concentration Camp

Krakus Mound – Oldest man-made structure in Krakow
Podgorski Cemetery

If the Krakus Mound is behind you, The Liban Quarry is to the right of the cemetery.

View from top of the quarry
Nazi footpaths made from Jewish headstones
Abandoned Structures
Graffiti on Dilapidated Structures

Abandoned places like this one have an eerie atmosphere that’s enough to give anyone the creeps. History hangs heavy on your heels. Stopping at this camp gives visitors the freedom to quietly reflect on the atrocities and can be more profound than seeing other heavily visited sites.

It’s unclear whether the structures were part of the original limestone quarry, concentration camp, or film set. Whatever the case, it’s a disturbing place soaked in uncomfortable history and trapped deep in a pit that’s a mere walk from Krakow’s center.

Here’s another place you might have heard about located in Oświęcim that offers a glimpse into one of the darkest recesses in human history.

Auschwitz I

“Work sets you free” – Auschwitz Entrance
Buildings of Auschwitz I
Prisoner’s Hospital Block
Electric Fence
More Fences


Deportees’ Shoes
Confiscated Brushes
Suitcases of Deported Jews
Prosthetics – Those deemed unsuitable for slave labor were often executed immediately upon arrival
A Little Girl’s Jacket
Shared Toilets
Courtyard Entrance of Block 11 to the “Death Wall” where Nazis executed Jews by shooting
The Death Wall
The Collective Gallows – where Nazis hanged people during roll call as examples for colluding with escapees or contacting civilians
Site of Camp Commandant’s Execution
Entrance to the “Crematorium”
Auschwitz Gas Chamber
Millions of people perished in these incinerators

These photos offer a glimpse into what it was like at Auschwitz I, which – believe it or not – was exponentially better than the conditions at Birkenau. As far as size goes, its expansive campus pales in comparison to Auschwitz-Birkenau (approximately 2 miles away).

The Birkenau camp is infamous for being the largest site for the extermination of Jews and the biggest concentration camp of WWII. It’s absolutely massive, coming in at nearly 500 acres (or about 24 square miles).


Entrance Gate to Auschwitz-Birkenau
In-Processing Room – Miles from the entrance
Heavy-duty Steam Cleaners
Prisoner Barracks
Toilets – Overcrowding often lead to infectious disease epidemics
Wooden Barracks with Straw Bunks, each one crammed with 400 or more people
Wagon Train Car – Rail was the main form of deportation to Auschwitz
One Out of Dozens of Gates
Railroad Tracks, which brought millions of people to their deaths
Remains of a “Crematorium”
Crumbling Remains
Birkenau Ash Pond –  Nazis dumped thousands upon thousands of human remains here

Before arriving at Auschwitz, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s much larger than I imagined. Suburbs dot the outskirts of the camp where people still live, going about their normal routine. People living in those homes claimed they had no idea of the atrocities happening in the camp.

Could they not smell it?

Could they not hear it?

Visiting Auschwitz should be included on anyone’s list of places to see. But be aware dark tourism can take an emotional toll.

It’s easy to think you’re taking a glimpse into a part of history that won’t repeat itself. But let’s  not forget other modern genocides like Darfur, Rwanda, or Bosnia – to name just a few. Visiting Auschwitz for me was more like peeking into a part of human nature we’d all rather leave unacknowledged.

If it ever happens to you, what role will you play?

2 thoughts on “We Snuck Into an Abandoned Concentration Camp

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    1. Hi Mari,

      Thanks for commenting. Why do you think progressives means communists? In my opinion, they’re drastically different.

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