Auschwitz I was only partially destroyed by the fleeing Germans, and many of the original brick buildings stand to this day as a bleak testament to the camp’s history. Some 13 of the 30 surviving prison blocks now house museum exhibitions – either general, or dedicated to victims from particular countries or ethnic groups that lost people at Auschwitz. Presented without unnecessary comment, the collections of suitcases, pots, artificial limbs, gas canisters and human hair speak for themselves.
From the visitors centre in the entrance building, you enter the barbed-wire encampment through the infamous gate, displaying the grimly cynical message in German: ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ ('Work Sets You Free'). The sign is in fact a replica, which replaced the original when it was stolen in late 2009. Though it was recovered within a few days, it had been cut into pieces by the thieves and took 17 months to restore. The replica has remained in place, with the original sign now on display within the museum.
The closing times quoted above are times of last entry: it's possible to spend another 90 minutes here, once in.