Within a relatively short period of time after Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated in 1945, people were coming to see for themselves the horrors that happened here. Almost everything in Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau is on show – such as the gas chambers, crematoria and huts that the inmates lived in. A tour lasts about an hour and a half, and is available in 15 languages. General unguided entry is free. The theatre shows a 15 minute documentary on the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, which now is a museum honouring all who suffered or died during the Holocaust.
Since the 13th century people having been gathering in Main Square (Rynek Glowny), first to sell their wares and now to socialise. The Adam Mickiewicz Monument is a useful base from which to orientate yourself for some exploration. Here there are many restaurants and cafes where you can eat or drink al fresco and watch the world go by. It is also where you can hire a horse and carriage for a few hours to see a different perspective of the capital. The buskers are always very entertaining. However, infinitely larger entertainment events such as the International Parade of Dragons, Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity and New Year’s Eve party are also held here.
Warsaw began life as a humble fishing village but during the late 1300s it started to develop and continued to do so until it was made the capital city of Mazovia in the early 15th century. In the late 16th century it became the medieval capital city of Poland. In the mid 1600s Warsaw was attacked by armies who arrived from Sweden, Transylvania and Brandenburg, resulting in the eventual carving up of Poland amongst Russia, Prussia and Austria in the late 1700s. In the early 19th century Warsaw was reinstated as the Polish Kingdom’s capital city, although it was still ruled from a distance by Imperial Russia. Subsequently the capital developed and grew as centres of learning, transport networks, roads and essential infrastructure such as a sewerage system came into being to cater for the burgeoning population. When Poland became an independent country in the early 20th century the city retained its status as capital.
The Nazis forcibly entered the city shortly after the start of World War II. The inhabitants tried to revolt twice in subsequent years, but these were both in vain, resulting in the deaths of over 500,000. 1943 was the year of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, when the Nazis laid siege to what remained of the Jewish population. After a month the Ghetto was razed, along with much of the city such as the Royal Castle. In 1944 the Warsaw Uprising occurred when the Polish Home Army, aiming to gain freedom for the city, resisted against the Nazis. So called Soviet liberators were approaching, but the civilians did not trust them as they were co-conspirators with the Nazis when they initially entered the country.