Category: World War 11

Category: World War 11

Malbork Castle

Past home of The Teutonic Order

Malbork is a town in northern Poland which is popular because of the medieval Malbork Castle founded in the 13th century by the Knights of the Teutonic Order.

Largest Gothic fortress in Europe

The Teutonic Order was founded around the year 1190 in Palestine to crusade against the Muslims and pagans. In the early 14th century the Teutonic Knights moved their capital from Venice to Malbork on the Nogat River, which is now in northern Poland. The most significant trace of the their presence in the town is the imposing red brick castle from 1274 on the river bank, and it is the largest Gothic fortress in Europe.

Under continuous construction for nearly 230 years, the Malbork Castle complex is actually three castles nested in one another. A classic example of a medieval fortress, it is the world’s largest brick castle and one of the most impressive of its kind in Europe.

World War II

The castle was in the process of being restored when World War II broke out. During the war, the castle was over 50% destroyed. Restoration has been ongoing since the war. However, the main cathedral in the castle, fully restored just prior to the war and destroyed during the war, remains in its ruined state. The castle and its museum are listed as UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

Third Reich

With the rise of Adolf Hitler to power in the early 1930s the Nazis began using the site for annual pilgrimages by both the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls. It was the Teutonic Castle at Marienburg, Malbork that served as the blue print for the Order Castles of the Third Reich.

Defensive Walls

Malbork Castle is encircled by defensive walls with gates and towers. The Grand Master’s palace is believed to be the top achievement of the late-Gothic style. The representative summer refectory is the most attractive chamber in the castle interiors.

Useful links

The Malbork Castle Museum

Unesco

See a virtual tour of Malbork Castle.

Dental tourism

Malbork castle is only 62 km from Gdansk where many high quality dental clinics are located. The easiest way to get to Malbork Castle from Gdansk is by train. From Gdansk Glowny, the main train station in Gdansk, it can take between 28 and 55 minutes to get to Malbork Castle, depending upon the type of train you choose.

For detailed tourist information about Poland, please visit our travel partner, the Poland Travel Agency.

 


Top 10 tourist attractions in Poland

Where to go, what to see!

From Poland’s lake district Masuria with over 2,000 lakes to true wilderness areas like The Bialowieza Forest to the stunning Tatra Mountains, you will find that Poland has something to offer every visitor.  Here’s our Top 10 recommended tourist attractions in Poland:

  1. Auschwitz

    It is widely agreed that everyone should visit Auschwitz at least once in their lives, it is a stern reminder of the horrors that human beings can inflict on each other and for some people, a life-changing experience. Auschwitz was a network of concentration and extermination camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Auschwitz is the German name for Oświęcim, the town the camps were located in and around; it was renamed by the Germans after they invaded Poland in September 1939. Auschwitz is ranked number one on the Top 10 tourist attractions in Poland, not because it is an attraction as such, but because in our opinion it needs to be seen. – Further information

    Auschwitz

  2. Wieliczka Salt Mine

    The Wieliczka Salt Mine, located in the town of Wieliczka in southern Poland, lies within the Krakow metropolitan area. The mine continuously produced table salt from the 13th century until 2007 as one of the world’s oldest operating salt mines. The mine’s attractions for tourists include dozens of statues and an entire chapel that have been carved out of the rock salt by the miners. About 1.2 million persons visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine annually – Further information

    Wieliczka Salt Mine

  3. Zakopane

    Zakopane is a town in southern Poland. The location is informally known as “the Winter Capital of Poland,” and lies in the southern part of the Podhale region at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, the only alpine mountain range in the Carpathian Mountains. It is the most important Polish center of mountaineering and skiing, and is visited annually by some three million tourists – Further information

    Zakopane

  4. Tri-City

    Tricity (also Tri-City) is an urban area consisting of three Polish cities: Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot. They are situated adjacent to one other, in a row, on the coast of the Gdańsk Bay, Baltic Sea, in Eastern Pomerania, northern Poland. There’s plenty to do around Tricity, there are lots of tourist attractions and a lively nightlife scene not to mention all the fun of the seaside! Either enjoy sunbathing or take part in any of the many watersport activities on offer. From theatre to Rock concerts to quality restaurants, its all available in the Tricity area – Further information

    Beach holidays

  5. Tatra Mountains

    The Tatras are the highest mountain range in the Carpathian Mountains. Although considerably smaller than the Alps, they are classified as having an alpine landscape. Their high mountain character, combined with great accessibility, makes them popular with tourists and scientists. The area is a well-known winter sports area and includes the resort of Zakopane, the “Winter Capital” of Poland – Further information

    Tatra Mountains

  6. Czestochowa

    Czestochowa is a city in south Poland on the Warta River. It lies among the picturesque Jurassic rocks of Krakow Czestochowa Upland, topped with the ruins of Medieval castles. The town is known for the famous Pauline monastery of Jasna Góra that is the home of the Black Madonna painting, a shrine to the Virgin Mary. Every year, millions of pilgrims from all over the world come to Częstochowa to see it – Further information

    Black Madonna

  7. Masuria

    Masuria is an area in northeastern Poland famous today for its many thousands of lakes. Today, the region’s economy relies largely on eco-tourism and agriculture. The lakes offer varieties of water sports such as sailing and holiday activities. The whole area has become a prime destination for yachtspeople and canoeists, and is also popular among anglers, hikers, bikers and nature-lovers – Further information

    Masuria

  8. Kashubia

    Kashubia is a lake district in North Poland. It is surrounded by many hills made by Scandinavian glaciers. Among larger cities, Gdynia contains the largest proportion of people declaring Kashubian origin. However, the biggest city of the Kashubia region is Gdańsk, the capital of the Pomeranian Voivodeship and the traditional capital of Kashubia – Further information

    Kashubia

  9. Bieszczady Mountains

    The Bieszczady Mountains are pleasantly devoid of the trappings of mass tourism and offer visitors the opportunity to discover the, ‘Wild East’ without venturing into Ukraine or the Soviet Union. The scenery in the region is wild and rugged and includes flora such as the Dacian Violet, Carpathian Beech and the Hungarian Violet, all species which cannot be seen further West. The wildlife in the area include bears, lynx, beavers, wolves, European bison and red mountain deer – Further information

    Bieszczady Mountains

  10. Wolf’s Lair

    Wolf’s Lair in Poland is the standard English name for Wolfsschanze, Adolf Hitler’s first World War II Eastern Front military headquarters, one of several Führerhauptquartier (Führer Headquarters) or FHQs located in various parts of Europe. The complex was blown up and abandoned on 25 January 1945, but many of the bunkers were so thick that their damaged walls and ceilings remain – Further information

    Wolf's Lair

We hope that you enjoyed reading the Top 10 tourist attractions in Poland. For further Top 10 lists and detailed tourist information about Poland, please visit our travel partner, the Poland Travel Agency.

 


Wolf’s Lair

Wolfsschanze

Wolf’s Lair in Poland is the standard English name for Wolfsschanze, Adolf Hitler’s first World War II Eastern Front military headquarters, one of several Führerhauptquartier (Führer Headquarters) or FHQs located in various parts of Europe.

Operation Barbarossa

The complex, which was built for Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, was located in the Masurian woods, about 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from the small East Prussian town of Rastenburg, now Kętrzyn in Poland.

Hitler first arrived at the Wolf’s Lair late on the night of 23 June 1941 and departed for the last time on 20 November 1944. Overall, he spent over 800 days there during that 3.5 year period.

The complex was blown up and abandoned on 25 January 1945, but many of the bunkers were so thick that their damaged walls and ceilings remain. The remains are located in Poland at the hamlet of Gierłoż (German: Forst Görlitz) near Kętrzyn.

The decision to build the Wolf’s Lair was made in the autumn of 1940. Built in the middle of a protecting forest, and located far from major roads. The complex occupied more than 6.5 km2 (2.5 sq mi) and consisted of three separate security zones.

The bunkers at Wolfs Lair

The most important of which was Sperrkreis 1 (Security Zone 1), in which was located the Führer Bunker and concrete shelters of members of the inner circle such as Hermann Göring, Martin Bormann, OKW chief Wilhelm Keitel and “chief of operations” OKW Alfred Jodl.

There were a total of ten bunkers in this area, all camouflaged and protected by 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) of steel-reinforced concrete. Hitler’s was on the northern end, with all its windows facing north to avoid direct sunlight. Both Hitler’s and Keitel’s bunkers had rooms in which military conferences could be held.

Sperrkreis 2 (Security Zone 2) included military barracks and housing for several important Reich Ministers like Albert Speer, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Fritz Todt as well as Hitler’s escort battalion, the Führer Begleit Brigade.

Sperrkreis 3 (Security Zone 3) made up the outer security area of the compound, complete with land mines, special security troops and guard houses.

Close by was a facility for the Wehrmacht Operations Staff, and army headquarters was located several kilometres to the northeast of the FHQ complex. All these installations were served by a nearby airfield and train lines.

About two thousand people lived and worked at the Wolf’s Lair at its peak, among them twenty women.

Assassination attempt at Wolf’s Lair

The Wolf’s Lair was the location of the July 20 plot to kill Hitler. During the period of reconstruction of the Führer Bunker in the summer of 1944, the daily strategy meetings were moved to the little building known as the Lager barrack, where staff officer Claus von Stauffenberg carried a bomb hidden in a briefcase into the meeting room and placed it just a few feet away from Hitler.

At 12:43 p.m. the bomb devastated the interior of the building but left Hitler only slightly injured. However, four others died from their wounds a few days later. The force of the blast was diminished because a staff officer unknowingly moved the briefcase on the opposite side of a thick wooden table leg from where von Stauffenberg had placed it, probably saving Hitler’s life. It is believed that had the bomb exploded in the massive concrete Führer Bunker as originally intended, everyone in the structure including Hitler would have been killed.

The Escape

Just moments before the blast, the would-be assassin and his adjutant, Lieutenant Werner von Haeften rapidly made their way from the conference barrack toward the first guard post just outside Sperrkeis 1. After a short delay they were allowed to pass and proceeded along the southern exit road toward Rastenburg airport.

By the time they reached the guard house at the perimeter of Sperrkreis 2, the alarm had been sounded. According to the official Gestapo report, “at first the guard refused passage until von Stauffenberg persuaded him to contact the adjutant to the compound commander who then finally authorized clearance”. It was between here and the final checkpoint of Sperrkreis 3 that von Haeften tossed a second briefcase from the car containing a second bomb which was also intended to explode in the conference barrack.

It is believed that had this bomb also been placed with the other, everyone inside would have been killed. Checkpoint three, the final barrier located at the outer reaches of the Wolfsschanze, was expected to prove impenetrable, but the two men were simply waved through to the Rastenburg airport.

Operation Valkyrie

Thirty minutes after the bomb blast the two men were airborne and on their way back to Berlin and Army general headquarters. It was in this building, called the Bendlerblock, that “Operation Valkyrie”, a covert plan to react to the breakdown in civil order of the nation and suppress any revolt was transformed into the secret plot to assassinate the Führer of the German Reich.

However, when it was discovered that Hitler was still alive, the plan was doomed and along with it von Stauffenberg, his adjutant Werner von Haeften and co-conspirators General Friedrich Olbricht and his chief of staff Colonel Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim, who were arrested and executed in the courtyard of the Bendlerblock on the evening of July 20, 1944.

The Red Army reached the nearby border of East Prussia in October 1944. Hitler departed on 20 November and two days later the order was given to destroy the complex.

The actual demolition did not take place until the night of 24-25 January 1945. Many tons of explosives were required to do the job; one bunker required an estimated 8 tons of TNT. The Red Army took the site without a shot two days later, on 27 January. It took until 1955 to clear over fifty-four thousand landmines which surrounded the installation.

For further information about World War II sites and detailed tourist information about Poland, please visit, the Poland Travel Agency.

 


Auschwitz

Dental treatment in Krakow

If you are considering dental treatment in Krakow, you may wish to visit Auschwitz between treatments. It is widely agreed that everyone should visit Auschwitz at least once in their lives, it is a stern reminder of the horrors that human beings can inflict on each other and for some people, a life-changing experience.

Auschwitz was a network of concentration and extermination camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. It was the largest of the German concentration camps, consisting of Auschwitz I (the Stammlager or main camp); Auschwitz II-Birkenau (the Vernichtungslager or extermination camp); Auschwitz III-Monowitz, also known as Buna-Monowitz (a labor camp); and 45 satellite camps.

Oświęcim

Auschwitz is the German name for Oświęcim, the town the camps were located in and around; it was renamed by the Germans after they invaded Poland in September 1939. Birkenau, the German translation of Brzezinka (birch tree), refers to a small Polish village nearby that was mostly destroyed by the Germans to make way for the camp.

The Final Solution

Auschwitz II-Birkenau was designated by Heinrich Himmler, who was the Reichsführer and Germany’s Minister of the Interior, as the focus of the “final solution of the Jewish question in Europe”.


Railway tracks

From spring 1942 until the fall of 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp’s gas chambers from all over Nazi-occupied Europe. The camp’s first commandant, Rudolf Höss, testified after the war at the Nuremberg Trials that up to three million people had died there (2.5 million exterminated, and 500,000 from disease and starvation), a figure since revised to 1.1 million, around 90 percent of them Jews.

Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Roma and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and tens of thousands of people of diverse nationalities. Those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, lack of disease control, individual executions, and medical experiments.

Liberation of Auschwitz

On January 27, 1945, Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops, a day commemorated around the world as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In 1947, Poland founded a museum on the site of Auschwitz I and II, which by 1994 had seen 22 million visitors (700,000 annually) pass through the iron gates crowned with the infamous motto, Arbeit macht frei (“work makes you free”).

Selections

By July 1942, the SS were conducting the infamous “selections,” in which incoming Jews were divided into those deemed able to work, who were sent to the right and admitted into the camp, and those who were sent to the left and immediately gassed.


Death camp

Prisoners were transported from all over German-occupied Europe by rail, arriving in daily convoys. The group selected to die, about three-quarters of the total, included almost all children, women with children, all the elderly, and all those who appeared on brief and superficial inspection by an SS doctor not to be completely fit. Auschwitz II-Birkenau claimed more victims than any other German extermination camp, despite coming into use after all the others.

SS officers told the victims they were to take a shower and undergo delousing. The victims would undress in an outer chamber and walk into the gas chamber, which was disguised as a shower facility, complete with dummy shower heads. After the doors were shut, SS men would dump in the cyanide pellets via holes in the roof or windows on the side. In Auschwitz II-Birkenau, more than 20,000 people could be gassed and cremated each day.


Accommodation

Sonderkommandos removed gold teeth from the corpses of gas chamber victims; the gold was melted down and collected by the SS. The belongings of the arrivals were seized by the SS and sorted in an area of the camp called “Canada,” so-called because Canada was seen as a land of plenty. Many of the SS at the camp enriched themselves by pilfering the confiscated property.

The last selection took place on October 30, 1944. The next month, Heinrich Himmler ordered the crematoria destroyed before the Red Army reached the camp. The gas chambers of Birkenau were blown up by the SS in January 1945 in an attempt to hide the German crimes from the advancing Soviet troops. The SS command sent orders on January 17, 1945 calling for the execution of all prisoners remaining in the camp, but in the chaos of the Nazi retreat the order was never carried out. On January 17, 1945, Nazi personnel started to evacuate the facility.

Nearly 60,000 prisoners were forced on a death march toward a camp in Wodzisław Śląski (German: Loslau). Those too weak or sick to walk were left behind. These remaining 7,500 prisoners were liberated by the 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army on January 27, 1945.


Victim's bags and cases

Approximately 20,000 Auschwitz prisoners made it to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, where they were liberated by the British in April 1945. Among the artefacts of automated murder found by the Russians were 348,820 men’s suits and 836,255 women’s garments.

Auschwitz Today

Today, at Birkenau the entrance building and some of the southern brick-built barracks survive; but of the almost 300 wooden barracks, only 19 remain: 18 near the entrance building and one, on its own, farther away. All that survives of the others are chimneys, remnants of a largely ineffective means of heating. Many of these wooden buildings were constructed from prefabricated sections made by a company that intended them to be used as stables; inside, numerous metal rings for the tethering of horses can still be seen.

The Polish government decided to restore Auschwitz I and turn it into a museum honouring the victims of Nazism; Auschwitz II, where buildings (many of which were prefabricated wood structures) were prone to decay, was preserved but not restored. Today, the Auschwitz I museum site combines elements from several periods into a single complex: for example the gas chamber at Auschwitz I (which had been converted into an air-raid shelter for the SS) was restored and the fence was moved (because of building work being done after the war but before the museum was established). However, in most cases the departure from the historical truth is minor, and is clearly labelled.

The museum contains many men’s, women’s and children’s shoes taken from their victims; also suitcases, which the deportees were encouraged to bring with them, and many household utensils. One display case, some 30 metres (98 ft) long, is wholly filled with human hair which the Nazis gathered from people before they were sent to labor or before and after they were killed.

Auschwitz II and the remains of the gas chambers there are open to the public. The camp is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The ashes of the victims were scattered between the huts, and the entire area is regarded as a grave site. Most of the buildings of Auschwitz I are still standing. The public entrance area is outside the perimeter fence in what was the camp admission building, where new prisoners were registered and given their uniforms. At the far end of Birkenau are memorial plaques in many languages, including Romani.

The Dentist of Auschwitz

Benjamin Jacobs was a dentist who in 1941, was deported from his Polish village and remained a Nazi prisoner until the final days of the Second World War. He survived Auschwitz and the death march to the Baltic, with the help of his dental tools.

On the advice of his mother, he carried his dental tools and despite being limited as to which procedures he could perform, he became known as “the dentist” and was sought after for his treatments. He performed simple dental procedures including draining a fistula and cleaning gums with iodine. His bright red box, containing his dental tools, became “his passport to survival”.

Once at Auschwitz with his father and brother, he was appointed to the dental station to treat SS men and was also given the job of extracting gold from prison corpses. It was hard to do and he recounted “I heard the voices of broken hearts and crushed souls”. He also witnessed the selection processes and labouring in the mines. Despite saving extra rations for his family, his father died. At Auschwitz, he also crossed paths with Adolf Eichmann.

Jacobs wrote his memoirs which were published by the University Press of Kentucky in 1995. The Dentist of Auschwitz: A Memoir recounts his experiences and revulsion at having to strip gold from prisoners at Auschwitz in exchange for extra provisions for his family.

For further information about World War II sites in Poland, please visit our travel partner, the Poland Travel Agency.