The modest provincial town of Oswiecim is better known by its German name “Auschwitz”, and was witness to an enormous evil caused by humankind. Around 1.5 million people perished in the largest Nazi extermination camp of the Second World War. A gruesome exposition in the former camp makes the visitors rethink their basic human values, such as humanity and dignity.
Oswiecim is a town of around 45,000 inhabitants and an important local centre for trade and industry (mechanical and chemical). However most people in Poland and around the world generally associate it with its gruesome concentration camp, but there are other reasons to visit Oswiecim.
Oswiecim is situated in southern Poland, only 60 km from Krakow and 30 km from Katowice. It belongs to the Lesser Poland Voivodship, and is close to its border with Silesia. The town is situated in the Oswiecim Valley, near where the Sola and Przemsza Rivers join the Vistula.
The history of Oswiecim dates back at least to the 12 century, and about a century later it was granted town rights. It passed back and forth between the Czech and the Polish kingdoms, and for a long time it was an important centre of the salt trade.