The new virtual tour of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial includes over 200 high-quality panoramic photographs. The 360⁰ images present the authentic sites and buildings of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp, complete with historical descriptions, dozens of witness accounts, archival documents and photographs, artworks created by the prisoners, and objects related to the history of the camp.
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“For us, the virtual visit is an educational project, first and foremost. That is why we have provided exhaustive historical information alongside the panoramic photos,” said Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński, Director of the Museum. “First of all, it includes numerous accounts of eyewitnesses and their descriptions of respective places. Therefore, the panoramas may be helpful when preparing a visit to the Memorial Site. We should not forget, however, that many people will never have the opportunity to experience the authentic site of Auschwitz in person, if only due to the distance from their place of residence. A virtual way of visiting is their only chance to get at least an approximation of the real experience of the authentic premises of the former camp.”
Apart from the premises, virtual visitors may ‘enter’ a few historical facilities that are closed to the public, such as the guard towers ; Block 10, where sterilisation experiments were conducted; a few cells located underground in the camp prison in Block 11. The panoramas also present Block 2, which is preserved in its original condition. For conservation reasons, only small study groups are currently allowed access to this block.
Browsing the panoramas, users will also have the opportunity to view suggested readings and on-line lessons on various subjects related to the history of Auschwitz.
The authors of the project faced a great challenge in presenting the former camp not only from various perspectives, but also, for example, during different times of the year. Therefore, gathering the photographs alone lasted about two years. They were taken by Marek Kocjan, Leszek Cuper and Agnieszka Kocjan. “During the virtual tour, you can see photographs taken from various heights; from a few metres and several dozen metres. Thanks to this, the authentic architecture of the place becomes more readable,” said Marek Kocjan. “The pictures were taken in various weather conditions and at different times of day. It is a unique opportunity to see the former camp premises at night, for example.”.
“In a few places, we used so-called Giga-Pixel technology enabling to prepare panoramas in very high resolution,” said Leszek Cuper. “Therefore, when looking at the exhibition displayed in the so-called ‘Sauna’ building in Auschwitz II-Birkenau, users can read all the captions under the photos documenting the story of a few families deported by the Germans to the camp from the Będzin ghetto. Usually, visitors may spend only a few minutes at this spot. During the virtual tour, however, they will have the opportunity to experience this highly moving exhibition at their own pace,” said Cuper.
The virtual panoramas are a project prepared by the Museum for the upcoming 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. All the images are available at panorama.auschwitz.org, including a mobile version, in two languages (Polish and English). The website also makes use of social media networks.