The State Museum Of Auschwitz-Birkenau & Remember.Org Present

A Virtual Tour of Auschwitz

by Alan Jacobs and Krysia Jacobs

Overview – Virtual Tour of Auschwitz Updates

The Virtual Tour of Auschwitz explores the concentration camp complex of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest killing center in Nazi-occupied Europe. Located in Southern Poland, on the outskirts of the town of Oswiecim, it consisted of the original camp, Auschwitz I, and the much larger second camp of Birkenau (Brzezinka), 2 miles away, plus over 40 sub-camps [link], the largest of which was Buna (Monovitz) [link].

We’ve updated the original Virtual Tour into videos, which allow a 360-degree view while touring the camp. We’ve added the same videos with captions so you can learn what you are seeing. Be sure to check the updated Tour at the Auschwitz Museum, which grew from this original project as well.

Virtual Tour of Birkenau - Auschwitz II


The camp was established in 1940, less than a year after Germany occupied Poland in WWII, and grew over the next few years into an entire complex providing slave labor for the German industrial facilities in the area. In 1942, it became the largest death camp, carrying out Hitler’s “final solution” – the plan to systematically kill all Jews in Europe.

It is estimated that between 1.1 and 1.5 million people died here. At its peak, Auschwitz I held as many as 20,000 prisoners at a time, Birkenau 90,000 and Buna 10,000.

Historians estimate that among the people sent to Auschwitz there were at least 1,100,000 Jews from all the countries of occupied Europe, over 140,000 Poles (mostly political prisoners), approximately 20,000 Gypsies from several European countries, over 10,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and over ten thousand prisoners of other nationalities.

Virtual Tour of Auschwitz I - Original Videos and New Videos with Captions

Auschwitz Aerial Photo June 1944 CIA
This aerial photograph taken by the CIA in June 1944 shows the two camps. (The color overlay added by us.)

The majority of the Jewish deportees died in the gas chambers immediately after arrival. Of the estimated 400,000 people who were placed in the main concentration camp or one of the sub-camps, less than half survived.

The camp continued operation till its liberation by the Soviet Army in January 1945.

For more information about the history of Auschwitz, visit this [link] on the Auschwitz Museum website.

Today, the site is managed by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland which, in addition to maintaining the camps and providing visitor support, is also a very large research and publications center. Over 25 million people have visited the Auschwitz Museum since its establishment in 1947.

This virtual tour of both camps tries to give viewers a first-hand experience of visiting the actual sites. The photographs were taken in 2003 and 2004, by Alan Jacobs.

About the Virtual Tour of Auschwitz Exhibition

The project was conceived some years ago when Alan (“Jake”) Jacobs first saw Quick Time Virtual Reality Films. Having photographed Auschwitz many times, it occurred to him that no matter how powerful a single photo, the observer is still outside the scene. This technology provided an opportunity for a photographer to lessen to some degree the viewer’s role as audience-observer, and enhance his perception as a participant-observer. As he already had a 35mm single-lens-reflex digital camera, a Canon D60, the next step was to purchase a solid tripod, and a Manfrotto Quick Time Virtual Reality Head, and practice, using a Canon EOS EF 17-35/2.8L USM wide angle zoom lens set to its widest at 17mm.

Krysia Jacobs
Krysia Jacobs

Krysia in Birkenau

Next Jake’s wife Krysia, the technical part of the team, purchased VR Worx, a program that stitched multiple photos, took out what wasn’t necessary, adjusted exposure from photo to photo, and produced in a very short time, maybe ten or fifteen minutes, a virtual reality 360º film. The photos were processed before this in full Photoshop on a variety of Macs.

alan Jacobs
Alan Jacobs

Jake preparing to take aerial photographs in Auschwitz I

They went back to Auschwitz in 2003 and did some test shots with a Canon EOS 1D 35mm digital SLR and an EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM wide angle lens set to 16mm. While there, they checked with Editor in Chief of Auschwitz Publications, Teresa Swiebocka, who introduced them to senior editor Jarek Mensfelt.

Both were interested and over the next few months test shots were sent and the invitation to come and do the work was made by Auschwitz Vice-Director, Krystyna Oleksy, this to share an exhibition jointly with – Cybrary of the Holocaust.

Then it was a matter of getting expense money. Jake spoke with Michael Declan Dunn the creator of The Cybrary of the Holocaust. Michael has published several exhibitions of Jake’s Auschwitz photos and he set to work raising the money. He found two donors, Liz Edlic, Scott Isdaner, whose grants made the project possible.

Virtual Tour of Auschwitz Alan Jacobs photographer
Alan Jacobs taking aerial views of Auschwitz. Crane provided by the Museum at Auschwitz.

From the time of the invitation through the shoot at the camps, Auschwitz Editor and web designer Jarek Mensfelt and Jake exchanged many ideas about the project: tone, content, logistics etc. During the shoot an EOS 1D Marc II, a 35mm digital SLR, and Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM, Canon EF 28-135 USM IS, Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L USM lenses were used, along with a Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L USM Wide Angle Lens. Returning to the States, the project was now in the hands of Krysia Jacobs. This meant processing the photos in Photoshop CS, stitching them with VR Work 2.5, converting to Flash with qtvr2flash, and then… designing the exhibition for the Internet. The following equipment was used in taking the photographs:

  • Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L USM Wide Angle Lens
  • Canon EOS EF 17-35/2.8L USM
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM
  • Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L USM
  • Canon EOS 1D Marc II 35mm digital SLR
  • Canon EOS 1D 35mm digital SLR

For more info please visit the Virtual Tour Credits.

Then and Now - paintings by survivors from experience with photos today of where they remember.

Then and Now 3 | Auschwitz Birkenau Daily Life

Auschwitz Birkenau Daily Life - Part 3Part 1 Part 2Part 3NOTE: Tap directly on the Then and Now tabs to switch between images and photos.  13.ToiletsThere was no privacy, very little water for washing and little or no opportunity for personal cleanliness in Auschwitz. Prisoners were often afflicted starvation syndrome, typhus, and other diarrhea-producing illnesses. The toilets in each barrack were totally inadequate and prisoners were often beaten while using them. The toilets depicted here were a luxury,...

Then and Now 2 | BIrkenau Panorama of the Camp

Birkenau Panorama of the Camp - Part 2Part 1Part 2Part 3The concentration and death-camp complex at Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest killing center in the entire Nazi universe; the very heart of their system. Of the many sub-camps affiliated with Auschwitz, Birkenau, or Auschwitz II, was by far the largest. The main camp, Auschwitz I was on the outskirts of the Polish city Oswiecim. Birkenau was in a suiburb named Zasole.Unlike the main camp...

Then and Now Auschwitz Paintings by Survivors and Recent Photos

NOTE: Tap directly on the Then and Now tabs to switch between images and photos.CreditsAuschwitz Paintings by Survivors - Part 1Part 1Part 2 Part 3This exhibit contrasts contemporary photographs of these two camps, with images of what they were like 1940-45 as remembered by artist-survivors.Much of the art was created soon after their liberation. Their art is the only visual record of day-to-day existence in Auschwitz/Birkenau.1. Inside a Barrack in Auschwitz II,...


Photographs taken in Auschwitz and Birkenau in the years 2003-2004 , then converted into a VR presentation with QuickTime, now updated to a video based Virtual Tour.
© 2003, 2004 Alan Jacobs all rights reserved


Photographs and Captions: Alan Jacobs

Photoshop, QuicktimeVR & Flash processing: Krysia Jacobs

On Site Support and Consulting
Jarek Mensfelt, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museums

This exhibition was prepared by invitation from
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Oswiecim, Poland
Deputy Director: Krystyna Oleksy
Editor in Chief: Teresa Swiebocka