Germany - Eli Wiesel Tours With Obama Buchenwald Concentration Camp [videos]
Germany - A sombre-looking US President Barack Obama toured the former Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald on Friday, accompanied by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and camp survivors Elie Wiesel and Bertrand Herz.
The four visitors placed white roses at the memorial stone for all Buchenwald inmates, and another at the site of the Little Camp, a windowless sub-camp known as the ‘hell of Buchenwald,’ where Wiesel had survived in squalid conditions.
The group also visited the crematorium building, where purpose-built furnaces still stand as testimony to the Nazi crimes. In Buchenwald, 56,000 inmates died.
Wiesel, a Nobel laureate, is thought to have instilled in Obama the idea to visit the Buchenwald memorial site.
Speaking after his visit, the president reaffirmed America’s ties to the Jewish state, and spoke of the determination of Buchenwald’s inmates to cling to life.
‘They could not have known how the nation of Israel would arise out of the destruction of the Holocaust, and the strong enduring bonds between that nation and my own,’ Obama said.
‘They could not have known that one day an American president would visit this place and speak of them,’ Obama added, praising the role of Germany, ‘a vibrant democracy and valued American ally.’
Emotional speech by Elie Wiesel
Upon his arrival, Obama shook hands with young volunteers working at Buchenwald memorial centre. The director of the centre, Volkhard Knigge, guided the group through the camp grounds.
The president also spoke of his ‘personal connection’ to Buchenwald, as his great-uncle had been amongst the US soldiers who first liberated the camp, in April 1945.
The visit was part of a European trip aimed in part at commemorating American involvement in World War II. From Germany, Obama travels to France for ceremonies in Normandy marking the 65th anniversary of the Allied D-Day landings.
Facts about former Buchenwald concentration camp
Some details about the Buchenwald concentration camp that President Barack Obama visited Friday. The president’s great-uncle, Charlie Payne, helped liberate the nearby Ohrdurf subcamp in 1945.
_ Approximately 250,000 prisoners were held at Buchenwald from its opening in July 1937 to its liberation in April 1945. An estimated 56,000 people were killed, including approximately 11,000 Jews.
_ The wrought-iron gate to the camp bears the sign “Jedem das Seine,” German for “To each his own.”
_ Buchenwald was originally intended to house a variety of groups, including people in the anti-Nazi resistance, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and ex-convicts. But after the anti-Jewish pogrom on Nov. 9, 1938 — known as “Kristallnacht” or “The Night of Broken Glass” — the camp also was used to hold thousands of Jews.
_ The camp was liberated by U.S. forces on April 11, 1945.
_ After the war, from 1945 to 1950, occupying Soviet forces used the camp to hold political prisoners.
_ In 1958 the East German government established the National Buchenwald Memorial. After German reunification in 1990 it was revised to reflect Buchenwald’s use as both a Nazi concentration camp and Soviet internment camp.
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