Angela Merkel visited the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz in Poland for the first time in her term as German Chancellor. Merkel said she felt "shame, in the face of barbaric crimes committed by Germans here".
"In the Auschwitz camp complex" at least 1.1 million people had been murdered "with full planning and cold systematics. It is crimes in the face of which one must "actually silence".
But, "Silence must not be our only answer, we need to remember the crime." The story has to be told, "over and over again". She had to, "burn to the heart," said Merkel.
"We must never forget, there can never be a final stroke and no relativization." Millions of murders and the collapse of the Shoa civilization, the genocide of Sinti and Roma, and the killing of prisoners of war, homosexuals and the disabled and many other people - "what happened here can not be grasped with common sense," said Merkel.
Anti-Semitism currently threatens "Jewish life in Germany"
It was not rhetoric to warn of new crimes of intolerance today, Merkel said. Even today, one experiences again racism and hate crimes. Anti-Semitism is currently threatening "Jewish life in Germany and in Europe". Auschwitz obliges everyone to "protect the dignity of our neighbors".
Janek Skarzynski / AFP
Chancellor Angela Merkel, Poland's premier Mateusz Morawiecki under the gate with the words "Arbeit macht frei"
The National Socialist concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland occupied by Germany is regarded worldwide as a symbol of the Holocaust.
Previously Merkel went with Mateusz Morawiecki through the gate with the cynical-notorious lettering "Arbeit macht frei". Merkel visited inmates' camps where exhibits such as empty cans of the poison Zyklon B can be seen gassing people in Auschwitz.
Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest Nazi extermination camp in World War II in Poland, which was then occupied by Hitler Germany. Some 1.1 million people were murdered there, most of them Jews.
Merkel visits the concentration camp memorial on Friday at the invitation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, which celebrates its tenth anniversary. The foundation is committed to preserving the memorial. In view of Germany's historical responsibility, the Confederation and the Länder also make a total of 60 million euros available to the Foundation for the preservation of the memorial.
Merkel was accompanied, among others, by the President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, and the Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Romani Rose. Schuster rates Merkel's trip as "extremely positive". The Chancellor put up barely two months after the attack from Halle and in a time, in which "a shift to the right in the society" is to be observed, a "very important sign". Merkel thus underlines her "very clear attitude" to the crimes of the Nazis, which she has expressed at any time of her chancellorship.
For him it was also no cause for criticism that travel the 65-year-old only 14 years after taking office in Auschwitz, said Schuster. There is "no other place of remembrance that so vividly shows the events of the Shoah as Auschwitz," said Schuster. Even less than 75 years after the liberation, the former concentration camp and the "industrialized mass murder" practiced there "shudder" visitors.