Remarks at Buchenwald Concentration Camp

  • Share
  • Read Later

The following are remarks from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Barack Obama and Nazi Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel during a during the first presidential visit to the Buchenwald concentration camp in Weimar, Germany

CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL: (As translated.) Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen. Here in this place a concentration camp was established in 1937. Not far from here lies Weimar, a place where Germans created wonderful works of art, thereby contributing to European culture and civilization. Not far from that place where once artists, poets, and great minds met, terror, violence, and tyranny reigned over this camp. At the beginning of our joint visit to the Buchenwald memorial the American President and I stood in front of a plaque commemorating all the victims. When you put your hand on the memorial you can feel that it has warmed up — it is kept at a temperature of 37 degrees, the body temperature of a living human being. This, however, was not a place for living, but a place for dying.

Unimaginable horror, shock — there are no words to adequately describe what we feel when we look at the suffering inflicted so cruelly upon so many people here and in other concentration and extermination camps under National Socialist terror. I bow my head before the victims. We, the Germans, are faced with the agonizing question how and why — how could this happen? How could Germany wreak such havoc in Europe and the world? It is therefore incumbent upon us Germans to show an unshakeable resolve to do everything we can so that something like this never happens again. (Read "Obama Wants New Effort for 2-State Solution".)

On the 25th of January, the presidents of the associations of former inmates at the concentration camps presented their request to the public, and this request closes with the following words: "The last eyewitness appeal to Germany, to all European states, and to the international community to continue preserving and honoring the human gift of remembrance and commemoration into the future. We ask young people to carry on our struggle against Nazi ideology, and for a just, peaceful and tolerant world; a world that has no place for anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and right-wing extremism."

This appeal of the survivors clearly defines the very special responsibility we Germans have to shoulder with regard to our history. And for me, therefore, there are three messages that are important today.

First, let me emphasize, we Germans see it as past of our country's raison d'Ítre to keep the everlasting memory alive of the break with civilization that was the Shoah. Only in this way will we be able to shape our future. I am therefore very grateful that the Buchenwald memorial has always placed great emphasis on the dialogue with younger people, to conversations with eyewitnesses, to documentation, and a broad-based educational program.

Second, it is most important to keep the memory of the great sacrifices alive that had to be made to put an end to the terror of National Socialism and to liberate its victims and to rid all people of its yoke. This is why I want to say a particular word of gratitude to the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, for visiting this particular memorial. It gives me an opportunity to align yet again that we Germans shall never forget, and we owe the fact that we were given the opportunity after the war to start anew, to enjoy peace and freedom to the resolve, the strenuous efforts, and indeed to a sacrifice made in blood of the United States of America and of all those who stood by your side as allies or fighters in the resistance. We were able to find our place again as members of the international community through a forward-looking partnership. And this partnership was finally key to enabling us to overcome the painful division of our country in 1989, and the division also of our continent. Today we remember the victims of this place. This includes remembering the victims of the so-called Special Camp 2, a detention camp run by the Soviet military administration from 1945 to 1950. Thousands of people perished due to the inhumane conditions of their detention.

Third, here in Buchenwald I would like to highlight an obligation placed on us Germans as a consequence of our past: to stand up for human rights, to stand up for rule of law, and for democracy. We shall fight against terror, extremism, and anti-Semitism. And in the awareness of our responsibility we shall strive for peace and freedom, together with our friends and partners in the United States and all over the world. Thank you.

  1. Previous
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3