• Germany's news in English

Obama remembers Holocaust victims

AFP/The Local · 5 Jun 2009, 17:24

Published: 05 Jun 2009 17:24 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Flanked by Nobel survivor and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama became the first US president to visit the camp in central Germany.

"This place is the ultimate rebuke of those thoughts – a reminder of our duty to confront those who tell lies about our history," he said.

Click here for a photo gallery of Obama’s visit to Germany.

Dressed in a dark suit and burgundy tie, Obama listened intently to Wiesel's recollections of camp life and laid a white rose at a memorial plaque for the camp's more than 56,000 victims before taking a tour of its barracks and crematorium.

"Incomprehension, horror: there is no word to describe the terrible things that happened to so many people in this camp and in other concentration and death camps," Merkel said. "I bow before all the victims."

Wiesel was liberated from Buchenwald's complex of camps in April 1945 by US troops who included Obama's great-uncle, Charlie Payne. Aged 84 and frail, he decided not to accompany the president to Buchenwald, but will join Obama's party at ceremonies for the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France Saturday.

Obama arrived in Germany late Thursday after a landmark address in Egypt to the Muslim world in which he offered a new partnership with the United States. On Friday, he said after talks in Dresden with Merkel that he believed the US was forging a path to relaunch the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians but that it could not do it alone.

"I think the moment is now for us to act on what we all know to be the truth, which is that each side is going to have to make some difficult compromises," Obama said.

Merkel said she believed Obama's efforts could make headway toward a two-state solution in the Middle East.

"I believe that with the new American administration, with President Barack Obama, there is actually a unique opportunity now to see to it that this peace process – or let's perhaps be more careful – this negotiation process to be revived again," she said.

In his speech at the University of Cairo, Obama pointedly mentioned Buchenwald and called attempts to deny the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust "baseless, ignorant, and hateful."

German media saw the visit as a conciliatory gesture to Israel and US Jews after his criticism of Israeli policy in Cairo.

Obama's stops in Dresden, Buchenwald and Normandy together form a poignant two-day mission of World War II remembrance.

Dresden was controversially flattened by Allied bombing in the final months of the war, killing an estimated 35,000 people. The city has been lovingly restored in the intervening years, and Merkel led Obama to the Baroque Church of Our Lady which was destroyed in the war and reopened in 2005 after a lavish reconstruction financed with donations from

around the globe.

Story continues below…

Obama remains extremely popular in Germany, nearly a year after he drew a rapturous crowd of 200,000 people to the streets of Berlin as a presidential candidate.

Smiling warmly, he and Merkel played down any rumours of a rift over issues ranging from the planned closing of the US anti-terror lockup at Guantanamo Bay to recent negotiations on rescuing carmaker General Motors and its German unit Opel.

Calling Merkel "my friend," Obama said he had neither asked for nor received any hard commitments from the chancellor on taking Guantanamo detainees.

Although she frequently called for the camp's closure, Merkel is leery of accepting potentially dangerous inmates four months before a national election. Obama also praised European efforts on fighting climate change and said the United States was now willing to now willing to lead the way.

The president was due to pay a visit to wounded US troops at the Landstuhl medical centre in western Germany before heading to France later Friday.

Related links:

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

Eurowings cabin crew union to strike all day Thursday
Photo: DPA.

UPDATE: A union representing cabin crews on Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings has announced that strikes will last all day Thursday as ongoing contract negotiations continue to falter.

Hesse hopes to set example by building Iraqi orphanages
Refugee children in northern Iraq. Photo: DPA

The wealthy central German state of Hesse has set aside €1 million to build a school, family homes and an orphanage in northern Iraq, in an effort to help refugees there.

The Local List
10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
David Hasselhoff. Photo: DPA

Whether it be efficiency, humourlessness or a love of a certain Baywatch star, there are many cliches stuck in the heads of foreigners about Germany. But how true are they?

Fake Germanwings victim relative convicted in Cologne
A torn piece of metal at the crash site in 2015. Photo: DPA

A German court on Wednesday gave a woman a year's suspended jail sentence for posing as the cousin of a victim in last year's Germanwings plane crash and obtaining compensation offered by the airline.

Couple accused of torturing, murdering women go on trial
The so-called 'house of horrors' in Höxter where the couple allegedly tortured and killed women. Photo: DPA.

A couple accused of luring women to their village home with personal ads started trial on Wednesday over charges that they tortured and killed at least two of their victims.

After July attacks, govt drafts new video surveillance law
Photo: DPA

The Interior Ministry is drafting a law which will enable public spaces to be filmed for surveillance purposes as a reaction to deadly attacks in July, according to a newspaper report.

Merkel: murky internet giants distort perception of reality
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA.

Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Tuesday for internet giants to make public their closely-guarded algorithms, claiming that they are not giving people diverse enough information.

Pegida leader 'paid court costs with group's money'
Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann. Photo: DPA.

The leader of the anti-Islam movement reportedly used money from Pegida's coffers to pay for two personal court cases, German media reported this week.

Anger as Berlin scraps Turkey concert on Armenia genocide
The Dresden Symphony Orchestra. Photo: DPA

Germany's foreign ministry Tuesday scrapped a planned symphony performance on the Armenian "genocide" in its Istanbul consulate, sparking accusations that it was caving in to Turkish pressure.

10 ways German completely messes up your English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd