“Hell on Earth was a German creation by the name of Auschwitz,” wrote Maas in the remembrance book at the Auschwitz Memorial.
“It is in mourning and shame that we pay tribute to the millions of men, women and children who were murdered here and in other places by the National Socialists,” wrote Maas. “The legacy of the victims makes it Germany’s responsibility to stand up for the unimpeachable dignity of human beings. This responsibility never ends.”
Around 1.1 million people were murdered at the hands of the Nazis at Auschwitz, most of them Jewish. Around 80,000 non-Jewish Polish people, 25,000 Roma and Sinti, and 20,000 Soviet soldiers were also killed there.
Maas said that Auschwitz was “the most terrible place in the world”, but also a place which could inspire people to defend human dignity.
The 51-year-old is the first German Foreign Minister to visit Auschwitz since Klaus Kinkel in 1992. The last German Chancellor who visited the site of the former concentration camp was Helmut Kohl in 1995.
Maas is set to meet Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz later on Monday. Ahead of the visit, the President of Germany’s Jewish Central Council Josef Schuster called on Maas to raise the thorny issue of Poland’s controversial new Holocaust law, which makes it punishable to ascribe guilt for the mass murder to Poland or the Polish people.
Schuster also criticised Czaputowicz for not accompanying Maas on his tour of the Auschwitz memorial site.