Angela Merkel expressed “deep shame” yesterday during her first visit as chancellor to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Holocaust memorial and vowed to fight rising racism and anti-Semitism in Germany and Europe.
Dressed in black, Merkel said the crimes committed at the site in southern Poland where the Nazis ran their largest death camp would always be part of German history.
“This site obliges us to keep the memory alive. We must remember the crimes that were committed here and name them clearly,” Merkel said during a ceremony attended by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
“I feel deep shame given the barbaric crimes that were committed here by Germans,” she added.
Merkel brought a 60-million-euro ($66.13 million) donation from Germany’s federal government and its 16 states to help conserve the site where 1.1 million people were killed, most of them Jews.
Before her speech, Merkel and Morawiecki toured the camp’s crematorium where victims’ bodies were burned. They walked through the camp’s iron gate bearing the motto “Arbeit macht frei” (Work sets you free) and visited the barracks.
Merkel has regularly acknowledged German responsibility for atrocities in World War Two. Her visit ensured she followed in the footsteps of two former chancellors by seeing the site while in office.
More than 3 million of Poland’s 3.2 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, roughly around half of all the Jews murdered during World War Two.