German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the “horrors” of the Nazi concentration camps will never be forgotten, at a ceremony marking 70 years since the liberation of Dachau.
SHOWS: DACHAU, GERMANY (MAY 3, 2015) (BAYERISCHE RUNDFUNK) – Germans will never forget the “unfathomable horrors” that the Nazis inflicted at the death camps, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday (May 3) at a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp near Munich.
In a moving speech to 120 elderly survivors from 20 nations and six United States soldiers who helped liberate the camp, Merkel said Dachau and other death camps freed near the end of World War Two stand as eternal reminders of the Nazi regime’s brutality.
“In this year of remembrance, 2015, these former concentration and extermination camps have been firmly brought back into public focus in recent weeks. Seventy years ago, one after the other was liberated. Everywhere, there was a picture of unfathomable horror. They all admonish us not to forget. No, we will never forget. We’ll not forget for the sake of the victims, for our own sakes, and for the sakes of future generations,” Merkel, said in a sombre ceremony at Dachau, now a memorial with 800,000 annual visitors.
Merkel, who in 2013 became the first German leader to visit Dachau, also lamented that Jewish institutions needed round-the-clock police protection in Germany and condemned anti-Semitic attacks in Brussels and Paris.
“Those attacks show two of the greatest evils of our times: deadly Islamist terror and anti-Semitism, hatred of Jews. Those attacks are aimed at individuals but at the same time, they affect the inviolable and inalienable dignity of man and thus the basis of our free, democratic constitutional system,” she said.
The Nazis set up Dachau in March 1933, weeks after Adolf Hitler took power, to detain political rivals. It became the prototype for a network of camps where six million Jews were murdered, as well as Roma, Russians, Poles and homosexuals.
More than 200,000 people were being held in the camp when U.S. troops liberated it on April 29, 1945. Television footage from Dachau, showing starved inmates and piles of bodies, was among the first images the world saw of the Holocaust.
“When we entered this camp, exactly 70 years ago, it was a terrible shock to see how much you, the survivors, had suffered from starvation, disease, brutality and freezing conditions, and to learn that 31,000 had died here earlier. But we will never forget your excitement and ours, as we entered the camp and were overwhelmed by you as you hugged us and brought out a hand-sewn American flag which you had hidden for the occasion,” former U.S. soldier, Alan Lukens, said.
French resistance fighter, Jean Samuel, said he felt like a human again on the day the Americans arrived.
“April 29, 1945 was the best day of my life. When the American soldiers entered the camp, I realised that I had then got my freedom back, that the nightmare was over,” he said.
The main gate with its cynical “Arbeit macht frei” (Work sets you free) slogan was replaced on Wednesday (April 29) by a local blacksmith after the original was stolen last year.
In a recent opinion poll, some 42 percent of Germans said they wanted to draw a line under an intense focus on the Nazi past in German media.