Warsaw, (EFE).- German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz for the first time on Friday.
She said she felt “deeply ashamed of the heinous crimes committed by the Germans” at the site in southern Poland, which were “beyond all imaginable limits”.
“When you travel to this place, you can only keep a respectful silence because there are no words to describe all the sadness and suffering of those who were killed, tortured and humiliated here,” she said after a tour of the camp accompanied by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
Merkel has been the leader of the German government for almost 14 years and it was her first visit to the site.
Auschwitz was the largest death camp commissioned by Nazi Germany during World War Two where more than one million prisoners were killed, mostly Jewish people.
During her visit Merkel promised that Germany “will not tolerate any act of anti-Semitism” just over a month after two people were shot dead in an attempted attack on a synagogue.
“People in Germany and throughout Europe should feel safe and at home,” she said.
“We must remember that human dignity is inviolable” and that “freedom, democracy and the rule of law can be easily damaged if we don’t persevere in its care,” she added.
“It is up to governments and politicians to protect and strengthen these values,” she said in a speech to the head of the Polish government.
Auschwitz operated between 1940 and 1945 when Poland was occupied by the Nazis, who annexed the country in 1939, triggering the start of World War Two.
“There is no doubt that Auschwitz is a German concentration camp, run and managed by Germans,” Merkel said.
“I want to emphasize that and make it clear that we do not refuse to take responsibility for the events that took place here,” she added.
Merkel paid her respects to those killed in Auschwitz and observed a minute of silence by a wall where thousands of prisoners were executed.
She was invited to visit the site by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, which manages conservation of the 200 hectares of land, 155 buildings and 300 ruins.
“This place, its watchtowers, its gas chambers, its barracks, everything is a testament to what cannot happen again and it is important to preserve it so that new generations can visit it and learn about the barbarism that took place here,” she said. EFE
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