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Merkel makes historic visit to Nazi Dachau camp

Agencies | Updated: 2013-08-21 07:05

DACHAU, Germany - Angela Merkel laid a wreath at Dachau concentration camp on Tuesday, making her the first German chancellor to visit the death camp where Nazis killed more than 41,000 people in the Holocaust.

 

Merkel makes historic visit to Nazi Dachau camp

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with Max Mannheimer, a Holocaust survivor, after a wreath laying ceremony at the former concentration camp in Dachau near Munich August 20, 2013.[Photo/Agencies]

Taking a pause in her campaign for a third term in office, the chancellor met survivors, including Abba Naor, an 85-year-old Jew whose mother and 5-year-old brother were murdered in concentration camps along with dozens more relatives.

"Merkel is coming here to say we will never forget what happened here," the Lithuanian-born former inmate said.

The Nazis set up Dachau, near Munich, in 1933, weeks after Adolf Hitler took power, to detain political rivals. It became the prototype for a network of camps where 6 million Jews were murdered, as well as Roma, Russians, Poles and homosexuals.

More than 200,000 people had been detained in the camp by the time US troops liberated it in 1945. Television footage showing piles of bodies and starved inmates in the camp was among the first images the world saw of the Holocaust crimes.

The chilling motto "Arbeit macht frei" (Work makes you free) on the main gate to Dachau still greets the 800,000 annual visitors to the camp, where Merkel spoke to a small group survivors in the camp's parade ground, surrounded by drab grey barracks and watchtowers.

"The name Dachau is tragically famous as it serves as a model for the concentration camps," the chancellor said. "The memory of that fate fills me with deep sadness and shame."

She said she was concerned about ongoing right-wing extremism in Germany, where a small neo-Nazi cell, the National Socialist Underground, is on trial for murdering nine immigrants and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007.

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