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Merkel makes historic visit to Nazi Dachau camp

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

Merkel makes historic visit to Nazi Dachau camp

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) lays a wreath at the former concentration camp in Dachau near Munich August 20, 2013.[Photo/Agencies]

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About 15 minutes after the visit to Dachau, Merkel shifted gear and gave a political speech at a campaign event with Bavarian conservatives in a beer tent in the nearby town of the same name, Dachau. She appeared on stage with a brass band whose members were wearing traditional lederhosen and dirndl.

The Bavarian conservatives are key allies in her campaign for re-election in a federal election on September 22, which opinion polls suggest she is likely to win.

From the political opposition, Renate Kuenast of the Greens said it was in "bad taste" for the chancellor to squeeze in a visit to Dachau between her campaign stops in Bavaria.

"Anyone who was serious about commemorating such a place of horror wouldn't pay such a visit during the election campaign," the Greens' parliamentary leader told a Leipzig newspaper.

But leaders of the German Jewish community appeared to disagree with Kuenast. Charlotte Knobloch, a vice-president of the World Jewish Congress who lives in Munich, said Merkel's visit to Dachau showed her historical awareness and sense of responsibility.

"It's remarkable that the chancellor changed her plans at the last minute during the hot phase of the election campaign," said Knobloch, who was born in Munich in 1932 and was saved from the camps by Catholic farmers.

Survivor Naor said the German population would decide whether Merkel was right to make the visit during the campaign.

"Merkel is smart enough to understand and say the right thing at the right time. I heard Merkel say in the Knesset that an attack on Israel is an attack on Germany and I thought she is my chancellor," he said.

Although Merkel, who visited Dachau as a minister in 1992, is the first federal chancellor to visit Dachau, a German head of state - then president Horst Koehler - attended the 65th anniversary of its liberation three years ago.

Merkel also visited the Buchenwald camp with US President Barack Obama in 2009.

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