Merkel at Auschwitz: Remembering Nazi crimes inseparable from German identity

Merkel at Auschwitz: Remembering Nazi crimes inseparable from German identity

Merkel has visited other concentration camp sites and met Auschwitz survivors.

Merkel denounced the anti-Semitism of modern Holocaust deniers, citing the late Italian Jewish chemist, author and Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi who said, "It happened, and it can happen again". But none has visited since, and this first visit by a chancellor for 24 years is being viewed as highly symbolic.

The donation to the Auschwitz Foundation comes in addition to 60 million euros that Germany donated when the fund was launched a decade ago, according to the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum.

During her address Friday, she drew a clear line from Auschwitz to the present political situation in Germany, which has recently seen an alarming rise in anti-Semitic violence. "But with this resolution, we give the coalition a realistic chance of continuing - not more, not less", she told SPD delegates.

Following the New Zealand visit of Director-General of the Foundation of Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, the New Zealand government contributed €50,000 in 2011 to support the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Site.

On the eve of her trip, Germany's federal state approved a new 60-million-euro (66 million US dollars) donation for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, marking 10 years since it was set up. In the attack on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, a 27-year-old far-right gunman fatally shot two people near the synagogue after failing to break inside, police said.

Police figures present that anti-Semitic offences rose by almost 10 p.c in Germany final 12 months from the earlier 12 months to 1,646 - the very best stage in a decade.

Physical attacks against Jews in Germany also rose in the same period, with 62 violent incidents recorded in 2018, up from 37 in 2017. Her visit ensured she followed in the footsteps of two former chancellors by seeing the site while in office.

Added to this are fears Mrs Merkel's governing coalition could fall apart. At a party conference on Friday, delegates are expected to vote on demands it will put to Merkel's conservatives to stay in government, including tougher climate protection measures, an increase in the minimum wage and investment in infrastructure.

Originally an old army barracks converted by invading Nazi troops to hold Polish political prisoners in 1939, it became a vast complex of about 40 camps, and the epicentre of the Holocaust. But also tens of thousands of others were killed there, including Poles, Soviet prisoners of war and Roma or Gypsies.

The Republic of Poland is one of the custodians of the memory of the Holocaust and of millions of Jews murdered during the Second World War, as well as of Jewish historical and cultural heritage.

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