Nazi camp Merkel: Angela Merkel is the first German Chancellor to visit Dachau and in an emotional speech, Angela Merkel said that the camp filled her “with deep sadness and shame." On her first historic visit to the Nazi concentration camp, Angela Merkel was accompanied by 93-year-old Max Mannheimer. Max Mannheimer is one of the survivors of the concentration camp, and he is the president of the committee of former prisoners. “Six members of Mannheimer's family died during the Holocaust,” reported the Deutsche Welle on Aug. 20, 2013.
"It is a great honor and an historic event for us survivors," said Max Mannheimer, who had long lobbied for the chancellor to visit the camp. He said he saw her decision as a "signal of respect for the former detainees."
Dachau was the first camp to be built by the Nazis in March 1933. Some 30,000 people died in Dachau before it was liberated by US soldiers on April 29, 1945. (The above video discusses Dachau in more details).
During her Nazi concentration camp visit to Dachau, which is located about 16 kilometers (about 10 miles) from Munich, Angela Merkel toured the remnants of the camp, visited the camp’s museum, spoke to other survivors, and gave a speech calling the Nazi concentration camp something that stood for “a horrible and unprecedented chapter of our history.”
In her speech, Angela Merkel reflected that Nazi concentration camps could exist because a "vast majority of Germans had closed their eyes to what was going on.” Angela Merkel emphasized that her intent of visiting the Nazi concentration camp was “to be a bridge from history to the present and into the future that we want to continue to build.”
As Angela Merkel was speaking in the Nazi camp's central parade ground, she was surrounded by barracks and barbed wire. It was the same place where the Nazis had once made prisoners stand for hours, shivering and hungry.
In the first such visit to the site by a German chancellor, Angela Merkel warned against the continuing threat of anti-Semitism and racism, almost 70 years after the end of World War II.
"This place is a constant warning: how did Germany reach the point of taking away the right of people to live because of their origin, their religion... or their sexual orientation?"
Unfortunately, not everyone interpreted Angela Merkel’s Nazi camp visit the way 93-year-old Max Mannheimer did. Some German critics called Angela Merkel’s Nazi camp visit a “tasteless and outrageous combination” because the Chancellor’s visit took place during Chancellor Merkel's election campaign and was followed by a rally in a beer tent.
Unlike the German critics, other Dachau Nazi camp survivors appreciated Angela Merkel’s Nazi camp visit.
Jean Samuel, who is Jewish but had been captured by the Nazis because of his political activities, was also a Nazi camp survivor and was attending Dachau with Angela Merkel. The 89-year-old former member of the French resistance said about Angela Merkel’s Nazi camp visit that he appreciated the Chancellor’s visit despite the controversy.
"We speak about the duty to remember," he said. "Well, today, she is carrying out that duty. Maybe if she didn't have elections in Germany, she wouldn't have come but she came to Dachau. She could have not come, but she did. So, bravo."