German politician Angela Merkel’s visit to a Nazi concentration camp is drawing sharp criticism from her opponents, who say that Merkel’s touring of the site was strictly a political move designed to garner votes, reports NBC News on Aug. 20.
The 59-year-old Merkel, who has been the Chancellor of Germany since 2005, is running again for the office. The incumbent Merkel has already served two terms, but is seeking a third as the head of Germany’s government.
While visiting the former concentration camp in Dachau near Munich on Tuesday, Merkel spoke to Holocaust survivors and participated in a wreath-laying ceremony.
“If you are serious about the commemoration at such a site of horror, you surely do not make such a visit during an election campaign,” Renate Kuenast from Germany's Greens party said.
What was particularly disturbing to some was not only the timing of Merkel’s visit but the juxtaposition of such a somber visit to a site where over 40,000 people were killed by German officials, against what Merkel did afterward – an election beer tent rally in Munich.
Supporters of Merkel praised the chancellor for visiting the camp. Her visit marks the first time any German chancellor has been at Dachau.
Dr. Gabriele Hammermann, director of the Dachau commemoration site, said “Mrs. Merkel's visit sends a strong signal, reflecting the estimation for the survivors and the work of the memorial site.”
“The chancellor is making good for the necessary attention that her predecessors neglected in the past,” Hammermann added.
The Dachau concentration camp was opened in 1933 and “functioned as a model for other Nazi concentration camps across Europe,” says ABC. Over 200,000 people were imprisoned at Dachau, including Jews, gypsies and Jehovah's Witnesses, who refused to sign a party card renouncing their faith.
"The memory of that fate fills me with deep sadness and shame," Merkel said in a short speech.