DRESDEN, GERMANY — President Obama stood outside the gates of Buchenwald Concentration Camp Friday saying the “horror” he saw there is the “ultimate rebuke” of those who would attempt to deny the Holocaust.
The new American president, standing next to camp survivors and carrying the memories of his great uncle who helped to liberate Buchenwald 64 years ago, took an opportunity to decry all “intolerance” — from anti-Semitism and racism to homophobia and sexism.
“These sites have not lost their horror in the passage of time,” Mr. Obama said under gray skies from Buchenwald. “Our grief and our outrage over what happened have not diminished. I will not forget what I’ve seen here today.”
After Mr. Obama spoke, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel, whose father died at Buchenwald in 1945, thanked the president for giving him the opportunity to visit his father’s grave.
He offered a message of peace, saying wars and racism are stupid and absurd.
“Enough,” Mr. Wiesel said. “There must come a moment of bringing people together. Memory must bring people together rather than set them apart.”
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In remarks that added to the already heavy emotion of the event, he said all humans should feel “a sense of solidarity with all those who need us.”
Mr. Wiesel told the president he has “such high hopes for you” to be able “to change this world into a better place where people will stop waging war.”
Mr. Obama is the first U.S. president to ever visit the camp; former President George W. Bush went to Auschwitz in May 2003.
Mr. Obama said those who pretend the genocide didn’t happen offer “a denial of fact and truth that is baseless and ignorant and hateful.”
The president praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for taking part in the ceremony since he knows, “It’s not easy to look into the past in this way.”
He urged the world to follow and to “make a determination they will stand guard against acts like this happening again.”
Before the brief ceremony, Mr. Obama and the others laid a long-stemmed white rose on a memorial to the human spirit outside the gates, the metal of the monument heated to human skin temperature in honor of the tens of thousands killed there during World War II.
He laid another rose on slate memorial slabs at what was known as Little Camp, one of the places where prisoners had been treated the worst.