BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday thanked former prisoners at the Nazi’s Dachau concentration camp for their testimony of suffering at the ceremony to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the camp’s liberation.
“It’s great good fortune that people like you are ready to tell us the story of your lives, the endless suffering that Germany caused you during the time of National Socialism,” said Merkel to the former prisoners present at the anniversary ceremony.
Only with this commitment, with the testimony of the former prisoners – who recounted their memories in moving speeches – do the huge numbers of those who suffered and died at the camp take on faces and voices, she added.
The chancellor said that what occurred there before the camp’s liberation on April 29, 1945, was so unimaginable that the testimony of the prisoners is even more important.
Bavarian Gov. Horst Seehofer said that Dachau has become a symbol of the horror of the darkest years in Germany’s history.
“We bow our heads full of humility and respect in this place and guarantee that the victims will always be remembered. Freedom and democracy need to be remembered,” said Seehofer, who added that “the memory of this unimaginable suffering lead to the demand ‘Never again.’”
Earlier, representatives of the Dachau survivors and Judaism in Germany warned of a resurgence of racism and anti-Semitism.
The ceremony was attended by about 130 survivors and relatives from 20 countries along with former U.S. soldiers who participated in the liberation of the camp.
This is the first time that a serving German chancellor has delivered a speech at a ceremony commemorating the liberation of Dachau, through which more than 200,000 people from all over Europe passed between 1933 and 1945 and where between 30,000 and 41,500 prisoners lost their lives.