Merkel visits Dachau concentration camp, then Bavarian beer tent


German Chancellor Angela Merkel lays a wreath while visiting the Dachau concentration camp memorial on August 20, 2013 in Dachau, Germany. Merkel's visit is the first by an acting German chancellor to the memorial of the notorious former concentration camp. Built by the Nazis, Dachau held 200,000 political prisoners, Jews, homosexuals and others whom the Nazis deemed as worthy of persecution, and 43,000 died before U.S. soldiers liberated the camp in 1945.


Joerg Koch

Angela Merkel became the first active German chancellor to visit the Dachau concentration camp near Munich on Tuesday.

Merkel laid a wreath at the camp's memorial, toured the museum and met with survivors during a brief visit between campaign stops.

"This is a very significant moment for me," Merkel said, Deutsche Welle reported. "The memory of these fates fills me with deep sadness and shame."

Opened in 1933, Dachau first held political prisoners of the Nazis and then became a death camp for Jews, homosexuals, Roma, political opponents and prisoners of war.

The camp imprisoned more than 200,000 people, with at least 41,000 losing their lives there. Allied forces liberated Dachau in 1945.

"It is and remains incomprehensible what happened at the concentration camps," Merkel said in a podcast before she visited, according to DW.

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She was berated by her critics, however, for visiting the camp during an election campaign.

Critics deemed the visit "tasteless and impossible," particularly as her next stop a short time later had her merrily drinking beers in a Bavarian beer tent.

One government critic said: “Anyone who takes such places of horror seriously, does not visit them during an election campaign,” The Independent reported.

Her short visit during a political campaign had German magazine Der Spiegel saying: “It is the right place at the wrong time."

German leaders rarely make visits to concentration camps within the country. Camp survivor, 93-year-old Max Mannheimer, had long lobbied to change that.

"It is a great honor and a historic event for us survivors," Mannheimer told Deutsche Welle.

He said he considered the visit a "signal of respect for the former detainees."

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