BERLIN – Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder paid tribute Tuesday to the victims of the Auschwitz concentration camp, acknowledging the Nazis had wide support and promising that Germany will fulfill its “moral obligation” to keep alive the memory of their crimes.
“I express my shame in the face of those who were murdered – and above all you, who survived the hell of the concentration camps,” a somber Schroeder told a commemoration at a theater that included survivors of the camp liberated 60 years ago Thursday.
Some 1.5 million people, most of them Jews from across Europe, died in gas chambers or of disease and exhaustion at Auschwitz and neighboring Birkenau.
Six million Jews died in the Nazi camps, along with several million others, including Soviet prisoners of war, Gypsies, homosexuals and political opponents of the Nazis.
Amid concern that the lessons of the Holocaust still need reinforcing, elderly survivors of Auschwitz and world leaders will gather Thursday at the death camp site in Poland to mark its Jan. 27, 1945, liberation by the Red Army.
The Soviet liberators found some 7,000 people behind the barbed wire of the camp, many barely alive.