US President Obama Visits Buchenwald

United States President Barack Obama will visit the Buchenwald concentration camp on Friday, after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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Avraham Zuroff,

Liberated slave laborers at Buchenwald
Liberated slave laborers at Buchenwald
Israel News Photo: (Wikimedia Commons)

United States President Barack Obama will visit the Buchenwald concentration camp on Friday, after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany and made an official visit to Israel in 2007, will accompany Obama through the camp, in which over 56,000 Jews and other prisoners were murdered prior to liberation in 1945. Famed Jewish writer and Buchenwald survivor Eli Wiesel will also accompany the dignitaries.

The tour takes place on June 5th, one day before Obama will take part in a ceremony with French President Nicholas Sarkozy celebrating the 65th anniversary of the 1944 invasion of Allied forces in Normandy.

The U.S. President's tour of Germany comes a day after he told the Muslim world that refuting the Holocaust is “baseless, ignorant, and hateful.”

“Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust,” the U.S. President said in a speech at the University of Cairo on Thursday. “Six million Jews were killed -- more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today.”

Obama hinted to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial and destruction of Israel. “Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction -- or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews -- is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve,” Obama said.

Obama's great-uncle, Charlie Payne, was one of the American soldiers who liberated the nearby Ohrduf camp, a satellite of the Buchenwald camp. The 84-year-old Payne liberated the camp, witnessing stripped corpses piled on each other, waiting to be cremated. The American army sprinkled lime to dispel the stench of rotting corpses. “It was full of people. The people were in terrible shape, dressed in rags, most of them emaciated. Practically skin and bones,” Payne told the Associated Press. By the time Allied troops liberated the area, more than 50,000 Jews were murdered at the camp.

Return to the "Auschwitz Borders"?

Obama’s visit to Buchenwald comes one day after he remarked in Cairo that Israel must stop building communities within Judea and Samaria. Israeli statesman Abba Eban commented about the delicate security situation its citizens would face should Israel retreat to the borders of June 4, 1967: “I do not exaggerate when I say that it has for us something of a memory of Auschwitz. We shudder when we think of what would have awaited us in the circumstances of June, 1967, if we had been defeated; with Syrians on the mountain and us in the valley, with the Jordanian army in sight of the sea, with the Egyptians who hold our throat in their hands in Gaza. This is a situation which will never be repeated in history,” Eban told Der Spiegel in 1969.