The former Nazi-German death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau was condemned Monday as “the most horrible place on earth” by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
Mr. Maas has often confessed that the site which Nazi Germany installed in occupied Poland during World War II was the driving force behind his original foray into politics.
The 51-year-old was the first German foreign minister to visit Auschwitz since Klaus Kinkel in 1992. The last German chancellor who visited the site of the former concentration camp was Helmut Kohl in 1995.
“I saw thousands of children’s shoes that were taken off them on their way to the gas chamber, tons of human hair that was taken from people before they were sent to the gas chamber,” Maas said after visiting the site in the southern Polish city of Oswiecim.
“This is the most horrible place on earth. And it is here where you have to make a choice: either you lose all faith in humanity, or you gain the hope and the strength to stand up for human dignity and to work for it,” he added.
“This is a place of remembrance that reminds us Germans above all of what we did to millions of people. We need this place because our responsibility will never end.”
Around 1.1 million people were murdered at the hands of the Nazis at Auschwitz, most of them Jewish. Around 80,000 non-Jewish Polish people, 25,000 Roma and Sinti, and 20,000 Soviet soldiers were also slaughtered there.
Mr. Maas also held talks with Polish counterpart Jacek Czaputowicz at the Maximilian Kolbe Center, a spiritual site in the nearby village of Harmeze.
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