Text size

U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday at the Buchenwald concentration camp that the facility "is the ultimate rebuke" to those who deny the Holocaust.

Obama on Friday visited the Nazi-era camp, where an estimated 56,000 people, including some 11,000 Jews, perished there at the hands of Nazis. He toured the memorial with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and survivor Elie Wiesel. They laid roses at a memorial.

"To this day, there are those who insist the Holocaust never happened," Obama said. "This place is the ultimate rebuke to such thoughts, a reminder of our duty to confront those who would tell lies about our history."

A somber Obama told reporters that his great-uncle had helped liberate a nearby satellite camp, Ohrdruf, just days before other U.S. Army units overran Buchenwald. Obama says his great-uncle returned from war and was unable to speak of the horrible scene.

Obama added that both the victims and the perpetrators of the camp alike were humans and everyone must stand guard against a repeat.

The U.S. President went on to say that today we must reject the false comfort of the belief that others' suffering is not our problem. Wiesel later echoed this sentiment, saying that he was not convinced that the world had learned the lesson of the Holocaust, because if it had, the atrocities in Rwanda, Cambodia and Bosnia would not have been allowed to happen.

"This place teaches us that we must be ever vigilant about the spread of evil in our own time," Obama added.

It was a pointed message to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has expressed doubts that 6 million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis.

"He should make his own visit to Buchenwald," Obama told NBC in an interview earlier Friday. He added: "I have no patience for people who would deny history."

Wiesel, who flew to the former camp on Obama's presidential helicopter, said "memory must bring people together rather than set them apart."

"What else can we do, except invoke that memory so that people everywhere can say the 21st century is a century of new beginnings filled with promise and infinite hope and, at times, profound gratitude to all those who believe in our task, which is to improve the human condition?" the Holocaust survivor asked.

Wiesel and his family were deported from what is now Romania to Auschwitz, another concentration camp where his mother and younger sister died. He was then moved to Buchenwald, where his father died three months before the camp was liberated in 1945.

Earlier Friday, Obama told a news conference in Dresden, that the "moment is now" to push forward a two-state solution, adding that both the Palestinians and Israel must get serious and prepare to make some difficult compromises.