Germany marks anniversary of liberation of Nazi camps

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US veterans attend event remembering the liberation of Nazi camps

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Sunday at the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp said that the crimes of the Nazis were a reminder of Germany’s continual moral responsibility.

“We do not want nor will we allow injustice and violence, anti- Semitism, racism and xenophobia to have a chance again,” Schroeder said at the Weimar National Theatre, where the commemoration began.

The chairman of Germany’s National Council of Jews, Paul Spiegel, also speaking at the ceremony in eastern Germany, warned of a push by rightwing extremist…

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political parties into the midst of German society.

After their entry in the state parliaments of the German states of Saxony and Brandenburg, rightwing extremists have it as their goal “to become a normal, natural part of political and social culture in Germany”, Spiegel said.

“That has to be a warning to us,” he said, adding that rightwing extremists were increasingly recruiting youths to their cause. “Before our very, eyes committed (extremists) are growing up.”

About 550 former inmates were among the visitors gathered at the Buchenwald ceremony, the first to collectively commemorate the liberation of all the concentration camps.

Two authors who were detained at Buchenwald, Jorge Semprun of Spain and Imre Kertesz of Hungary, were among Sunday’s speakers.

US veterans also attended the event. A wreath was later to be laid down at the site of the former Nazi camp which admitted a quarter of a million prisoners between 1937 and 1945.

More than 56,000 inmates died of mistreatment or by execution.

Buchenwald was chosen as a focus for the ceremony because it was one of the biggest camps. Associations of former inmates have organised annual ceremonies at most of the former camps scattered around Germany, but most members are now very old.

The Nazi dictatorship started out interning German dissidents in the camps and later filled them with anyone who roused the suspicion of the Gestapo in the various Nazi-occupied nations of Europe.

The Nazis used the camps as a source of slave labour for building materials. Later, death camps such as Auschwitz were added so as to systematically exterminate Jews as the Holocaust gathered pace.

The US 6th Armoured Division captured Buchenwald concentration camp on 11 April 1945, two days before the British Second Army liberated another of the horror camps, Bergen-Belsen. Some 21,000 Buchenwald inmates, 900 of them children, were still alive.

On the eve of liberation, the SS guards had forced thousands of inmates to leave the camps on so-called death marches where they died of exhaustion or were killed in the fighting.

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