Merkel criticised over Dachau concentration camp visit
German chancellor’s tour of camp where more than 41,000 were murdered followed by election rally in beer tent described as ‘tasteless’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) walks with Max Mannheimer (R) a Holocaust survivor, after a wreath laying ceremony at the former concentration camp in Dachau near Munich yesterday. REUTERS/Michael Dalder
German chancellor Angela Merkel has come under fire for combining a visit to the Dachau concentration camp near Munich yesterday, the first by a post-war German leader, with an election event in a nearby beer tent.
Ahead of the visit to lay a wreath, give a speech and meet survivors of the camp where 41,500 people were murdered by the Nazis, Dr Merkel called for vigilance and greater civil courage against far-right thinking across the continent.
“We must never accept that such ideas have a place in our democratic Europe,” she said.
However, her decision to follow up the one-hour camp visit with an election rally was criticised as a “tasteless and unacceptable combination” by opposition parties and many media commentators.
“If you’re serious about remembrance at such a horrific site, you certainly don’t make such a visit during a campaign,” said Ms Renate Künast, Green Party floor leader in the Bundestag, to the Leipziger Volkszeitung daily. That criticism was echoed across the German media yesterday.
Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung daily said the scheduling left a “bitter aftertaste” while Spiegel online said “a concentration camp is not a wreath dropping-off point”.
However, German Jewish leaders welcomed the visit, three years after the first visit by a German president.
“The chancellor is sending a signal that the horror didn’t just take place in the east, but rather right amongst us in Germany, ” said Dieter Graumann, head of the Council of Jews in Germany, to Spiegel online.
“If the chancellor had only gone to the campaign event near Dachau, she would have been criticised for not visiting the concentration camp memorial.”
Greeting the chancellor, 93-year-old Dachau survivor Max Mannheimer said the visit was “a great honour for us survivors and a historic event”.