Schröder attacks far right at Buchenwald memorial

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The Independent Online

The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, and Nazi Holocaust survivors marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp with warnings about the rise of right-wing extremism in Germany.

The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, and Nazi Holocaust survivors marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp with warnings about the rise of right-wing extremism in Germany.

Mr Schröder was speaking at a ceremony in the east German city of Weimar yesterday, commemorating the liberation by US troops of what was the Nazi's largest concentration camp.

He was joined by German Jewish leaders and more than 500 survivors from the camp, where more than 56,000 Jews, Russian prisoners of war, political prisoners and homosexuals were systematically worked to death between 1937 and the end of the Second World War. Others were shot, given lethal injections or starved.

"They fell victim to hunger, sickness, sadistic terror and systematic murder," Mr Schröder said. "We cannot change history, but this country can learn a lot from the deepest shame of our history."

Referring to the recent political gains by far right parties, including the neo-Nazi German National Democratic Party (NPD), Mr Schröder said: "Democratic Germany will not allow injustice, violence, anti-Semitism and hatred of foreigners to have a chance of success.

"Humanity and the principles of a free and socially just society are values which we must and will go on defending every day."

The NPD won more than nine per cent of the vote, and parliamentary seats, in key regional elections in the east German state of Saxony last autumn with a campaign that focused on anti-foreigner and anti-EU sentiment.

In February, more than 5,000 NPD members marched through Dresden to protest against the allied bombing of the city in 1945 in what was the biggest demonstration by the far right in Germany since the Nazi era. The rise of the far right has become a source of concern to Mr Schröder's coalition which is trying to ban the NPD through the country's constitutional court.

Paul Spiegel, a Holocaust survivor and the leader of Germany's Central Council of Jews, warned: "Buchenwald does not exist any more, but the fact that right-wing extremism has now begun to reach the centre of our society is an extremely dangerous development. The far right has no problem in winning new recruits."

Several survivors of Buch-enwald, many of them now aged in their eighties, wore their striped prison uniform caps at yesterday's ceremony, where a choir sang a song written by two inmates that became a secret unofficial anthem during their ordeal.

Unlike Auschwitz, Buchenwald had no gas chambers. Prisoners were worked to death by SS guards.

Pavel Kohn, 75, a Jewish survivor from the camp, whose parents were murdered by the Nazis, said: "The camp was packed, there was hunger and the living conditions and hygiene were unbelievable."

The US Army's approach prompted a revolt by Buchenwald's inmates. When the Americans reached the camp on 11 April, they found 21,000 sick and emaciated inmates. At least 10,000 others died.

Appalled by what he found at the camp, the US Army commander forced the inhabitants of Weimar to visit Buchenwald. Film footage shows them weeping and vomiting.

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