Bertrand Herz on 5 June 2009 at the Buchenwald Memorial. Photo: Peter Hansen. SGBuMD

Statement by Bertrand Herz

President of the International Committee of Buchenwald-Dora and Subcamps (Internationales Komitee Buchenwald-Dora und Kommandos; IKBD), on his encounter with U.S. President Barack Obama in the former Buchenwald Concentration Camp on 5 June 2009

It is very important that the president of the United States came to Buchenwald, where he was able to gain concrete insight into the National Socialists’ barbarianism toward the imprisoned inmates – through what remains of the camp, through photographs, and through the explanations provided by Prof. Knigge and by Elie Wiesel and myself, two witnesses to the historical events.

It must be pointed out with very special emphasis that this is the first time an American president, a person bearing the very highest political responsibilities, has come here and visited the grounds, the actual historical site, and convinced himself of the horrific crimes which resulted from the utter contempt of human rights – as well as of the courage displayed by members of the resistance from many countries who, among other things, protected the lives of more than 900 children and adolescents in the camp.

At a point in time in which doubt is frequently shed on the actions of politicians on account of their mere functionalism and lack of moral foundation, today’s visit represents great hope with regard to the further action taken by this young American president on the world stage.