Encounter with Floréal Barrier, chairman of the former Buchenwald inmates' advisory board at the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation, students of the Universität Jena, and foundation volunteers of varied nationalities. Photo: Michael Voigt. Thüringer Staatskanzlei

Young People's Reaction

to the encounter of students of the Universität Jena and volunteers of the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation of varied nationalities with U.S. President Barack Obama in the former Buchenwald Concentration Camp on 5 June 2009

As the event drew near, we were very excited, unsure of ourselves, nervous – and the day itself turned out to be a wonderful one for us: It began with an intensive conversation with Bertrand Herz and Floréal Barrier, two former inmates of Buchenwald Concentration Camp. They told us about their various experiences in Buchenwald Concentration Camp, about their subsequent lives, their hopes, and also their fears. The concreteness of their words renewed our awareness of the special responsibility that results from their experiences for us and the generations to come. Remembrance must remain tangible; to that end, historical sites are indispensable. The crimes committed in the National Socialist era are difficult to comprehend and difficult to imagine; all we can do – and must do – is to try again and again.

Then we had the honour of meeting the president of the United States of America and the federal chancellor of Germany: we will long remember the personal experience of Barack Obama’s charisma. Almost seventy years after the historical events, it is clearer to us now than before that every new generation must find its own way of shaping such values as humaneness, tolerance and mutual respect. The encounters we had today give us new courage and strength – and we hope the scenes captured on film today convey that as well.