Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against “dangerous historical revisionism” on Friday during her first trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp as the leader of Germany.
“We are witnessing and experiencing an attack on the fundamental values of liberal democracy,” Merkel said, according to The New York Times, “and a very dangerous historical revisionism that serves a hostility that is directed against specific groups.”
Merkel has developed a reputation as one of Europe’s leading defenders of tolerance in an age in which the continent faces a litany of accusations of anti-Semitism amid a rise of right-wing movements.
She made the visit to Auschwitz with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, whose country has come under scrutiny over efforts to make it a criminal offense to accuse the country of complicity in the Holocaust. More than a million people, mostly Jews, were killed in the Auschwitz death camp, located in southern Poland.
Merkel’s visit marked the 10-year anniversary since the founding of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation to maintain the camp as a memorial for future generations. The chancellor toured a site that preserves artifacts such as piles of shoes, suitcases and hair from Auschwitz’s victims and recognized Germany’s “enduring responsibility” to acknowledge its role in the Holocaust.
“Auschwitz was a German death camp, run by Germans,” Merkel said. “We Germans owe it to the victims and we owe it to ourselves to keep alive the memory of the crimes committed, to identify the perpetrators and to commemorate the victims in a dignified manner.”
Her remarks come as Germany grapples with a rise in anti-Semitic incidents. Officials have said attacks targeting Jews rose 10 percent last year, while physical attacks increased by more than a third, the Times reported. In one high-profile attack, a German gunman attacked a synagogue in October, just months after the government official charged with tackling anti-Semitism said Jews should not wear yarmulkes in public.
“These days, this is more than just rhetoric,” said Merkel. “These days, it is important that we state this in an unequivocal manner, because what we are experiencing of late is an alarming level of racism, increasing intolerance, a wave of hate crimes.”
Merkel’s visit to Auschwitz came a day after she announced that Germany would give 60 million euros, or $66 million, to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation on top of the $80.5 million it has contributed over the last 10 years.