German politicians have called for tolerance at a ceremony to commemorate the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp 70 years ago. Tens of thousands of prisoners were killed there by the Nazis.
Speaking at the ceremony in the eastern German city of Weimar, the premier of the state of Thuringia, Bodo Ramelow, called for more efforts to combat xenophobia and racism to avoid a repetition of the atrocities committed by the Nazis in Buchenwald.
He called on people to raise their voices "when the arsonists of today follow in the spirit of the murderous incendiaries of the past and set on fire planned accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers."
Ramelow was referring to an arson attack on a planned home for asylum seekers in the eastern town of Tröglitz on Holy Saturday.
In his speech to the gathering, which included survivors of the camp, European Union parliament president Martin Schulz also expressed concern at racism in Europe 70 years after the end of the Nazi era. He called ultra-nationalism and intolerance "demons that we considered overcome in Europe but that continue to show their ugly countenances every day."
Schulz said that European unity based on freedom, democracy and inalienable human rights was "the answer to Auschwitz and Buchenwald."
Some former inmates also spoke of their memories of the atrocities committed in the camp.
One survivor, Eva Pusztai, said the trauma experienced by prisoners in Buchenwald would haunt them "till their last breath."
Church admits responsibility
Earlier, the Protestant dean in Weimar, which is close to the site of the former concentration camp, admitted the church's role in allowing Nazi crimes to happen.
Many Protestant Christians had not "courageously admitted and put a name to" the things happening in Germany and directly nearby, Henrich Herbst said in a commemoration service.
He spoke of a lack of resistance to the Nazis on the part of normal citizens "in the face of the unspeakable suffering of women and children, Jews, communists, Social Democrats and Christians" and other innocent people from all over Europe.
Shortly after the Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated by the US army on 11 April 1945, the then dean in Weimar, Richard Kade, had announced in the name of the Protestant church in Germany that "we carry no blame for these atrocities."
From 1937 to 1945, the camp housed some 250,000 prisoners from all over Europe who had been brought there by the Nazis. An estimated 50,000 people were killed, many as a result of forced labor, illness and medical experiments carried out on the helpless inmates.
On Saturday, Buchenwald survivors met at the site of the camp to remember their dead fellow inmates with a minute of silence at 3.15 p.m. (1315 UTC), the time the US army finally liberated the camp, where groups of armed prisoners had already taken control a quarter of an hour earlier.
Some 21,000 people were still in the camp at the time of its liberation, but thousands had died in the days just before after being forced by the SS guards to go on so-called "death marches" ahead of the advancing Allies.
Among those who survived the camp were the Spanish author and later Culture Minister Jorge Semprun, the French politician Leon Blum, the psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim and the Nobel literature laureate Imre Kertesz.
tj/jr (dpa, epd)