Speaking at a memorial service on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the infamous death camp, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Auschwitz was a symbol of the Holocaust, the "collapse of civilization" perpetrated by Nazi Germany.
"We must not forget," the chancellor said. "We owe that to the many millions of victims."
At the same time, Merkel said that it is "wonderful" that more then 100,000 Jews now live in Germany, but criticized the treatment they are subjected to:
"It is a disgrace that people in Germany are harassed, threatened or attacked if they somehow identify as Jews or if they take the side of the State of Israel," she said.
Diplomats from 60 countries were in attendance on Monday, alongside German politicians, Holocaust survivors and youth representatives.
Putin 'not invited' to the ceremony in Poland
More then 1.1 million people were killed in Auschwitz before it was liberated by the Soviet Red Army on January 27, 1945. Around one million victims were Jews. The Auschwitz concentration camp remains the symbol of the Holocaust to this day, and the crimes committed under Nazi rule.
"We need to preserve the memories of the horror and of the dictatorship, especially when it comes to young people," the secretary-general of Merkel's CDU party, Peter Tauber, said on Monday.
"We need to raise their awareness so that they can spot racism and totalitarianism from the very beginning," Tauber said.
While the presidents of Germany and France will attend the ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the camp liberation in Poland on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be present. The reason given by the Kremlin was that Putin had not been invited.
dj/kms (epd, Reuters, AFP, dpa)