Prime Minister David Cameron paid his first visit to the site of Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland on Wednesday, saying: “I wanted to come and see for myself.”
Cameron flew in from Turkey especially for the trip and left a written tribute, in which he said: “Words cannot describe the horror that took place here.”
He was met by museum director Piotr Cywinski and placed a candle on the UK stone of the memorial. In the museum guest book, Cameron wrote: “I wanted to come and see for myself this place where the darkest chapter of human history happened.
“Words cannot describe the horror that took place – making it even more important that we never forget.”
He added: “As Elie Wiesel said, failing to remember those who were murdered would be akin to killing them all over again.”
Cameron then noted how the survivors were becoming fewer in number and that he hoped the Holocaust Commission would teach future generations what took place there. Later, he said: “While I have talked to many Holocaust survivors about their experiences before, coming here has really brought home the terror and torture they faced. “
As I walked round the gas chamber, passed the children’s shoes and down the railway tracks, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of grief for all those who were killed simply because of their faith, their beliefs or their ethnicity.”
The visit, alongside Jewish Leadership Council chairman Mick Davis, honoured a pledge made by the Tory leader earlier this year, when he committed an extra £300,000 annually for the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET), which has taken more than 20,000 students and teachers to Auschwitz over the past 15 years. HET chief executive Karen Pollack said: “With the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of the Holocaust next year, this visit was fitting and timely.”
Cameron has spoken repeatedly about growing anti-Semitism in parts of Europe, in part influenced by events in Gaza this summer. Record numbers of French Jews have made aliyah this year, and the resurgence of far-right parties on the continent continues to give cause for concern.