US President Obama is preparing to follow in the footsteps of his great-uncle, Charlie, with a visit to the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, the London-based Times newspaper
reported Friday. Accordign to the report, Obama will visit the Nazi camp when he returns to Europe next month.
The site is laden with historic and personal significance for the president, the Times said. More than 50,000 people died at the camp before its liberation in April 1945 by American soldiers, including Charlie Payne, the uncle of Obama’s mother.
It was their first encounter with the Holocaust for the soldiers who stumbled over the corpses, the report said, and the horrors, relayed back home, helped to raise American consciousness of Nazi atrocities.
The White House has yet to confirm the claims that Obama plans to visit Buchenwald and the city of Dresden, where tens of thousands of German citizens were killed during an Allies' bombing in 1945.
However, almost every senior official in the states of Thüringia and Saxony already appears to have been informed about the impending trip, the Times said. Secret Service advance units are said to have checked out the hotel, a restored palace, where he may stay in Dresden.
According to the Times, Obama will arrive in Buchenwald on June 5, the day before taking part in commemoration events for the 65th anniversary of the landing of Allied troops in Normandy.
A German government official said in response that the American president was indeed expected to visit the country next month and might visit “historical places that in the widest sense are related to the different aspects of World War II — destruction and rebuilding, extermination and the breakdown of civilization”, as well as places which have “biographical references” for his family.
During the US election campaign, Obama embarrassed himself by stating during a memorial for US soldiers that his uncle was among the American troops who liberated Auschwitz.
In response, his rivals at the Republican Party issued a statement saying that Obama had been mistaken on two things: His mother was an only child, and therefore it could not have been his uncle, and Auschwitz was liberated by Russian soldiers, not American ones.
Obama was then forced to issue a correction saying his distant uncle had been among the troops that freed Ohrdruf, a satellite forced-labor camp close to Buchenwald.