Leader speaks out on Auschwitz visit

Leader speaks out on Auschwitz visit

BERLIN - Agence France-Presse
Leader speaks out on Auschwitz visit

Germany coach Joachim Löw (L) places a candle during the national football team’s visit to the site of the former Nazi German death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The head of Germany’s Jewish community yesterday criticized the handling of a visit by members of the country’s football team to Auschwitz, saying he regretted more of the squad had not attended.

While praising the visit generally as a “good sign”, the president of the Central Committee of Jews, Dieter Graumann, told AFP that he wished the whole team had gone.

On June 1, Germany’s captain Philipp Lahm and Poland-born stars Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski visited the site of the Nazi concentration camp where an estimated 1.3 million people were murdered, 1.1 million of them Jews.

“More would have been better,” Graumann said. “These people are football idols and their visit would have had more of an impact than 1,000 of our speeches could have had,” he added.

Team manager Oliver Bierhoff, head coach Joachim Loew and president of the German football federation, Wolfgang Niersbach, also visited the camp.

“With the visit to Auschwitz, we wanted to show that a dark chapter of German history will never be forgotten and must never be repeated,” Bierhoff said in a DFB statement.

England and Italy have also said their players will visit the Auschwitz site during the tournament, which runs from June 8 to July 1.

Unacceptable term
Graumann also accused Bierhoff of what he described as “provocation” for using the German word “Kamingespraech” (“fireside chat”) in the context of the Holocaust.

The manager had said in an interview the day before the visit that the issue of the Holocaust would be addressed with players. “This could be in the form of a fireside chat or a lecture,” Bierhoff was quoted as saying. The use of such a word was unacceptable given the allusion to the fires of the Holocaust, Graumann said.