President Obama today made an emotionally charged visit to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Germany and called for continued action to combat intolerance and hatred in all its forms.
"These sites have not lost their horror with the passage of time," Obama observed after touring the camp.
The president's visit included viewings of the camp's ovens and crematorium, as well as the guard towers and barbed wire fences that imprisoned thousands .
"We are here today because we know this work is not yet finished," Obama said, admonishing Holocaust deniers and "those who perpetuate every form of intolerance -- racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism and more -- hatred that degrades its victims and diminishes us all."
Obama delivered his remarks while standing in front of the camp entrance, where the clock is frozen at 3:15, "the hour of liberation" on April 11, 1945.
Reflecting on the Holocaust and even more recent acts of genocide, Obama said, "This place teaches us that we must be ever-vigilant about the spread of evil in our own time, that we must reject the false comfort that others' suffering is not our problem, and commit ourselves to resisting those who would subjugate others to serve their own interests."
An estimated 56,000 people, mostly Jews, died at Buchenwald during World War II, including the father of Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner who accompanied Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the tour.
Wiesel was 16 years old when the camp was liberated by American forces. His father died in the camp, in a bed near his son.
"He called my name, and I was too afraid to move. All of us were. And then he died. I was there, but I was not there," Wiesel recalled.
He said he came back to Buchenwald today to visit his father's grave, but it was not there.
"His grave is somewhere in the sky, which has become… the largest cemetery of the Jewish people," he said.
Obama toured the area known as "Little Camp," where Wiesel and his brother were sent as young boys. He noted that there is a picture of then-16-year-old Elie in a bunk bed with other children.
The president laid a white rose down on the camp's living memorial, "a steel plate… that is heated to 37 degrees Celsius, the temperature of the human body, a reminder, where people were deemed inhuman because of their differences, of the mark that we all share," he said.
The Buchenwald visit has personal significance for Obama, whose great-uncle Charles Payne was part of a military unit that helped liberate a nearby satellite camp in 1945.
Payne told ABC News that he remembered what he saw: "Most of them [were] in advance stage of starvation and wearing the most pitiful kind of rags. And [they were] overjoyed to be liberated from the camp."
"You can see where the machine gun had been sitting, behind some bushes," he continued. "And they had their tin cups, clearly thinking they were going to get food, and they got shot instead."
Obama, who has never before visited a concentration camp, said it was important for him to make the stop.
"It is up to us to bear witness, to ensure that the continues -- the world continues to note what happened here, to remember all those who survived and all those who perished, and to remember them not just as victims, but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed just like us," he said.