WEIMAR --- Striking a careful balance between solemn homage to the past and hopeful vision for the future, President Obama Friday visited an infamous Nazi death camp after earlier calling for a two-state solution in Israel.
Flanked by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who was held at Buchenwald as a teenager, Obama spoke outside the main gate, where the clock tower remains frozen at 3:15, the time Jews were liberated on April 11, 1945.
"These sights have not lost their horror with the passage of time," Obama said, noting a "certain irony about the beauty of the landscape and the horror" that took place at Buchenwald.
"To this day, there are those that insist that the Holocaust never happened," Obama continued. "This place is the ultimate rebuke to such thoughts."
Buchenwald, the President said, "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."
Obama's remarks followed comments made earlier in the day in which he called for a redoubling of efforts toward separate Israeli and Palestinian states, saying "the moment is now for us to act." The President said "the United States can't force peace upon the parties," but said that since the day he took office, "we've at least created the space, the atmosphere, in which talks can restart."
The Buchenwald stop — Obama is the first U.S. president to visit the facility — was also personal. A great-uncle helped liberate a nearby satellite camp, Ohrdruf, in early April 1945 just days before other U.S. Army units overran Buchenwald.
But the site held the deepest personal sway on Wiesel, whose father died at the camp while he was a kid.
"I was there as he asked for help, for water," Wiesel said. "I was there as he said his last words. But I was not there as he called to me. 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.
"What can I tell him that the world has learned? I am not so sure," Wiesel said, before expressing hope that Obama will help "to change this world to a better place" where "people will stop hating the otherness of the other instead of respecting it."
Obama's visit to Germany comes on the eve of commemorations in France of the 65th anniversary of the Allies' D-Day invasion — and the day after Obama's long-awaited speech to the Muslim world seeking a fresh start in relations with America.
In an earlier interview with Tom Brokaw, Obama had especially sharp words for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has expressed doubts that 6 million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis and who has urged that Israel be wiped from the map.
"I have no patience for people who are ignorant of history," Obama said, adding that Ahmadinejad should visit Buchenwald for himself.
Following the tour, Obama was flying to Landstuhl medical hospital for private visits with U.S. troops recovering from wounds sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he was ending the day in Paris — reuniting with his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha, who planned a brief holiday in the City of Light after the Normandy ceremonies.
The Normandy observance at the U.S. cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer also is to be a moment for family memories. Obama's grandfather, Stanley Dunham, came ashore at Omaha Beach six weeks after D-Day. Dunham's older brother Ralph hit Omaha on D-Day plus four.
Obama has called upon his varied ethnic and racial heritage in recent days, as he reaches out to diverse people throughout Europe and the Middle east. Speaking at the main auditorium of Cairo University, Obama, a Christian whose father was a Kenyan Muslim, recalled living with his mother in Jakarta.
"As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk," he reminisced.
Obama said his life's experience has taught him Islam is a religion of peace and justice.
"The enduring faith of over a billion people," he said, "is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few."