In Germany, Obama cites family tie to Buchenwald camp

President Obama talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Dresden, Germany, on Friday.
President Obama spoke emotionally Friday about his great-uncle’s role in liberating the German concentration camp at Buchenwald, noting that "it was a memory burned in him for quite some time."

Obama is to visit the camp Friday afternoon. He told reporters that as a young boy he learned about the life of his great-uncle, Charles Payne, who had a “very difficult time re-adjusting to civilian life” after his time as an American soldier in the 89th Infantry Division. That division helped liberate the Ohrdruf forced labor camp, a subdivision of Buchenwald, which Obama will visit for the first time Friday afternoon. At a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama said he chose to tour Buchenwald because “this one has a personal connection to me.” He noted his great-uncle, who is his grandmother’s brother, was in shock for some time over what he saw at the camp as a young soldier. Obama said he wants to “reflect on this difficult history” on his visit because it is a reminder of the “dangers when peoples are in conflict and not acknowledging a common humanity.” But Obama stressed that he also wants to “celebrate how out of tragedy you now have a unified Europe,” and he wants to highlight the power of “reconciliation, forgiveness and hope.” White House aides said Obama’s great-uncle will not be on the tour of Buchenwald, but will be joining the president for Saturday’s ceremony in Normandy, France, celebrating the 65th anniversary of D-Day.

Don’t Miss
Buchenwald survivors see Obama as family

Obama in Egypt reaches out to Muslim world

Obama’s speech draws mixed reviews in Middle East

Obama began his trip in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, before he moved on to Egypt, where he delivered a key speech on America’s relations with Islam on Thursday. In a 55-minute address billed as a fence-mending effort between the United States and Islam, Obama urged those in the Cairo audience and the people across the globe viewing the speech on television to enter a new, productive and peaceful chapter of relations.