Washington (AFP) - US Vice President Mike Pence paid a somber visit to the former Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, Germany on Sunday, against the backdrop of concerns about a surge of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States since Donald Trump was elected president.
Pence, his wife Karen and daughter Charlotte toured the camp where more than 200,000 political prisoners, Jews and others were incarcerated by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945. More than 40,000 people died there.
Under gray skies, the Pences placed a wreath at a memorial in the center of the camp and visited the barracks, a crematorium and a gas chamber.
"It was a miracle that we survived," former Dachau prisoner Abba Naor told the vice president and his family, describing a typical meal as "a slice of bread."
Pence signed a guest book, ending his visit with an hour-long service at the Church of Reconciliation on the camp grounds.
"Moving and emotional tour of Dachau today," he tweeted on his official Twitter account. "We can never forget atrocities against Jews and others in the Holocaust."
Moving and emotional tour of Dachau today. We can never forget atrocities against Jews and others in the Holocaust. pic.twitter.com/69GWN2DKDF
— Vice President Pence (@VP) February 19, 2017
The vice president and other senior figures in the Trump administration are touring Europe to assure nervous allies of Washington's "unwavering" support for NATO, as Pence put it Saturday in a speech to an international security conference in Munich.
But the stop in Dachau also had a US dimension to as it comes amid concerns over a surge of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States.
Nearly 60 bomb threats have been received by 48 Jewish community centers across the country, most of them in three days in January leading up to Trump's inauguration, CNN reported.
A proliferation of post-election incidents involving swastikas painted on school walls and other anti-Semitic symbols have raised concerns that white supremacist groups have been emboldened by Trump's win.
Asked about the incidents twice this past week, Trump initially reacted by deflecting the questions and then by taking umbrage.
He angrily ordered an ultra-orthodox Jewish reporter at a White House news conference Thursday to "sit down," after he asked about the bomb threats to Jewish community centers, prefacing the question by saying no one in his community thought Trump himself was anti-Semitic.
"Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life," Trump said. "Number two, racism. The least racist person."
"I hate the charge, I find it repulsive, I hate even the question," he added, accusing the reporter of asking "a very insulting question."
Questions were previously raised when the White House marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27 with a statement that made no mention of Jews or anti-Semitism.