US House of Representatives speaker visits Auschwitz

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, visited on Tuesday the site of the former Nazi German Auschwitz death camp in southern Poland. Pelosi was accompanied by Polish Sejm (lower house) and Senate speakers.

Pelosi, together with the Sejm's Elżbieta Witek and the Senate's Tomasz Grodzki, paid homage to the victims and laid a wreath at the Death Wall. Pelosi was also accompanied by a group of US congressmen.

The US delegation visited part of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, including Block 4 and Block 5, which exemplified the methods used by the Nazi Germans to murder Jews. They also viewed Block 11, where Polish priest Maksymilian Kolbe, who was later declared a saint, was murdered.

The US delegation lit candles at the memorial honouring the victims, erected between the ruins of the two largest gas chambers and crematoriums in Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

From Poland, Pelosi and the bipartisan delegation of six Congress members will travel to Israel to attend the World Holocaust Forum.

The Auschwitz concentration camp was built by the Germans in 1940 as an incarceration site for Poles, but soon began to receive transports of Jewish descendants from all over Europe. Enlarged by its Birkenau section in 1942, Auschwitz became the main site of the Holocaust. Nazi Germany killed at least 1.1 million people in the camp, including hundreds of thousands of Polish citizens, mainly of Jewish descent.

It was liberated by the Red Army on January 27, 1945. In 1947, the camp site was declared a national memorial site.