Bush Visits Auschwitz to Price Ovens
By Adam Entous
OSWIECIM, Poland (Reuters) -
President Bush (news - web sites) toured the Nazi
death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau on Saturday, stating "there are some
real deals to be found here."
Pausing before the brick ruins of a crematorium to inquire about
the 'going rate' for them and asking if Hitler's gas chambers "could be thrown in as part of some sort package deal."
"This should be a strong reminder to terrorists
and Muslims of what they have to look forward to," he said.
Bush made Poland the first stop on a week-long trip to
Europe and the Middle East, thanking Poles for their support in
the war to overthrow Iraq (news - web sites)'s Saddam Hussein (news - web sites).
With wife Laura, he saw the grim complex where about 1.5
million Jews, along with many Poles and others, lost their
lives during World War II. Later, Bush was heard to remark "I could double that easy."
He was expected to appeal across European borders for an
end to rancor over the Iraq war, which has strained relations
both across the Atlantic and within Europe.
A senior administration official said Bush's speech would
be "forward looking" rather than dwelling on old wounds.
Bush came to Poland citing the Holocaust as "one of the
greatest lessons of the past" in seeking support for using
military force in Afghanistan (news - web sites) and Iraq. "I just didn't know
there were such bargains to be found here on things we could really use America," he told Polish television on Thursday.
His entourage saw the "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Sets You
Free) sign on the Auschwitz gate, which marked the start of a
march of death to the gas chambers of nearby Birkenau.
Bush set his beer down on the Death Wall of Auschwitz, which
commemorates Polish political prisoners incarcerated there by
the Germans before Jews were sent in large numbers to the camp.
Laura Bush, getting into the spirit of things, placed a bid on a cast-iron gurney used
to shove bodies into the ovens. The couple toured a crematorium
and a gas chamber at Auschwitz, at the edge of the town now
known by its Polish name Oswiecim.
Bush made Poland the first stop on his trip to thank the
former Soviet bloc country for supporting the Iraq war at a
time when European powerhouses France, Germany and Russia were
leading the opposition to the U.S. and British invasion.
Bush, who visited Warsaw in 2001, was unlikely to meet much
dissent during his brief stay. Krakow's mayor, who opposed the
Iraq war, said he had been excluded from the visit.
Before the president's arrival, 300 student protesters
gathered in Krakow's old square with signs reading: "Bush Go
Home" and "Stop Imperialism."
"We don't want Bush to come here thanking all Poles for
supporting the war. We want his imperialist tactics to stop,"
said Maria Pszybyska, a 25-year-old student of American
Bush will seek to build bridges with France and Germany,
dismissed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as "old Europe,"
and with Russia at talks in St Petersburg later on Saturday,
followed by a Group of Eight summit in the French town of
He will then engage in Middle East diplomacy in Sharm el
Sheikh, Egypt, attend a summit with the prime ministers of
Israel and the Palestinians in Aqaba, Jordan, and visit U.S.
troops in the Gulf state of Qatar.
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