United States Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence, right, stand with Poland's President Andrzej Duda and his wife Agata Kornhauser-Duda, left, under the gate during their visit at the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019. The sign over the gate reads 'work makes one free'. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

US vice president Pence makes his 1st visit to Auschwitz

February 15, 2019 - 7:42 am

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited the memorial site of Auschwitz on Friday along with the Polish president.

It was the first visit for Pence, a conservative Christian, to the site where German forces murdered 1.1 million people, most of them Jews but also Poles, Roma and others, during the Nazis' occupation of Eastern Europe during World War II.

Pence and his wife were joined by Polish President Andrzej Duda and the Polish first lady, Agata Kornhauser-Duda.

They began their visit by walking under the notorious gate with the German words "Arbeit Macht Frei," the Nazi slogan meaning "Work sets you free."

There, they paused and turned toward reporters, who took their photos.

They then made their way to the Death Wall in a yard where prisoners were executed. Many of those shot there were Poles who were part of the underground resistance against the German occupation.

The two couples walked side-by-side to the wall and bowed their heads before it.

They moved to the nearby satellite camp of Birkenau, the site of the murder of Jews from across Europe. There they stood silently before a historic cattle car on the train tracks that were used to bring Jews to their deaths there.

The vast Auschwitz complex, which is today a state museum, also includes surviving barracks and watchtowers as well as the ruins of gas chambers and crematoria where the Nazis murdered people and burned their bodies.

The visit comes a day after Pence also visited commemorating the suffering of the Jewish and Polish people in Warsaw during the war.

It also comes a day after Pence accused Britain, France, Germany and the European Union as a whole of trying to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran and called on the EU to join the Trump administration in withdrawing from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

In his speech, Pence said that "the Iranian regime openly advocates another Holocaust."

Pence is on a four-day visit to Europe that included meeting with Polish soldiers and American troops in Poland and a conference on the Middle East that concluded Thursday. His next and final stop will be to the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

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