US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a congressional delegation to the Auschwitz memorial site in Poland ahead of the 75th anniversary of the day Soviet troops liberated the sprawling Second World War German Nazi death and concentration camp complex where an estimated 1.1 million people died.
At the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial on Tuesday, Ms Pelosi laid a wreath at the reconstructed wall where several thousand prisoners were executed, most of them members of the Polish resistance.
She also placed a memorial light at the monument to all of the camp’s victims, the majority of whom were European Jews.
Elzbieta Witek, the speaker of the lower house of Poland’s parliament, or Sejm, and Senate Speaker Tomasz Grodzki, accompanied their American peer.
Ms Pelosi and Mr Grodzki were later to hold talks.
In a statement ahead of the trip, Ms Pelosi said the purpose of her visit the Holocaust memorial site was to “reaffirm America’s enduring commitment, our sacred pledge: Never again”.
“We must honour the memories of those murdered in this incomprehensible horror by maintaining constant vigilance against hatred and persecution today,” said the statement.
From Poland, Ms Pelosi and the six-member bipartisan delegation plan to go to Israel to attend a conference marking the anniversary of the death camp’s liberation.
From 1940-45, some 1.1 million people, mostly Jews from across Europe, but also Poles, Roma and Russian prisoners of war, were shot to death, killed in gas chambers, and died of starvation or other mistreatment at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The Red Army liberated the camp on January 27 1945, an event now observed annually as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.