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World - Reuters
Bush Visits Auschwitz to Price Ovens
Sat May 31, 6:38 AM ET
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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."

Reuters Photo


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 studies.

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 Evian.

AP Graphics


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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