May 27, 2008 / 10:11 PM / 10 years ago

Obama admits reference to Auschwitz was wrong

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama admitted on Tuesday he was wrong to say his uncle helped liberate the Nazis’ Auschwitz concentration camp after Republicans said Soviet troops freed the camp.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama speaks during a discussion on protecting home ownership at the College of Southern Nevada in North Las Vegas, May 27, 2008. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

Obama’s campaign said the candidate meant to say that his great-uncle, Charlie Payne, had helped liberate a part of the Buchenwald camp, not Auschwitz.

“Yesterday he mistakenly referred to Auschwitz instead of Buchenwald in telling of his personal experience of a soldier in his family who served heroically,” said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.

Burton said in the statement that Obama’s great uncle served in the 89th Infantry Division that entered Germany in 1945 and on April 4 overran Ohrdruf, a subcamp of the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Obama had made the Auschwitz reference in a Memorial Day speech on Monday.

More than 1 million people, most of them Jews, were killed at Auschwitz, an extermination camp in Poland. Buchenwald in Germany was mainly a forced labor camp, where some 56,000 people are believed to have died.

“I had an uncle who was ... part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and liberate the concentration camps,” Obama said.

“And the story in our family was is that when he came home, he just went up into the attic and he didn’t leave the house for six months,” he said.

The Republican National Committee quickly pointed out that the Red Army had liberated Auschwitz in 1945, not American forces.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at blogs.reuters.com/trail08/

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