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May 31, 2003

Auschwitz visit opens Bush trip

[...]As he and his wife walked through the camps, Bush periodically wiped tears from his eyes, exhaling deeply at one point as if to compose himself and later pulling out a handkerchief.

During the tour, Bush was shown tiny shoes that had belonged to babies, hair taken from Jewish women, suitcases of some of those brought to the camps to die and the cell once occupied by Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel.

"So sad," he remarked, spokesman Ari Fleischer told The Associated Press.

"Thank you sincerely for the deeply moving tour," Bush wrote in the guestbook, AP reported.

"In dedicating your lives to preserving the memory of the Holocaust and the martyrdom of Poles, you honor all who are victims here. May your work inspire future generations to stand ever vigilant against the return of such unspeakable evil to our world. Never forget."

Bush is only the second U.S. president to visit Auschwitz. President Gerald Ford toured the camp in 1975 while Poland was under communist rule.

Later Saturday Bush made a speech to the Polish people and met with President Aleksander Kwasniewski to thank the Polish leader for his strong support for the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

This is Bush's second trip to Poland since becoming president, and his first stop of a week-long tour of Europe and the Middle East.[more]