BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the government is committed to helping maintain the memorial at a former East German secret police prison, calling it an “authentic and thus painful” reminder of communist-era excesses.

During her first public appearance following a summer vacation, Merkel used the upcoming 56th anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall by the communist regime to criticize left-wing extremism.

Standing Friday outside the former Hohenschoenhausen prison that was operated by the East German Stasi secret police, Merkel said “it seems a long time ago but it reminds us strongly of the need to advocate for freedom and democracy.”

The memorial is undergoing renovations, with some 12 million euros ($14 million) in financing from the federal government as well as funding from the city of Berlin.

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