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Scheel Runs Gauntlet of Demonstrators to Lay Wreath at Yad Vashem

Walter Scheel, the first West German Foreign Minister to visit Israel while in office, laid a wreath on behalf of his government today on the marble slab in the Yad Vashem Memorial Hall here which covers an urn of ashes taken symbolically from all the death camps of the Nazi era in Europe. But before performing the solemn act, the German statesman ran a gauntlet of impassioned demonstrators who shouted, “Germans, murderers” and other bitter imprecations as Scheel and his party mounted the steps of the hall. The demonstrators, 20 uniformed members of Betar, a militant youth organization, were barred by police from entering the hall after Scheel’s party. They shouted. “The Luftwaffe officer gets in but Jews are kept out.” They were referring to the fact that Scheel served as a junior officer in the German armed forces during World War II.

Paul Frank, Secretary of State at the Bonn Foreign Ministry who accompanied Scheel, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency later that he didn’t think the demonstration should have been prevented. “Everyone has a right to say what he thinks. Frank remarked. “This is quite understandable. I find it quite normal. I would perhaps do it myself if I were standing on the other side.”

The West German Foreign Minister’s arrival at a heavily guarded Lydda Airport this morning for a four-day visit to Israel was, by contrast, uneventful. The West German and Israeli flags flew side-by-side over the airport control tower as Scheel and his wife debarked from a special Lufthansa Boeing 707 to be welcomed by Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban and the Israeli Ambassador to West Germany, Elyashiv Ben Chorin. Eban observed, in formal remarks greeting his guests, that relations between their two countries were conducted under the shadow of a terrible past and in the light of a new future which both wish to build together. Scheel responded by saying, “I am the first West German Foreign Minister to visit Israel. I cannot compare this visit to any other visit in another country. Not a single German can evade the facts of his nation’s history. No one can or wants to forget what the Germans have done to your nation. However, it is our true hope and goal to have a better future and better relations.”

In remarks at a dinner given in his honor by Eban at the King David Hotel tonight, Scheel observed that “thirty years after the Hitler era, the relationship between our two countries and nations is still characterized, first of all by the terrible events of the past and therefore has a uniqueness which does not mark the relations between other nations.” He continued, “No German can forget this most sinister part of his country’s history…I think it is the task of the foreign policy of both our countries to produce, in spite of what has happened, a cooperation between our two states that should do justice to the interests of both.” Scheel will meet tomorrow with Premier Golda Meir and Eban. He will visit Haifa, Nazareth and Sdeh Boker where he will meet former Premier David Ben-Gurion.

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