BONN (Apr. 15)
Robert Kempner, a Frankfurt lawyer who helped prosecute Nazi leaders at the Nuremberg war crimes trials after World War II, and Werner Nachmann, chairman of the Jewish Community of West Germany, urged President Reagan today to honor the victims of Nazism — Jews and non-Jews alike — by visiting either the Bergen-Belsen or Dachau concentration camp sites when he comes to Bonn for an economic summit meeting next month.
Reagan earlier rejected the idea of visiting Dachau, in Bavaria, on grounds that it would sour the spirit of reconciliation 40 years after the end of the war when, according to Reagan, hardly anyone who participated in Nazi atrocities is still alive.
Reagan came under intense fire over the weekend from Jewish and non-Jewish groups, the American Legion among the latter, when the White House announced that he intends to lay a wreath at the Wehrmacht war cemetery at Bitburg.
The German soldiers buried there died during the Battle of the Bulge in December, 1944. Not a few of them may have participated in the massacre of 115 American prisoners of war at Malmedy at the time.
Kempner said Reagan would be responding to the wishes of many Germans who suffered at Dachau or Bergen-Belsen, which is in Lower Saxony. Nachmann called on Reagan to attend memorial services for Jewish and other Nazi victims at a former concentration camp.
He went on West German television to say that a visit to a concentration camp by the President would strike a responsive chord among all Nazi survivors and Jews worldwide. He said it would also be consistent with the U.S. and Reagan’s commitment to the existence and well-being of Israel.
Nachmann spoke following a meeting of the Zentralrat, the central elected body of the West German Jewish Community. The West German media which pays little or no attention to decisions of the Zentralrat, gave this particular meeting wide coverage.
NO OFFICIAL RESPONSE FROM BONN GOVERNMENT
The Bonn government has not reacted officially to the mounting pressure on Reagan to reverse his decision not to visit a concentration camp site. But government officials have privately expressed displeasure with the statements by both the West German and American Jewish communities on the subject.
One official told the Jewish Telegraphic agency that those statements were unfair. Speaking to the JTA on condition that he not be identified, the official said: “Later this month, Chancellor Helmut Kohl intends to attend a Jewish memorial service in Bergen-Belsen.
“Kohl has all along shown his sympathy with the Jewish people and with the State of Israel. It hurts him profoundly when he is portrayed as someone who is not deeply committed to Israel,” the official said.