BONN (Apr. 21)
President Reagan, who is embroiled in a controversy marking his planned trip to a German military cemetery and for his statement last Thursday in Washington that German soldiers “were victims just as surely as the victims of the concentration camps,” said today that “In a sense we are all its victims since it forces us to try to come to terms with a time when civilization lost its way.”
Reagan, who is scheduled to visit the military cemetery in Bithurg in two weeks and also to visit the site of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, made his remarks in a message to a ceremony at the camp marking the 40th anniversary of the liberation of the camp. The statement, read out by U.S. Embassy Counsellor Robert Tynes, added: “The Holocaust is part of the consciousness of responsible human beings everywhere no matter what their age.”
KOHL: GERMANS BEAR ‘NEVER-ENDING SHAME’
West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, speaking at the ceremony, said that Germans bore “never-ending shame” for the atrocities committed by the Nazis during World War II. Addressing a crowd of some 3,000 people, including Jewish survivors of the camp, Kohl declared: “Reconciliation with the survivors and descendants of victims is only possible if we accept our history as it really was; if we Germans acknowledge our shame.”
In his speech, broadcast live on television, Kohl said that Bergen-Belsen “remains a mark of Cain branded in the minds of our nation, just like Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor, Chelmno and Majdanek and the many other sites testifying to that mania for destruction.”
The Chancellor announced plans to establish an archive for the study of Jewish history in Germany, saying that this was intended to underline the great role played by German Jewish thinkers in past centuries.
Before the ceremonies began, Kohl and President Richard von Weizsaecker both laid wreaths at the memorial to the 100,000 people who died in Bergen-Belson.