WASHINGTON (Jul. 19)
President Reagan last night again defended his controversial visit to the German military cemetery in Bitburg, saying it was the “morally right thing to do.”
From the very first I felt it was the morally right thing to do and I’m pleased that I did it,” Reagan said in response to a question during his nationally televised news conference from the East Room of the White House.
“And it was a worthwhile experience over there and I began to get my reward when I spoke to 10,000 young teen-age Germans and at the end of that heard 10,000 young Germans sing our national anthem in our language.”
Reagan laid a wreath at the military cemetery at Bitburg last May with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. The cemetery contained at least 47 graves of soldiers who were members of the Waffen SS.
The President told reporters last night that his visit to the cemetery was never intended as a “forgive and forget thing. It’s up to someone else to forgive, not us, if there is any forgiveness and certainly we must never forget.” The President also said:
“I was amazed — and its 40 years now of friendship that has followed all that hatred and the evil of the Holocaust and of Nazism- to learn that the Germans, not only have they preserved the horrible camps and maintained the museum with the photos all blown up of the worst most despicable things that happened there, but they bring their school children every year and show them and say, ‘This must never happen again.’”