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Group Formed on Reconciliation

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The formation of a new group, the German and American Committee on Learning and Reconciliation, “to enhance understanding” between the American and German people, was announced at a press conference at the Brandeis University House here last week.

“This is one of the most moving moments I have experienced in recent years,” Elie Wiesel, chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, said. He explained that the group has been formed to develop cultural and scholarly projects “to open new avenues” of understanding between the two peoples.

Wiesel said that the group includes II members, five Germans and six Americans, including himself. The interfaith group, he noted, has among its members politicians, historians, writers and other scholars. He said that members of the American team were appointed by him while members of the German team were appointed by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

IDEA PRECEDED BITBURG

“I hope that the activity of the group will not be at the expense of memory and truth,” Wiesel declared. He said that “the idea of such a group came to us before Bitburg,” referring to President Reagan’s controversial visit to the German military cemetery in Bitburg May 5 where Nazi Waffen SS troops are among the buried. “But it (the group) now seems more urgent because of Bitburg,” Wiesel said.

He added: “If we had been in existence perhaps the Bitburg affair would not have happened. Wiesel said the idea for forming the group started about six months ago.

“In our meetings we shall try to explore questions that had been haunting our generation for the last 40 years,” the noted author of the Holocaust said. “The mystery of evil and the peril of indifference to evil. The relationship between the individual and the nation–the responsibility of human beings to remain human in an inhuman society.”

Speaking on behalf of the West German members of the committee, Peter Peterson, a Christian-Democrat member of the West German Parliament, said that what brought the members of the group together was the wish to insure that “our children will have a future which a Holocaust will have no place in it.” He said that Chancellor Helmut Kohl “is very much involved” with the formation of the group and its future activities.

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