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Kohl Defends His Decision to Invite Reagan to Visit Bitburg Cemetery

West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, in an interview published here, defended his decision to have President Reagan visit the military cemetery at Bitburg last May, saying, “I’d do it exactly as I did it … It was bitterly needed. I think there was no generalized outcry in the United States. There was an outcry from a group of people which influenced public opinion.” He did not identify the group. But it was an apparent reference to Jewish organizations which criticized the trip.

Kohl added in the interview published yesterday in The Washington Post’s “Outlook” section that “I told my fellow countrymen that we Germans would have to bear the whole burden of German history. I said we would have to accept all those shameful crimes committed by the Nazis because this is part of our history. As a Christian and a German, I can ask the victims of that persecution and their relatives to forgive. And I can repeat that we have not forgotten what happened. But I think we can say we also learned a lesson from history.”

In the interview, with Lally Weymouth, a journalist whose work is syndicated by The Los Angeles Times, Kohl also defended his government’s decision to sell arms to Arab countries.

“We have to take into account two points. After the terrible things we have gone through under the Nazi regime, we have new friendly relations with Israel. We must cultivate them. We also have good relations with the Arab world, and I think the moderate Arab world is of the greatest importance for the future of the world.”

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