NEW YORK (Oct. 29)
The United States Secretary of the Interior Donald Hodel, speaking at a ceremony to mark the 100th birthday of the Statue of Liberty here Tuesday, said freedom can only have meaning when “all of the spiritual brothers and sisters of the Yuri Orlovs and of the Anatoly Shcharanskys once again can know the God-given blessing of freedom.”
Hodel delivered a scathing attack on human rights conditions in the Soviet Union on Liberty Island with the newly-refurbished Lady Liberty towering behind him from her perch in the New York harbor.
He called on the Soviet Union to “tell the world the truth about the fate of that courageous humanitarian, Raoul Wallenberg,” the Swedish diplomat credited with saving about 100,000 Hungarian Jews and who was arrested by the Soviets near the end of World War II.
To this day, rumors persist that Wallenberg may still be alive, imprisoned in the Soviet Union. Since 1957, the Soviet government has maintained that Wallenberg died in Lubyanka Prison in Moscow on July 17, 1947 of a heart attack. But others claimed to have sighted Wallenberg in prison after that date.
Hodel also dedicated an empty chair on the stage where dignitaries were sitting to those who could not share in this celebration of freedom. “This empty chair symbolizes the millions and millions of people throughout the world who yearn for freedom–for them the Statue of Liberty’s torch is not lit,” Hodel told the crowd of several hundred people.
THE PRESIDENT’S AGENDA
He focussed on human rights violations in the Soviet Union in his speech and noted that the subject of human rights was at the top of President Reagan’s agenda in Reykjavik although the controversy over arms control overshadowed the importance of that issue.
“Issues of good and evil aside, we also should understand that the Soviet government’s disregard of human freedom of its own citizens directly affects American self-interest,” Hodel said.
“As President Reagan so aptly states when he assured us and the masters of the Kremlin that we are going to continue to make an issue of the subject of human rights, ‘a government that will break faith with its own people cannot be trusted to keep faith with foreign powers’.”
Cantor Isaac Goodfriend of the Holocaust Memorial Council participated in the celebration of Lady Liberty’s centennial, singing the French and American national anthems and several other patriotic songs. Representing the French government was Minister of Culture and Communication Francois Leotard, who also addressed the assembly.