BONN (Apr. 8)
Chancellor Helmut Kohl, in his strongest public statement on the Nazi era, called the crime of genocide against the Jews a crime “unprecedented in history,” declaring “we should keep alive the memory of the full extent of that terrible past” and “will oppose any attempts to dismiss them from our thoughts or belittle them.”
The Chancellor’s remarks, at a luncheon Tuesday in honor of the visiting President of Israel, Chaim Herzog, was seen as a warning against attempts by some West German scholars to equate the Nazi extermination of Jews with other crimes in modern history and by neo-Nazis to rewrite history by claiming the Holocaust never occurred.
“The period of genocide is the darkest chapter in German history,” Kohl said. “We Germans have to live with the terrible truth that in the days of National Socialism the Jews were subjected to unspeakable suffering at the hands of the Germans . . . It is part of our self-image that we keep alive the memory . . .”
Kohl ended his speech with a toast “to Israel’s future in peace and self-determination.” But he made clear that West Germany and Israel differ on approaches to Middle East peace.
Bonn strongly supports an international conference to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Chancellor said. “We welcome the fact that the idea of an international negotiating forum is gaining increasing acceptance in Israel. The positions are still far apart, but there are encouraging signs,” he said.
He also reiterated Bonn’s long-standing support for the right of Palestinians to self-determination.
Herzog, responding, said Israel’s realities were all too often poorly perceived. He cited the participation of Israeli Arabs in the political process, the daily contacts between Israelis and Egyptians and the heavy traffic between Jordan and Israel over the Jordan River bridges.
Alluding to possible West German softness on international terrorism, Herzog warned: “Terrorists are united. Their victims are not. Terrorists know no boundaries nor do they respect sovereignty. Israel will not compromise with terrorists and will hit at the sources of international terrorism, of which the Palestine Liberation Organization is a major element.”
Herzog and Kohl met privately before the luncheon. Their meeting was described by both Israeli and German sources as “very constructive,” though differences remain on the peace issue– and on possible West German arms sales to Arab countries still technically in a state of war with Israel.