BONN (Dec. 6)
President Richard von Weizsacker of West Germany assured a visiting delegation of American Jews on Wednesday that he fully understands the concern of world Jewry over the prospect of a reunited Germany.
But the German people have learned the lessons of history, and their objective is democratic rule and support of human rights, he said.
Weizsacker addressed 25 members of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, who came to Bonn to present the German chief of state with ADL’s Joseph Prize for human rights, the first time the award has gone to a German.
ADL National Chairman Burton Levinson, who made the presentation, praised Weizsacker for “encouraging his countrymen to examine their responsibility for the Nazi era and the horrors it spawned.
“What he has done is the best possible answer to that shameful movement, which strives to efface the memory of genocide from the mind of mankind,” Levinson declared.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL, observed that “as a survivor of the Holocaust, I come to this ceremony with a great deal of emotional baggage.
“But your words, however, have touched the heart of every Jew. I thank you for forcing others to face the truth.”
Weizsacker greeted the ADL delegation at the Villa Hammerschmidt, the president’s official residence.
The German president told them, “You have come to Europe at a time when the basic ADL philosophy is coming to life,” an apparent reference to the movement for democratic reforms sweeping Eastern European countries.
The reforms in East Germany, particularly the opening of the Berlin Wall, have focused world attention on the possibility that the two Germanys may be united in the near future.
West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl has offered a 20-point proposal for reunification.
Weizsacker told his guests, “I know it is not easy to envisage the outcome of the unification of 75 million Germans. But on the other hand, those engaged in democratic reforms cannot but welcome these movements.”
The ADL group has met here with the minister of justice and several senior officials of the Foreign Ministry and the Chancellor’s Office.
They will visit East Berlin on Thursday for a scheduled meeting with Hans Modrow, the newly elected prime minister of the German Democratic Republic.