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Bonn Government to Limit Media Coverage of Reagan’s Visit to Bitburg and to Keep Demonstrators As Fa

April 30, 1985
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Bonn government is making elaborate arrangements to limit media coverage of President Reagan’s visit to the military cemetery at Bitburg next Sunday and to keep demonstrators as far from the scene as possible, as well as counter demonstrators.

It was reported here today that the police have been instructed to keep away protestors against the President’s visit to the cemetery where 47 members of the notorious Waffen SS are buried among some 2,000 German war dead. Demonstrations at or near the site are planned by several groups, including Jewish Holocaust survivors and Jewish student groups.

The nature of the measures is not known. But the government appears also determined to head off organizations and individuals who plan to demonstrate against the protestors. Any incidents during Reagan’s visit would be a severe embarrassment to the government. They would further damage Germany’s image and German-American relations which have already been tarnished by the world-wide controversy surrounding Bitburg.


Although Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who will accompany Reagan to the cemetery has insisted that the visit will take place, officials at the Foreign Ministry here seem to be in a quandry. They are reportedly now openly hopeful that Mayor Theo Hallet of Bitburg will defuse the situation by withdrawing the town’s official invitation to Kohl and Reagan.

Hallet, a member of Kohl’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has warned that if the “press campaign” against his town continues, he would convene the town council to decide whether the visit should be cancelled.

According to some German diplomats, such a decision would be a graceful way out, though too late to patch up the considerable damage done so far. Hallet sent a telegram to Kohl today claiming that Bitburg had an anti-Nazi record. He did not elaborate. A similar telegram was sent by Prime Minister Bernhart Vogel of Rhineland Palatinate, the Federal State in which Bitburg is located.

Observers believe that Mayor Hallet and his town council would not act unless there was at least a tacit indication from Kohl that he does not object.

Willy Brandt, chairman of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD), said today that a better site could have been selected to demonstrate German-American reconciliation 40 years after the end of World War II. Mayor Manfred Rommel of Stuttgart, son of the late Field Marshal Irwin Rommel, said there was still time to find an alternative site.

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