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Feelings of Outrage in Israel over Reagan’s Visit to a German Cemetery

April 19, 1985
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The White House announcement that President Reagon, after all, will visit a concentration camp site when he is in West Germany next month, has not reduced the feelings of outrage here over the President’s decision to place a wreath at a German war cemetery where members of the notorious Waffen SS–the executioners of the “Final Solution”–are buried.

The shock and anger aroused by Reagan’s plans was expressed by national leaders Wednesday night and Thursday as Israel began its annual Yom Sho’ ah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. It was marked from sundown Wednesday to nightfall Thursday with flags at half mast, all restaurants and places of entertainment closed and radio and television devoted to music and broadcasts related to the Holocaust.

At noon Thursday, air raid sirens wailing all over the country brought traffic to a halt. Drivers and pedestrians alike stood for two minutes of silence with bowed heads remembering the six million Jewish victims of the Nazi regime.


Former President Yitzhak Navon, presently Minister of Education, told a Holocaust memorial service that Reagan’s advisers had let him down very badly by suggesting that a visit to a concentration camp site would balance one to a Wehrmacht cemetery. There can be no mixing or mingling of the two commemorations, Navon said.

Premier Shimon Peres, addressing the main memorial service at the Yad Vashem Wednesday night, was oblique in his criticism of the President. While one can be reconciled with one’s enemies, there can be no reconciliation “with evil. There is no cause to tear off the yellow star,” he declared.

Yitzhak Arad, chairman of the Yad Vashem, urged Reagan to cancel his visit to the German military cemetery at Bitburg where SS men are buried. He said the visit would only be exploited by those around the world who try to deny that the Holocaust ever occurred. Gideon Housner, chairman of the Yad Vashem’s International Council who prosecuted war criminal Adolf Eichmann in 1961, stressed in his address the deliberate failure of the United States and Britain to try to save victims of the Holocaust from death.

Peres, in his address, observed that the Holocaust victims were helpless because for them there was no sovereign Jewish State to flee to. In our own time, he said, the situation is deteriorating for South American Jewry and they should choose to settle in Israel while they can. He said Israelis must be prepared to lower their living standards for a long time in order to provide the resources for immigrant absorption.

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