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German Officials Urging Jewish Groups to Reconsider Holding Protests at Bitburg or Bergen-belsen

May 2, 1985
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

West German officials are urging the World Jewish Congress and other Jewish organizations to reconsider plans to hold protest demonstrations at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp site or the Bitburg military cemetery when President Reagan and Chancellor Helmut Kohl visit there Sunday.

The Jewish groups have been warned that demonstrations may provoke clashes between Jewish activists and police. The warnings are seen here as a clear message to Jews that nothing they do will deter Reagan and Kohl from honoring German war dead, including Waffen SS, at Bitburg, and could only lead to trouble.

At the same time, un-named German “personalities” were reported to have called privately on Jewish leaders, also unidentified, to use their influence with the World Jewish Congress and other Jewish groups that plan protest demonstrations at Bergen-Belsen, Bitburg or elsewhere.


Jewish groups and individuals from the U.S., France, other European countries and Israel are known to be planning protests at Bergen-Belsen. Despite the almost universal anger and anguish of Jews throughout the world over Reagan’s plans to place a wreath at a cemetery containing the remains of SS men, the West German Jewish community, headed by Werner Nachmann, apparently intends to participate with Reagan and Kohl in the ceremonies at Bergen-Belsen Sunday.

Jewish protestors have said that Reagan should stay away from Bergen-Belsen if he also goes to Bitburg because he would thereby desecrate the sanctity of the mass graves at the concentration camp site.

The West German authorities are imposing the strictest security measures at Bergen-Belsen and Bitburg and are trying to limit media coverage, at least at the latter site. Only a small number of reporters will be allowed into the cemetery when Reagan is there. It is already heavily guarded by police.

Several hundred visitors, many of them reporters, have converged on Bitburg and the Eifel mountains near Frankfurt. German police are said to suspect that at least some of the visitors are would-be protestors who may be planning violent demonstrations.

This is a nightmare that has haunted the German authorities ever since the controversy over Bitburg developed. Any incidents, particularly the spectacle of German police clashing with Jewish protestors, would be disastrous for Germany’s image and could turn the Reagan trip into a public relations catastrophe.

Meanwhile, Reagan’s official itinerary was released here today. He will arrive at Bergen-Belsen Sunday at 11:35 a.m. local time. He will then visit the documentation center, the memorial and the Jewish monument.

Reagan and his party will walk back to the main memorial where the President and Chancellor Kohl will deliver speeches. At 1:15 p.m. local time, Reagan and Kohl will fly to Bitburg where they will land at the U.S. Air Force base in the nearby town of Eifel. Reagan will then visit the Bitburg cemetery where he will place a wreath at the memorial monument at 2:45 p.m. After that he will return to the air base to inspect U.S. and German troops.

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