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Germany’s President Criticizes Nation’s Indifference to Crimes Committed by Nazis Against Jews

May 9, 1985
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The President of the Federal Republic, Richard Von Weizsaecker, today sharply criticized the indifference of the German public, including his own generation, to the unprecedented crimes committed by the Nazis against European Jews. He said many more Germans had knowledge of the sufferings of the Jews than were willing to admit it after the end of World War II.

Weizsaecker made his remarks in an address to a joint session of the two houses of the West German Parliament — the Bundestag and Bundesrat — in what was seen as an attempt to ease the pain caused Jews here and abroad by the visit President Reagan and Chancellor Helmut Kohl made to the military cemetery at Bitburg Sunday where members of the Waffen SS are buried along with other German war dead.

Weizsaecker, who is said to have been personally troubled by Kohl’s insistence that Reagan visit Bitburg, described the 40th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe as a day both of liberation from Nazi terror and mourning for the millions who perished in death camps. In listing the victims of the Nazis he referred first to the six million Jews, followed by Russians, Poles and others.

He said that the actual killing of Jews was done by a relatively few and was widely concealed from the public. Nevertheless, he added, every German could see how the Jews had been persecuted. “Who could remain innocent after the synagogues went up in flames, after the sacking of Jewish businesses, after the stigmatization (of the Jews) with the yellow star?” he asked.

Everyone knew that the trains loaded with Jews went eastward, Weizsaecker said. “When at the end of the war the whole truth about the Holocaust emerged, many, too many, justified themselves by saying that they knew nothing, or even did not suspect anything.” He added that while there was no collective guilt, all Germans are burdened with the consequences of Nazi crimes and must be held liable. (By David Kantor)

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