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Some 150 Americans and Christians Sign Open Letter Urging Reagan Not to Visit the Bitburg Cemetery

April 29, 1985
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Some 150 “Americans and Christians” signed an “Open Letter to President Reagan” urging him to change his mind “and to choose instead of Bitburg another place that would be a clear and unmistakable symbol of reverence and reconciliation” with Germany. The letter appeared in several major newspapers today.

The signers stated that “we feel morally compelled to stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters and to express our profound disappointment over your decision to visit Bitburg cemetery where 47 members of the SS are buried.

“We are shocked by the insensitivity and inaccuracy of your explanation that the German soldiers buried there ‘were victims, just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps’.

“The failure to distinguish between perpetrators and victims, between the death of combatants in battle and the slaughter of innocents in the Nazi concentration camps does injustice not only to the memory of the dead but to the most basic tenets of Jewish and Christian morality.”

The signers suggested that instead of Bitburg, Reagan visit the home of the late Konrad Adenauer, “one of the architects of post-war Germany, or a visit to Flossenburg KZ, the place where the Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed. Both men were anti-Nazis and both men asserted their consciences over the demands of the state.”

Among the signers of the open letter were: Rt. Rev. Paul Moore, Jr., Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of New York; Jacqueline Wexler, president, National Conference of Christians and Jews; Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr., Riverside Church, N.Y.; Rev. John Pawlikowski, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago; Rev. Dr. A. Roy Eckardt, Lehigh University; Prof. Alice Eckardt, Lehigh University. Also Bayard Rustin, president, A. Philip Randolph Institute; John Jacob, president, National Urban League; Benjamin Hooks, executive director, NAACP; Wilburt Tatum, chairman, New York Amsterdam News; Prof. Terrence DesPres, Colgate University, Hamilton, N.Y.; Rt. Rev. John Coburn, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts; Sister Rose Thering, Seton Hall University; Rev. Malcolm Boyd, Sherman Oaks, Calif.; Rev. Robert Drinan, Georgetown University Law Center; Rev. Edward Flannery, Diocese of Providence, R.I.; and Rev. Dr. Franklin Littell, United Methodist Church.

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