Reagan Bars Focus on Past in Skipping Dachau Visit
President Reagan said Thursday that he has decided not to visit the site of a Nazi concentration camp during his trip to Europe next month because he wants to focus on peace rather than the past.
He added that he believes West Germany’s present sense of collective guilt for the Holocaust of World War II, in which millions of Jews were killed, is “unnecessary.”
Reagan will be in Europe for ceremonies to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of the war, and some Jewish organizations had suggested that he visit the concentration camp at Dachau, just north of Munich.
“I feel very strongly that this time, in commemorating the end of that great war, that instead of reawakening the memories, . . . we should observe this day as the day when 40 years ago peace began,” Reagan told reporters at his Thursday evening press conference.
He said he had discussed the visit with Helmut Kohl and remarked that the West German chancellor “felt the same way--that we could observe this as the beginning of peace and friendship between us.”
“They have a feeling, a guilt feeling that’s been imposed upon them, and I just think it’s unnecessary,” Reagan said of the West Germans. “I think they should be recognized for the democracy that they’ve created and the democratic principles they now espouse.”
In an aside, the President suggested that among the German population, there are “very few alive that remember even the war, and certainly none of them who were adults and participating in any way.” In fact, however, thousands of Nazi war veterans are still alive. Chancellor Kohl was 15 when the war ended.
Kohl Plans Visit
West German officials have said they had gently urged Reagan not to visit Dachau because Kohl plans to visit another concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen in northwest Germany, next month along with the chief rabbi of Berlin. The West German officials said they were afraid a Reagan visit might dilute the impact of the chancellor’s visit.