The commanders of the five posts in the Orange County Council of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States have written President Reagan expressing “disbelief and horror” at the his decision to visit Bitburg Cemetery in West Germany next week.
In opposing the trip, the Orange County posts joined other Jewish organizations and veterans’ groups nationwide. Criticism of the planned visit has also come from Congress, Israel and several European countries.
The President plans to visit the cemetery with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and place a wreath at the World War II memorial there. Reportedly, 49 members of the Waffen SS--the combat arm of Hitler’s infamous security force--are buried at Bitburg, along with 2,000 other German soldiers killed in the war.
Sid Goldstein, commander of the 210-member Post 760, based in Midway City, said he and the commanders of posts 595 in Newport Beach-Costa Mesa, 175 in Buena Park, 680 in El Toro and 593 in Long Beach (part of the Orange County Council) are writing to the President to try to persuade him to change his mind.
In his letter to Reagan, Goldstein described the Waffen SS troops as “Hitler’s elite, who took the lives of 11 million poor souls in the most inhumane, cruel and macabre manner (and whose) total disregard for human life was demonstrated against U.S. soldiers.”
Goldstein, a retired U.S. Army major who also holds a Distinguished Service Cross, said the council’s 11-member Board of Directors voted unanimously to oppose the presidential visit.
The letter continues: “The U.S. Armed Forces, with our Allies, fought to destroy Hitler’s cancer in World War II. We must not honor the Nazi Waffen SS troops.” The letter says the visit would be tantamount to “a slap in the face to all U.S. veterans” as well as to the parents of soldiers who gave their lives fighting the Nazi menace.