The World Jewish Congress vowed today to try to prevent President Reagan from entering the Bergen-Belsen death camp unless he scraps plans to visit the Bitburg cemetery where Nazi Waffen SS members are buried.
Kalman Sultanik, vice president of the organization, told the West German news agency DPA that “only with the help of police” will Reagan be able to enter Bergen-Belsen as planned Sunday unless he gives up his controversial plan to go to the German military cemetery.
Sultanik indicated that protesters will try to block Reagan’s way at the camp if the Bitburg visit, also planned for Sunday, goes ahead.
Reagan and the West German government have insisted that the Bergen-Belsen visit--which was added to the presidential itinerary after the Bitburg outcry erupted--and the cemetery wreath-laying ceremony will take place as planned to symbolize reconciliation with the German people.
Tens of thousands of Jews, Russians and Gypsies died at Bergen-Belsen in World War II, including Anne Frank, a 14-year-old Dutch Jewish girl who wrote a famous diary during her years in hiding.
Jews from around the world as well as American veterans are incensed that Reagan plans to lay a wreath at the Bitburg cemetery, which contains the graves of 49 Waffen SS soldiers.
Sultanik said he met with Chancellor Helmut Kohl at an April 21 ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of Bergen-Belsen’s liberation and urged him to cancel the Bitburg visit on the ground that Reagan cannot honor SS troops and their victims at the same time.
“In the eyes of Jews, this is a gross injury to the memory of the victims,” he said.