Reagan Apologizes to Girl for Out-of-Context Bitburg Quote
A Jewish girl who complained that President Reagan misquoted her during his West German cemetery visit has received a letter from Reagan, who said “I humbly apologize” for a mistake he blamed on a well-meaning aide.
Reagan admitted he misrepresented a message from 13-year-old Beth Flom in a speech after his controversial May 5 visit to the Bitburg cemetery, where 49 members of Hitler’s Waffen SS are buried among 2,000 other German soldiers.
Reagan said during the speech that Beth had supported his decision to lay a wreath at the cemetery honoring “the future of Germany.” But the girl had said she made it clear in a telex she sent Reagan on April 21 that she disapproved of the visit.
The visit especially angered Jews and veterans and prompted Reagan to add a visit to the site of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
“I hope I haven’t caused you any embarrassment and if I have, I humbly apologize. You were more than kind and I am truly grateful,” Reagan said in the 1-page letter.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get to read your entire message until after my return from Europe, which explains the out-of-context quote,” he wrote. “One of our people, meaning to be helpful, forwarded the quote I used without reference to the rest of your telegram.”
Beth had suggested in her telex that if Reagan nevertheless made the visit, the wreath should be laid “in honor of the future of Germany.”