From the horrors of Nazism to the slaying of American hostage Leon Klinghoffer, continuing terrorism makes it imperative to remember "what human beings can do to other human beings," government and Jewish leaders said Wednesday in breaking ground for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
"Terror must be fought wherever it is aimed against innocent civilians," Elie Wiesel, chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council and survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, told a somber audience of about 400 people.
He declared: "Individual terror that cost the life of an old Jewish invalid is today as abhorrent as state terror was when, from Hitler's Berlin, it dominated part of Europe from 1933 to 1945."
Victim of Hijackers
Wiesel and other speakers at the ground-breaking ceremonies frequently invoked the name of Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound New Yorker who was murdered last week by the Palestinian hijackers of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) noted: "Think of the fate of Leon Klinghoffer, lest we forget what happened. This museum reminds us what happened. This museum will remind us that this could happen to any one of us."
The museum overlooking the Washington Monument, scheduled to open in early 1989, will stand as a memorial to 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of others who died at the hands of the Nazis. Construction of the 300,000-square-foot building, which is being erected on federal land with private funds, began Oct. 4.
In a letter read at Wednesday's ceremony, President Reagan addressed the concern that the museum is being placed too close to the national monuments.
'Lessons of Totalitarianism'
"When, in the years to come, our children emerge from this museum with the lessons of totalitarianism fresh in their minds, those soaring white monuments to democracy, justice and freedom under God will gleam all the more brightly in the sunlight of freedom," Reagan said.
He added, "Today, much of the world still struggles to rid itself of the rule of godless tyrants and murderers. This memorial will stand always to remind us of the nobility of that struggle and the perils we face if we remain indifferent."
Similarly, Wiesel said: "Learn what human beings can do to other human beings. Learn the limits of humanity. Learn, and hope is possible--forget, and despair is inevitable."
At the ceremony, earth from five European concentration camps and the Warsaw Jewish Cemetery was mixed into the foundation of the memorial and those attending the service said kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.
The museum will seek to use "the notion of allowing us to understand who was destroyed by showing who they were," according to Mark E. Talisman, vice chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. "It is not going to be a museum of blood and gore. The destruction is put in a context people can understand--by names and faces and how people lived."
The museum's fund-raising campaign has raised about $45 million in contributions and pledges so far, national campaign director David Weinstein said. A total of $100 million is needed, he said.