Protest Bitburg Ceremonies at U.S. Military Cemeteries in EuropeAP , Associated Press
May. 5, 1985 5:02 PM ET
HENRI-CHAPELLE, BELGIUM HENRI-CHAPELLE, Belgium (AP) _ New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg and two rabbis from California made separate visits Sunday to U.S. military cemeteries to mark their opposition to President Reagan's presence at a German military cemetery.
''Today we missed the president to be in an American cemetery,'' said Lautenberg, a Democrat, after laying wreaths on the graves of three New Jersey soldiers buried with 7,986 other Americans at Henri-Chapelle, the largest U.S. military cemetery in Belgium.
At the same time in Luxembourg, a delegation from the Simon Wiesenthal Center in California including Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the center, and Rabbi Abraham Cooper accompanied U.S. Ambassador John E. Doliblois in a wreath-laying ceremony at the U.S. military cemetery near Luxembourg City.
Lautenberg, who had visited the former Nazi concentration camp of Dachau on Saturday, flew here on a private plane. He was accompanied by Poland-born Morris Glass from Randolph, N.J., a survivor of the Dachau and Auschwitz death camps.
Lautenberg placed wreaths on the graves of one Jewish and two Christian soldiers. A total of 297 New Jersey men are buried at Henri-Chappelle. The names of 11 others whose bodies are missing are engraved on a monument.
There are 7,989 U.S. soldiers buried in Henri-Chapelle, most of them killed during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.
''These boys resting here are the real victims of the Nazis,'' Lautenberg said. ''It is very symbolic.''
Some 350 people, including former concentration camp prisoners, attended the ceremony at the Luxembourg cemetery.
Rabbi Hier, in his address, said, ''Let there be no confusion. Those interred here in the American cemetery fought and died for the principles of the Judeo-Christian civilization. Those buried at Bitburg fought to end it.''
He was referring to the Germany military cemetery at Bitburg that President Reagan visited on Sunday with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
''There was no confusion when these boys who are buried here took up their call and so let there be no confusion now,'' said Hier. ''These men would have died in vain if the policies they sought to defeat were dignified or, God forbid, rehabilitated.
''Therefore we say today it is no sin to protest this dishonor ... to them on this 40th anniversary. So long as tales are told and words have meaning, for so long will freedom-loving people everywhere bless the memories of these noble souls who cleansed God's earth of the scourge that was Nazi Germany.''
Doliblois told Hier afterwards, ''There is no confusion in my mind,'' and he asked the rabbi for a copy of his speech, saying he would send it to Reagan.
After the ceremony, the members from the Simon Wiesenthal Center went to Bitburg to join a protest against Reagan's visit.