While President Reagan visits the graves of German military war dead Sunday in Bitburg, West Germany, Orange County's Jewish community, along with church leaders, will demonstrate its opposition in a ceremony at Harbor Lawn Cemetery in Costa Mesa.
The ceremony will honor American veterans and mark the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps in April, 1945, said Don Shapiro, a spokesman for Jewish War Veterans in Orange County. He called the visit a "misguided action" and added, "I personally wouldn't like to see the President lay a wreath on the grave of any enemy soldier. I wouldn't want him to lay a wreath on the grave of the Japanese soldiers who bombed Pearl Harbor."
Critics Focus on SS Graves
The cemetery contains the graves of some the Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS) troops, and critics of the visit have focused on this. Cheri Kessner of the Jewish Federation of Orange County, organizers of Sunday's ceremony, said she wouldn't oppose a Reagan visit to the graves of Wermacht (German army) soldiers but finds a visit to burial sites of Hitler's elite SS troops unconscionable, "not only because of all the atrocities they committed in the concentration camps but also for what they did to American soldiers," she said.