TEL AVIV — President Chaim Herzog announced Tuesday that next year he will make the first visit to West Germany by an Israeli head of state, but some Jewish legislators complained it was too soon after the Nazi massacre of Jews in World War II.
"The president believes that the visit can strengthen consciousness of the (Nazi) Holocaust, which he feels has diminished in recent years," Herzog's office said in a statement reacting to the outburst of criticism.
"President Herzog, who fought the Nazis and took an active part in the overthrow of Nazi Germany and the freeing of those Jews still in captivity, intends that the visit should have a symbolic character of remembrance," the statement said.
The Northern Ireland-born Herzog served in the British army during World War II in campaigns in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
As a major in British military intelligence, he was the first Jewish officer to enter the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp after it was liberated on April 15, 1945--the first Nazi camp to be opened by the Allies.
The proposed trip, approved unanimously by the Cabinet, will reciprocate for a ground-breaking visit here in October, 1985, by West German President Richard von Weizsaecker.
Herzog's spokesman, Ami Gluska, said his itinerary would include Bergen-Belsen near Hanover, where tens of thousands of Jews died between 1943 and 1945.
Dates Not Final
He said the president would also visit Switzerland, but that exact dates had yet to be decided. State radio said the trip will take place in April.
The announcement sparked anger among some prominent Israeli survivors of the Nazi persecution of the Jews.
"I don't believe my ears," said right-wing Likud member of parliament Eliahu Ben-Elissar, who fled Nazi-occupied Poland in 1942. "The time has not come yet. Sometime. I don't know when, but not in this generation."