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[ ] Ronald Reagan’s Remarks at a Joint German-American Ceremony at­ Bitburg Air Base in the Federal Republic of Germany May 5, 1985 Thank you very much. I have just come from the cemetery where German war dead lay at rest. No one could visit there without deep and conflicting emotions. I felt great sadness that history could be filled with such waste, destruction, and evil but my heart was also lifted by the knowledge that from the ashes has come hope and that from the terrors of the past we have built 40 years of peace, freedom, and reconciliation among our nations. This visit has stirred many emotions in the American and German people, too. I’ve received many letters since first deciding to come to Bitburg cemetery;some supportive,others deeply concerned and questioning , and others opposed. Some old wounds have been reopened, and this I regret very much because this should be a time of healing. To the veterans and families of American servicemen who still carry the scars and feel the painful losses of that war, our gesture of reconciliation with the German people today in no way minimizes our love and [ ] remarks at bitburg honor for those who fought and died for our country. They gave their lives to rescue freedom in its darkest hour. The alliance of democratic nationsthatguardsthefreedomof millionsinEuropeandAmericatoday stands as living testimony that their noble sacrifice was not in vain. No,their sacrifice was not in vain.I have to tell you that nothing will ever fill me with greater hope than the sight of two former war heroes who met today at the Bitburg ceremony; each among the bravest of the brave; each an enemy of the other 40 years ago; each a witness to the horrors of war. But today they came together, American and German , General Matthew B. Ridgway and General Johannes Steinhoff, reconciled and united for freedom. They reached over the graves to one another like brothers and grasped their hands in peace. To the survivors of the Holocaust: Your terrible suffering has made you ever vigilant against evil. Many of you are worried that reconciliation means forgetting.Well, I promise you, we will never forget. I have just come this morning from Bergen-Belsen, where the horror of that terrible crime, the Holocaust, was forever burned upon my memory. No,we will never forget,and we say with the victims of that Holocaust: Never again. The war against one man’s totalitarian dictatorship was not like other wars. The evil war of Nazism turned all values upside down. Nevertheless, we can mourn the German war dead today as human beings crushed by a vicious ideology. There are over 2,000 buried in Bitburg cemetery. Among them are 48 members of the SS—the crimes of the SS must rank among the most heinous in human history—but others buried there were simply soldiers in the German Army. How many were fanatical followers of a dictator and willfully carried out his cruel orders? And how many were conscripts, forced into service during the death throes of the Nazi war machine. We do not know. Many, however, we know from the dates on their tombstones, were only teenagers at the time. There is one boy buried there who died a week before his 16th birthday. There were thousands of such soldiers to whom Nazism meant no more than a brutal end to a short life. We do not believe in collective guilt.Only God can look into the human heart,and all these men have [ ] remarks at bitburg now met their supreme judge, and they have been judged by Him as we shall all be judged. Our duty today is to mourn the wreckage of totalitarianism, and today in Bitburg cemetery we commemorated the good in humanity that was consumed back then, 40 years ago. Perhaps if that 15-yearold soldier had lived, he would have joined his fellow countrymen in building this new democratic Federal Republic of Germany, devoted to human dignity and the defense of freedom that we celebrate today. Or perhaps his children or his grandchildren might be among you here today at BitburgAir Base,where new generations of Germans and Americans join together in friendship and common cause, dedicating their lives to preserving peace and guarding the security of the free world. Too often in the past each war only planted the seeds of the next. We celebrate today the reconciliation between our two nations...


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