Reviving a bitter, nine-month-old feud with West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin said today that Schmidt should "go down on his knees and ask the forgiveness of the Jewish people" for the Nazi extermination of Jews during World War II.
Reacting to a report in the Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonoth--it quoted Schmidt as saying in Paris yesterday that he would not visit Israel until Begin apologized for remarks last May--Begin repeated his previous accusation that the chancellor throughout the war had remained faithful to his oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler.
In Bonn, the West German government quickly denied the statement attributed to Schmidt by Yediot Aharonoth. The chancellor's office quoted spokesman Kurt Becker, who is in Paris with Schmidt, as saying the report was a "pure product of fantasy. The Chancellor has never made such a comment or any similar assessment."
Begin's statement, issued by his office, said Schmidt is the leader of a nation that "bears thehistoric responsibility for the extermination of 6million Jews, amongst them 1.5 million little children."
The rancor between the two leaders goes back to last May, when Schmidt, during a visit to Saudi Arabia, asserted that West Germany had a "moral obligation" to recognize Palestinian rights to an independent state. Schmidt also said the Palestinians would have to recognize the Israelis' right to a secure state.
At that time, Begin charged that Schmidt had "served in an army that was ordered to surround cities and maintain order while other special units entered to liquidate Jews."
Today, Begin urged Schmidt to "take an example from his predecessor, Mr. Willy Brandt, and visit Warsaw. Go to the site where the Jewish ghetto once stood and go down on your knees and ask the forgiveness of the Jewish people and all nations loving justice and liberty for what your country perpetrated under the National Socialist regime against my people."
Begin added, "At the time, Mr. Schmidt remained faithful to the personal oath he had given Adolf Hitler as a soldier, an officer of his army." Schmidt's service record included two years with an antiaircraft unit and a stint with the German Air Force high command as a junior officer.