Partial text of West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's speech to German and American families at U.S. Air Force base here:
It is not often that the link between the past, present and future of our country reaches as vividly as during these hours at Bitburg.
A few minutes ago, the president of the United States of America and I paid homage on the military cemetery to the dead buried there and thus to all victims of war and tyranny, to the dead and persecuted of all nations.
Our visit to the soldiers' graves here in Bitburg was not an easy one. It could not help but arouse deep feelings. For me it meant first and foremost deep sorrow and grief at the infinite suffering that the war and totalitarianism inflicted on nations, sorrow and grief that will never cease.
Stemming from them is our commitment to peace and freedom as the supreme goal of our political actions. And the visit to the graves in Bitburg is also a reaffirmation and a widely visible and widely felt gesture of reconciliation between our peoples . . . , reconciliation that does not dismiss the past but enables us to overcome it by acting together.
Finally, our presence here testifies to our friendship, which has proved to be steadfast and reliable and is based on our belief in shared values.
I thank you, Mr. President, both on behalf of the whole German people, and I thank you very personally as a friend, for visiting the graves with me. I believe that many of our German people understand this expression of deep friendship, and that it forbodes a good future for our nations.
The town of Bitburg witnessed at first hand the collapse of the Third Reich. It suffered the year 1945. It was part of the reconstruction in the years of reconcilation.
For 25 years now, Bitburg has been the site of joint ceremonies in which American, French and German soldiers and citizens of this town and region commemorate the victims of the war and time and again affirm their friendship and their determination to preserve peace jointly.
Here, close and friendly relations have evolved in a special way in these years between the U.S. forces and the German population.
Bitburg can be regarded as a symbol of reconciliation and of German-American friendship . . . .