The Bitburg controversy involved a ceremonial visit by U.S. President Ronald Reagan to a German military cemetery in Bitburg, a town in extreme western Germany near the border with Luxembourg, in May 1985, designed to commemorate the end of World War II in Europe 40 years earlier. The visit aroused considerable criticism, both in the United States and around the world, due to the many burial plots at the site dedicated to members of the Waffen-SS – a military arm of the Third Reich's SS . The Waffen-SS, alongside with the entire SS, was judged to be a criminal organisation by the Nuremberg trials. The controversy was compounded by the fact that Reagan did not originally intend to visit the sites of former Nazi concentration camps, though a trip to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was later added to the itinerary.
Reagan was scheduled to attend the G7 economic summit in Bonn the week of the 40th anniversary of V-E Day. West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl saw an opportunity to demonstrate the strength of the friendship that existed between Germany and its former foe. During a November 1984 visit to the White House, Kohl appealed to Reagan to join him in symbolizing the reconciliation of their two countries at a German military cemetery. It was suggested that the Kolmeshöhe Cemetery, near Bitburg, was both suitably close and relevant, as 11,000 Americans attached to a nearby airbase lived in harmony with the same number of Germans.
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