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Honecker Meets With Jewish Leader

October 17, 1988 GMT

BERLIN (AP) _ The president of the World Jewish Congress and East German leader Erich Honecker on Monday discussed efforts to fight anti-Semitism.

Neither side would comment publicly on a plan for East Germany to aid Holocaust victims.

Before the meeting, Edgar M. Bronfman said he hoped a final decision could be reached during his visit on reparations to Jewish victims of Nazi persecution.

But the state-run news agency ADN, in several extensive dispatches, made no mention of discussions about compensation.

Bronfman also refused specific comment on the issue, saying only that the talk was ″pleasant, very warm and very cordial.″

″We agreed on all the fundamentals,″ he said, adding that details of the discussions would be announced Tuesday.

Bronfman has said that an admission of shared responsibility for the Holocaust was as important as financial contributions to victims.

ADN said Honecker told Bronfman of East Germany’s efforts to educate its young people about the horrors of Nazi Germany.

″The struggle against racism and anti-Semitism belongs to the anti-fascist tradition of East Germany,″ Honecker was quoted as saying. ″We will never forget that many Jews, together with communists and Social Democrats ... were active in the struggle against the Nazi dictatorship.″

ADN quoted Bronfman as telling Honecker that ″I believe that today we have built a bridge.″

The news agency said Bronfman thanked Honecker for recent government efforts on the part of Jews, including funding for the reconstruction of an East Berlin synagogue.

After Bronfman arrived Sunday, he told The Associated Press he believed the East German leadership was sincere in offering reparations.

Such an agreement would mark a major change in the communist nation’s previous policies.

″I’m optimistic,″ he said. ″What is at stake here is moral culpability.″

More than 6 million Jews were killed during Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, a fact that East Germany does not dispute. Since its founding in 1949, however, East Germany has argued that it bears no reponsibility for Nazi atrocities because the nation was born after World War II ended.

In past months, East German media have reported on government efforts to improve relations with East Berlin’s Jewish community.

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In June, East Germany said it was willing to provide ″humanitarian aid″ to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, but negotiations have continued on the reparations themselves.

West Berlin Jewish leaders have said that East Germany has been considering paying up to $100 million.

In 1952, West Germany signed an agreement with the World Jewish Congress to compensate Holocaust victims and families. Since then, West Germany has paid more than $48 billion to Holocaust survivors worldwide.

West Germany also was founded in 1949.

Bronfman also planned to meet with leaders of East Berlin’s tiny Jewish community before departing Tuesday. There are an estimated 450-600 practicing Jews in East Germany.