On the 112th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth, we commemorate his many monumental accomplishments as the greatest president of the past century. But it is also a good occasion for correcting the record regarding the persistent, never-ending efforts to obscure those accomplishments with misleading smears. One attack on Reagan that has grown in the telling over the years is the claim that he invented a wartime story about having been present at the liberation of the Nazi death camps. The problem: The actual evidence of Reagan saying this is vague, thirdhand, and contradicted on the record by people who were there. It is also inconsistent with Reagan’s own public accounts of how he first came to see the reality of the Holocaust on film.
I'm horrified today when I know and hear that there are actually people now trying to say that the Holocaust was invented, that it never happened, that there weren't 6 million people whose lives were taken cruelly and needlessly in that event, that all of this is propaganda. Well, the old cliche that a picture's worth a thousand words -- in World War II, not only do we have the survivors today to tell us at first hand, but in World War II, I was in the military and assigned to a post where every week, we obtained from every branch of the service all over the world the combat film that was taken by every branch. And we edited this into a secret report for the general staff. We, of course, had access to and saw that secret report.
And I remember April '45. I remember seeing the first film that came in when the war was still on, but our troops had come upon the first camps and had entered those camps. And you saw, unretouched -- no way that it could have ever been rehearsed -- what they saw, the horror they saw. I felt the pride when, in one of those camps, there was a nearby town, and the people were ordered to come and look at what had been going on, and to see them. And the reaction of horror on their faces was the greatest proof that they had not been conscious of what was happening so near to them.
And that film still, I know, must exist in the military, and there it is, living motion pictures, for anyone to see, and I won't go into the horrible scenes that we saw. But it remains with me as confirmation of our right to rekindle these memories, because we need always to guard against that kind of tyranny and inhumanity. Our spirit is strengthened by remembering, and our hope is in our strength.