German ministry's Nazi past exposed

2010-10-25 16:36
Berlin - Germany's foreign office played a far more active role in the Holocaust than previously known and remained a haven for former Nazi diplomats for decades after the war, according to a new book to be released on Thursday.

Das Amt und die Vergangenheit (The Office and the Past) chronicles how the foreign ministry was aware of the Nazi mass murder of Jews and was "actively involved", debunking a myth that most diplomats had managed to keep their hands clean.

The book, which was causing a media stir in Germany ahead of its Thursday release, also shows how former Nazi officers and sympathisers kept their jobs after the war and how the respected foreign ministry managed to cover up the dark past for decades.

Even though Germany has subjected the Nazi era to intense scrutiny at different stages since 1945, the foreign ministry was largely immune. That changed in 2005 when then-foreign minister Joschka Fischer demanded the examination.

"The Foreign Office took part in Nazi crimes and was, as an institution, even involved in the murder of Jews," said Eckart Conze, one of four historians commissioned by Fischer to study the ministry's Third Reich history for the new book.

"You can indeed say that the foreign office was a criminal organisation," Conze told news magazine Der Spiegel on Monday.

Diplomats with Nazi pasts

Fischer set up the historians' commission after he was criticised by retired diplomats for banning obituaries in the ministry's internal newsletter for former Nazis after it ran a tribute to a retired foreign service officer, Franz Nuesslein.

A Nazi prosecutor who signed death warrants in occupied Czechoslovakia, Nuesslein rose through the ranks after 1945.

More than 100 retired and current diplomats were outraged when the ministry newsletter later refused to publish an obituary for another ex-diplomat with a Nazi past, Franz Krapf.

The probe of the ministry's history was also sparked by a 2004 book about a mid-tier diplomat named Fritz Kolbe.

After the war Kolbe was denied his job at the ministry and branded a traitor because he had been a spy for the Allies. The ministry officials who denied Kolbe a job were former Nazis.

Kolbe, who passed 1 600 secret Nazi documents to US spies, was named the most important spy of the war by an ex-CIA head.


Fischer, who called Kolbe's post-war treatment shameful, told Der Spiegel that reading the new book made him "feel ill".

In the new 880-page book to be presented at the foreign ministry, the historians found that "the diplomats were in the picture about the policies towards Jews at all times", and were "actively involved" in mass murder "across Europe".

Conze said one diplomat wrote on his expense report the purpose of his journey: "Liquidating Jews in Belgrade."

"Everyone in the accounting department at the ministry knew what was going on," Conze said. He said ministry officials, for instance, were involved in negotiations to deport Jews in countries such as Greece, France, Serbia and Hungary.

'Honest, painful look at past'

The authors found that post-war West German leaders from Konrad Adenauer to Willy Brandt allowed diplomats with Nazi pasts to remain in their posts. Many were often posted to Arab nations or Latin America because public protests were rare.

According to Conze, in 1950-51 more than 40% of the ministry's top posts were filled by ex-Nazi party members - more than there had been in 1938-39. In 1943, 573 of the ministry's 706 top officials were party members, he added.

Fischer and the book were praised by the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants.

"Germany has taken an honest and painful look at its past," said Elan Steinberg, vice president of the US organisation, said in a statement.

"Previous efforts to whitewash the role of the foreign ministry and its personnel in the crimes of the Holocaust are now categorically refuted."

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
Read more on:    germany  |  nazi crimes
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

LIVE: Springboks 14-0 USA
No England contact for White
Boks: Coenie ‘worst dresser’
Think Tank: Why are the minnows so much better?
Traffic Alerts

Relationships and significant connections may play an important role in your day today. Let the warmth of the Leo moon inspire more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.