German ministry's Nazi past exposed in new book

Mon Oct 25, 2010 7:54am EDT
 
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By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN (Reuters) - 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 sympathizers 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 organization," Conze told news magazine Der Spiegel on Monday. He said everyone in the ministry, known as "foreign office" in German, knew that Jews were being murdered in eastern Europe.

DIPLOMATS WITH NAZI PASTS

Fischer set up the historians' commission after he was criticized 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.   Continued...