Germany’s foreign service played an active role in Nazi crimes under Adolf Hitler and continued to employ diplomats tied to the regime after World War II, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said today in Berlin.
Westerwelle was scheduled to speak at an event marking the publication of a history of the ministry’s role in the Third Reich commissioned in 2005. The book, titled “The Ministry and the Past: German Diplomats in the Third Reich and the Federal Republic,” debunks postwar assumptions that Nazi-era diplomats played a minor role in crimes or even resisted the regime.
“The Foreign Ministry was directly complicit in the brutal policies of the Nazi regime and was informed at an early stage of Germany’s criminal war practices,” Westerwelle said at the ministry, according to a speech text sent by email. “It participated in the systematic extermination of European Jews with administrative coldness.”
In the study published this week, four independent historians illuminate the role of the German diplomatic corps under Hitler and his foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, as well as the degree to which Nazis remained employed at the ministry after the war.
Diplomatic training from the mid-1930s included attending a reception with Hitler in his Alpine getaway and a visit to Dachau concentration camp, the 900-page study revealed.
Westerwelle referred to the discovery of a 1941 travel expense from Franz Rademacher, the ministry official responsible for implementing Hitler’s anti-Semitic policies. The purpose of his trip was the “liquidation of Jews in Belgrade,” he wrote.
“The unimaginable became reality,” Westerwelle said. “In this Foreign Ministry, one could write off murder as a business expense.”
Following the Nazi defeat and the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, about 40 percent of the reconstituted ministry’s staff in Bonn were one-time Nazi party members. Diplomats included Herbert Mueller-Roschach, who planned the transport of Jews around eastern Europe during the war. He was ambassador to Portugal from 1966 to 1969.
Westerwelle called the history, written by Eckart Conze, Norbert Frei, Peter Hayes and Moshe Zimmermann, a “necessary book” that would become required reading for future German diplomats.
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