November 26, 2010
Exposing Hitler’s diplomats
Third Reich’s Foreign Ministry was deeply involved in Holocaust.
ARIEH O’SULLIVAN THE MEDIA LINE
After the Second World War, members of the German Foreign Ministry actively pursued creating their image as bourgeois diplomats who toned down antisemitism and actively opposed Adolf Hitler and his Nazi policies. But a new report released this month shows that the German diplomatic corps and members of the Foreign Ministry were full participants in planning and carrying out the Final Solution.
“We found that diplomats were very cooperative within the machinery of National Socialist politics in every respect and that, after the war, they tried to invent this kind of a myth of a clean Foreign Ministry,” said Prof. Moshe Zimmermann, an Israeli historian and member of the five-member international research committee that drafted the report.
The 900-page report was released in Berlin under the title “The Ministry and the Past: German Diplomats in the Third Reich and the Federal Republic.” Zimmermann, a professor of German history at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said the report showed that diplomats at all levels not only defended Nazi antisemitism but helped disseminate the policy of destroying European Jewry.
The committee was established in 2005 at the request of then German foreign minister Joschka Fischer after he noted that an in-house newsletter had been printing obituaries of diplomats who had been members of the Nazi party, but had omitted their involvement in war crimes.
“For years, the German Foreign Ministry strove to create an image among the German public that it served as a reasonable influence in everything concerned with the Jewish issue and crimes against humanity during the Second World War,” Zimmermann said in a telephone interview from Berlin.
“If you had an image of respectable bourgeois and you misuse this image in order to describe the Foreign Ministry, which was full of the bourgeois and people of the upper class, then it is easy to present history in the way you want to,” he continued. “And, I am also amazed at the fact that, in spite of the work done by historians and despite the outcome of different Nuremberg trials, that somehow, the image reinvented itself again and again.”
Zimmermann said that the memoirs of the former diplomats created the image that they had been forced to serve in the Nazi system but had been trying to undermine it from within.
“There is a saying that the exception to the rule just confirms the rule. The truth is that the number of people who really belonged to the opposition of Hitler was really minimal. There were two who participated in the plot against Hitler in 1944 and there were a handful who tried to save Jews. But this was negligible,” Zimmermann said. “The hardcore and the great number of people who were in the diplomatic service were observing the Nazi racist policy in its most extreme way.”
The report, for example, found that German Foreign Ministry “experts on Jewish issues” had preceded even Hitler in planning the persecution of Jews outside of Germany. Other findings showed that Third Reich diplomats were actively involved in the murder of the Jews of Yugoslavia.
Furthermore, the report also revealed that many of the people continued to serve in the diplomatic corps when the German
Foreign Ministry was re-established in 1951. Once in place, these diplomats used their posts to help other former Nazis flee to South America and Arab countries and escape Allied justice.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle of the Free Democratic Party has announced that he will incorporate the study into the training of diplomats. The other members of the investigation committee included Norbert Frei and Eckart Conze of Germany and Peter Hayes of Chicago.
Zimmermann said he expected greater interest in the German media, particularly about the diplomats who continued serving in the federal republic formed in 1951 who had Nazi pasts.