Nazi flag, Nazi Germany AP
Nazi officers salute the Nazi swastika flag during a joint parade in Brest-Litovsk celebrating Hitler's invasion of Poland, 1939. Photo by AP

Germany's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday it was removing from its walls all portraits of pre-1951 ambassadors in a bid to eliminate associations with the
Nazi era and would also have them taken away from embassies.

Holocaust survivors welcomed the decision, calling it "a symbolic signal of modern Germany's moral and political maturity", said Elan Steinberg, Vice-President of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants.

The decision follows the publication of a book which reveals the ministry played a more active role in the Holocaust than previously thought.

"The intention is to only include the portraits of diplomats sent abroad since the Foreign Office was re-established in 1951 -- as is the case already at the Foreign Office headquarters," the spokesman said.

Steinberg told Reuters on Wednesday that removing portraits "demonstrates that present-day Germany is serious in its efforts to painfully and honestly confront its dark past".

The ministry said portraits of post-1951 ambassadors who had a Nazi past should carry explanatory captions.