German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Thursday that the extent to which his ministry had colluded with Hitler's genocide of Jews was "shameful," as he was officially presented with a report prepared by historians.
The 500-page study strongly counters a previous myth that the Foreign Ministry had distanced itself from the atrocities of the Nazi regime from 1933-45.
"The Foreign Ministry was a part, an active part, of the criminal policies of the so-called Third Reich," Westerwelle said, adding that it was directly involved and informed of the methods of war.
"It was involved with an administrative chill in the systematic destruction of Europe's Jews," the foreign minister said, according to an advance transcript of his speech.
A Foreign Ministry exhibition on the report's findings includes ministerial documents on deportations of Jews from France and an expense form from a Nazi official in which the cited purpose of travel was the "liquidation of Jews."
Westerwelle said the study contained many other "shocking examples of the involvement of German diplomacy" in the Nazi annihilation programs.
"It shames us, how the Foreign Ministry and many of its associates brought heavy guilt upon themselves during the Nazi regime," Westerwelle said.
At the same time, he praised the few Foreign Ministry employees who openly opposed the Nazi atrocities, including 12 who were killed for their resistance.
Westerwelle also addressed the fact that former Nazi party members made up around 40 per cent of the ministry when it was reinstated after the war. By comparison, only one fifth of its employees had been persecuted in Hitler's Germany.
"Several of those who were involved before and during the war dreamt up a myth after the war," Westerwelle said. "This created a self-image according to which the Foreign Ministry was a haven of lingering but ultimately futile resistance to the regime."
The report, shattering that illusion 65 years after the end of World War II, was commissioned by former foreign minister Joschka Fischer in 2005 and compiled by an independent panel of historians.
Until then, the ministry had resisted efforts to uncover its wartime involvement, at a time when major German institutions funded such historical investigations to uncover and make amends for their own complicity in Nazi Germany.
Westerwelle said the report's findings would be a core part of training for future German diplomats, and urged them to act in full awareness of the country's past.
"Never forget what a valuable asset the trust is that is now extended to Germany," the minister warned.
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