The Shmooze

Report Finds German Civil Servants Contributed to Nazi Efforts

By Michael Kaminer

  • Print
  • Share Share

Nearly seven decades after the fact, the history of Germany during the Nazi years continues to metastasize. The New York Times reports that German Foreign Ministry documents have opened a chilling new window on the mass murder of Jews. “What is coming to light now — and causing a major debate in Germany over the past few weeks — is the active involvement by Nazi Germany’s civil servants,” writes reporter Judy Dempsey.

For decades, she recounts, “bodies like the Foreign Ministry and the Finance Ministry managed to make the public believe they had been relatively ‘clean’ during the Nazi years. They pointed to their continuing efficiency as a source of pride.” But in 2003, an obituary about a German diplomat named Franz Nusslein omitted his long war-crimes sentence for a role in the murder of Czech citizens, the Times writes. Anger over such “whitewashed obituaries” cascaded into protests that led to a commissioned study of the ministry’s past. The result – “Das Amt und die Vergangenheit,” or “The Ministry and the Past” – was published this autumn. “It became a best seller, shocking a public used to looking up at its diplomats as gentlemen who would never dirty their hands,” Dempsey writes.

According to the report, Eckart Conze, head of the commission of historians who wrote the study, described the Foreign Ministry under Hitler as a “criminal organization.” Likewise, a similar inquiry found that the Finance Ministry sullied itself by shaking down Jews to help underwrite the Wehrmacht. “The Reich’s Finance Ministry literally plundered the assets of the Jews,” said Peer Steinbrück, the Social Democrat finance minister from 2005 to 2009 who decided to open the ministry’s archives. “It was systematic.” And civil servants made the entire enterprise possible. “You see how the society was occupied,” Steinbrück tells the Times. “The economy and civil society were instrumentalized by the Nazis. Of course, many people knew what was happening to the Jews. But there was a kind of collective seduction. When all this is over, we should get a much greater understanding about the apparatus of power.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Peer Steinbrück, Nazi Germany, Judy Dempsey

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.