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.
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