The German foreign ministry has invoked the ire of a who's who of former German diplomats. Critics say Minister Joschka Fischer treats diplomats who were once members of the Nazi party shabbily.
Many Nazis remained in the German foreign ministry after 1945
Since 2003, the internal foreign ministry newsletter has ceased to print obituaries for former members of the Nazi party. Foreign Minister Fischer demanded the exception be made to the practice of commemorating deceased ministry workers in the circular, according to German papers.
Former Ambassador to Japan Franz Krapf died in October, but not a word about his death has appeared in the "internAA" newsletter. A slew of high-ranking foreign diplomats made good for the omission by publishing a large-format death notice for their late colleague in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper on Wednesday.
One of Krapf's disgruntled colleagues, former Foreign Ministry State Secretary Werner Hoyer, called Fischer's instructions an "undignified incident and a sign of misunderstood political correctness."
Krapf was not merely a Nazi party member but also in the SS. After World War II, however, he was deemed fit to work in the foreign service and started his career there in 1951.
New wind blows in Joschka Fischer's foreign ministry
"The atmosphere has changed since the 1980s," was the foreign ministry's comment on the new practice.
Younger diplomats have called it a relief that someone finally took a critical approach to the subject. They referred to the recent commemoration of former ministry worker Fritz Kolbe, who was allegedly viewed for years as a traitor for passing some 1,600 secret documents to the US between 1943 and 1945. In 1951, his application to re-join the foreign ministry ranks was rejected.
"For many of the old and new civil servants in the foreign ministry, Fritz Kolbe's cooperation with the Allies was treason," Fischer said in the autumn in a speech honoring Kolbe, during which a lecture hall in the foreign ministry was named after him. "At the same time, especially for those of his colleagues in the higher levels who had come to terms with the Nazi regime and didn't show the courage to resist, Kolbe, the low-ranking consulate secretary, was always a living reproach."
Some critics, however, have alleged that Fischer is applying a double-standard, pointing to Joscha Schmierer's appointment to the foreign ministry's planning staff. Until 1983, Schmierer was a member, and for some time even a leader, of the KBW, a West German communist party. In his defense, Fischer argued that, in the ensuing 20 years, Schmierer had changed his outlook.
Fischer himself has faced angry opposition from conservative politicians in the past over his own background as a member of a militant left-wing group in Frankfurt from 1968 to 1975.