Ambassador criticises Fischer over death notices

30th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

30 March 2005, BERLIN - The German ambassador to Switzerland has sharply criticised his boss, foreign minister Joschka Fischer, in a row over death notices for diplomats who were Nazi party members, a report said on Wednesday.

30 March 2005

BERLIN - The German ambassador to Switzerland has sharply criticised his boss, foreign minister Joschka Fischer, in a row over death notices for diplomats who were Nazi party members, a report said on Wednesday.

Ambassador Frank Elbe warns that Fischer is dividing the German foreign ministry and slams the ministry's crisis management as "miserable" in a letter obtained by the normally well-informed Bild tabloid.

Elbe is quoted as saying Fischer's decision to stop publishing obituaries for diplomats who were members of Adolf Hitler's Nazi party amounts to smearing them as Nazi supporters.

Asked about the letter, foreign ministry deputy spokeswoman Antje Leendertse declined to comment and termed the Ambassador's comments "an internal debate which has been forced into the public".

She declined to say if ambassador Elbe would be sacked or face sanctions from Fischer.

Media reports say that about 70 German diplomats have signed a protest letter aimed at Fischer for his decision to halt the obituaries.

Fischer's decision, which is aimed at retired post-war diplomats who were Nazi members, came after a diplomat who had been a Third Reich judge in German-occupied Czechoslovakia had his past whitewashed out of a ministry death notice.

A commentary this week in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper hailed the move by Fischer as "long overdue".

But the paper's chief political reporter, Hans Leyendecker, also noted Fischer's blanket banning of obituaries was "problematic" given that membership in the Nazi party alone was an insufficient criteria for guilt.

"Is a 17-year-old who joined the Nazi party in 1943 really guilty and does this mean we can no longer honour him after his death?" asked Leyendecker.

The obituary row comes as Fischer faces intense pressure over an illegal visa scandal which threatens to engulf his ministry and has already led to the resignation of one of his deputy ministers.

Under orders from Fischer, the handing out of visas for visitors to Germany from eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia was radically liberalised from 2000 until 2003 when the policy was abruptly halted after massive abuses.

Hundreds of thousands of illegal workers - including prostitutes - from countries like the Ukraine came to Germany under the visa programme, reports say.

A parliamentary probe is investigating and Fischer is due to testify by the summer.

DPA

Subject: German news

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