Holocaust survivors hail German ministry expose

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Holocaust survivors on Sunday welcomed an official report exposing active complicity by Nazi Germany's foreign ministry in the systematic slaughter of Jews during World War II.

One of four historians asked to examine the ministry's role in the Holocaust, Eckart Conze, had been widely quoted in the press Saturday ahead of the report's publication as saying that the ministry was much more involved in the Nazis' killing machine than previously thought.

The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants hailed the report as shedding light on a chapter that had remained shrouded in secrecy more than six decades on.

"Germany has taken an honest and painful look at its past," Elan Steinberg, vice president of the New York-based organisation, said in a statement.

"Previous efforts to whitewash the role of the foreign ministry and its personnel in the crimes of the Holocaust are now categorically refuted.

"This report is a pointed reminder of the broad cross-section of German society and institutions which were implicated in the Holocaust and the brutalities of the Nazi regime."

Conze said previous claims Nazi Germany's diplomats played ittle active part in the deportation and mass extermination of European Jews were patently false.

"The foreign ministry actively supported all measures of persecution, rights deprivation, expulsions and the Holocaust," Eckart Conze told the weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS).

"The foreign ministry was a criminal organisation," he said in a separate interview with Der Spiegel magazine.

Historians investigating the ministry's role found documents in which the official in charge of Jews, Franz Rademacher, justified why he had to travel on an official mission to Belgrade.

"Liquidation of Jews in Belgrade and talks with Hungarian envoys in Budapest," read one chilling paper.

The historians' report which was commissioned by then foreign minister Joschka Fischer in 2005 is to be officially published Friday.

"I read the report and became more and more horrified," Fischer told the FAS.

© 2010 AFP

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