Foreign Office (Germany)

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Federal Foreign Office
Auswärtiges Amt (AA)
Auswärtiges Amt Logo.svg
Agency overview
Formed 1870; 145 years ago (1870)
Jurisdiction Government of Germany
Headquarters Werderscher Markt 1
10117 Berlin
Annual budget €3.725 billion (2015)[1]
Minister responsible Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs
Agency executives Maria Böhmer, Minister of State at the Foreign Office
Michael Roth, Minister of State at the Foreign Office
Website http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de
Foreign Office on the Spree river

The Federal Foreign Office (German: About this sound Auswärtiges Amt ), abbreviated AA, is the foreign ministry of the Federal Republic of Germany, a federal agency responsible for both the country's foreign politics and its relationship with the European Union. It is a cabinet-level ministry.

The term "Auswärtiges Amt" was the name of the Foreign Office established in 1870 by the North German Confederation, which then became German Empire's Foreign Office in 1871. It is still the name of the German foreign ministry today. From 1871 to 1919, the Foreign Office was led by a Foreign Secretary, and since 1919, it has been led by the Foreign Minister of Germany. Since December 2013, Frank-Walter Steinmeier has served as Foreign Minister, succeeding Guido Westerwelle. The primary seat of the ministry is at the Werderscher Markt square in the Mitte district, the historic centre of Berlin.

New Foreign Office building in Berlin (centre) with former Reichsbank (left)

History[edit]

The Auswärtiges Amt was established in 1870 to form the foreign policy of the North German Confederation, and from 1871 of the German Empire. The Foreign Office was originally led by a secretary of state (therefore not called a ministry), while the Chancellor remained in charge of foreign affairs.

Foreign Office on Wilhelmstraße 76, about 1880
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the German Democratic Republic to 1972

In the first years of the German nation-state under Otto von Bismarck, the Foreign Office on Wilhelmstrasse No. 76 next to the Reich Chancellery had two departments: one for political affairs and the other for economic, legal and consular matters. After Bismarck's dismissal in 1890, another department for colonial policy was established, spun off as the separate Reichskolonialamt in 1907. In the years preceding World War I, the Auswärtiges Amt was responsible for the country's foreign policy under Emperor Wilhelm II, and played a key role in the Reich's pursuit of Weltpolitik (World Politics), under which Germany sought to become the world's dominant power.

In 1919, the Foreign Office was reorganized and a modern structure was established. It was now under the authority of a foreign minister, though still called Amt for traditional reasons. The most notable head of the Foreign Office during the Weimar Republic was Gustav Stresemann, foreign minister from 1923 to 1929, who strived for a reconciliation with the French Third Republic, which earned him - together with Aristide Briand - the 1926 Nobel Peace Prize. In an important sign of changed emphasis within the Auswärtiges Amt, in July 1930 Carl von Schubert, the State Secretary (the number #2 man in the Auswärtiges Amt) and Stresemann's right-hand man was fired and replaced with the "crudely nationalist" Prince Bernhard von Bülow (who is not to be confused with his uncle, Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow).[2] The replacement of Schubert with Bülow marked the ascendency of the more nationalistic fraction within the Auswärtiges Amt who favored a more confrontational foreign policy with regards to France.[3] In May 1932 Baron Konstantin von Neurath was appointed foreign minister in the "Cabinet of the President's Friends" headed by Franz von Papen. Neurath continued on as Foreign Minister under the governments of General Kurt von Schleicher and Adolf Hitler. During the Nazi period, Neurath found himself exposed to increasing competition from Nazi politicians like Alfred Rosenberg and Joachim von Ribbentrop. In February 1938, Hitler fired Neurath and replaced him with Ribbentrop.

In 1933, the vast majority of the diplomats serving in the Auswärtiges Amt came from upper-class families with a disproportionate number coming from the aristocracy.[4] The overrepresentation of aristocrats together with its overwhelming upper-class character gave the Auswärtiges Amt an elitist cache, and made the Auswärtiges Amt into one of the most prestigious institutions in Germany. Because of its upper-class composition, the diplomats could afford extremely expensive clothes, and the men of Auswärtiges Amt were generally considered to the best dressed officials in the entire German government, contributing to the Auswärtiges Amt's glamorous, stylist image. There were no female diplomats, and besides for the women employed as secretaries, clerks and cleaners, the Auswärtiges Amt had no female employees. That the men of the Auswärtiges Amt formed an elitist group can be seen that every single diplomat had a university degree (before the 1950s, most Germans did not go to university).[5] The requirement that one had to have a university degree to enter the Auswärtiges Amt effectively guaranteed upper-class dominance of the Auswärtiges Amt. In March 1935, Hitler reintroduced conscription and announced the goal of a 35-divison army.[6] So few Germans went to university in those days that the National Defense Law bringing back conscription exempted university students from conscription as this exemption in no way affected the achieving the goal of a 35 division army. The few diplomats of middle-class origin were always considered to be "outsiders" by their upper-class colleagues.[7] In 1933, the average age of the senior diplomats was 52, and as such the formative years of these men had been in the early years of the 20th century when Imperial Germany was seeking Weltpolitik.[8] Almost all of the men in the Auswärtiges Amt had joined after graduating from university, and all of the senior diplomats in the 1930s were veterans of the struggle to win Germany "world power status" in the first years of the 20th century. Hitler's goal of making Germany into the world's greatest power was thus a foreign policy goal that the diplomats embraced quite headily. The German historian Eckart Conze stated about the overlap in viewpoints between the diplomats and the Nazis :"...the top diplomats in the Weimar Republic were opposed to a liberal political order and parliamentarianism. And then the Nazis built political and ideological bridges for them. They announced their intention to reverse the Treaty of Versailles and make the German Reich into a world power. The majority of the diplomats were able to sign their names on to such a program."[9] In March 1933, Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Prittwitz und Gaffron, the Ambassador to the United States resigned under the grounds that he could not in good conscience serve the Nazi government; he was the only member of the entire Auswärtiges Amt who resigned in protest at the Nazi regime.

Officially, the men of the Auswärtiges Amt were supposed to be non-political, but in practice the diplomats formed a "quite exclusive group" with extremely conservative views and values.[10] For these men, unconditional loyalty to the state was the highest possible value, and though the majority of the diplomats were not ideological National Socialists, they served the Nazi regime loyally until the very end.[11] The dominance of the traditional "insiders" at the Auswärtiges Amt can be seen that every State Secretary during the Nazi era was a professional diplomat. The State Secretaries of the Third Reich were Prince Bernhard von Bülow (State Secretary 1930-36), Count Hans Georg von Mackensen (State Secretary 1936-38 and ambassador to Italy 1938-42), Baron Ernst von Weizsäcker (State Secretary 1938-43 and ambassador to the Holy See 1943-45) and Baron Gustav Adolf Steengracht von Moyland (State Secretary 1943-45). The overlap in goals between the professional diplomats and the Nazis were well illustrated by the memo on what should be the foreign policy of the Hitler government written by Bülow in March 1933 calling for Germany to recover the borders of 1914 and all of the lost colonies, annexation of Austria, and German domination of Eastern Europe.[12] During the Neurath years, there were very few "outsiders" allowed into the Auswärtiges Amt .[13] Besides for Ribbentrop who served as the variously as Commissioner of Disarmament (1934-35), Extraordinary Ambassador-at-Large (1935-36), and Ambassador to Great Britain (1936-38), the most notable of the "outsiders" were Franz von Papen (Ambassador to Austria 1934-38 and to Turkey 1939-44), Hans Luther (Ambassador to the United States 1933-37), Colonel Hermann Kriebel (Consul in Shanghai 1934-39), and General Wilhelm Faupel (Ambassador to Spain 1936-37).[14] Most diplomats were not believers in National Socialism, but during the Third Reich, many diplomats such as Neurath himself joined the NSDAP and/or the SS as an opportunistic way of improving their career prospects; such self-interested careerism was rampant amongst the German civil service in the Nazi period.[15] Those diplomats involved in the attempts to overthrow Hitler such as Count Ulrich von Hassell, Adam von Trott zu Solz, Count Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg, Richard Kuenzer, Hans Bernd von Haeften, and Edmund Brücklmeir comprised a small minority of the Auswärtiges Amt.[16] The German historian Hans-Adolf Jacobsen wrote that for those diplomats who chose to become involved in Widerstand, given that they were steeped in Prussian traditions where loyalty to the state was the highest virtue, it required "extraordinary strength of character" for them to go against everything that they had been taught to believe in.[17]

A report entitled The Ministry and the Past written by historians and released by the German government in October 2010 shows that wartime-era diplomats played an important role in assisting the Nazis in carrying out the Holocaust, and disproved the claim often made after 1945 that German diplomats were "sand in the machine" who acted to moderate the actions of the Nazi regime.[18] [19][20] [21][22][23][24] In a 2010 interview, the German historian Eckart Conze who had been in charge of the committee to investigate the war-time actions of the Auswärtiges Amt stated that the Auswärtiges Amt was a "criminal organization" that was as every bit involved in the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question" as the SS were.[25] In an another interview, Conze stated: "This document makes it clear that all officials in the Foreign Ministry — including low-level office clerks — knew about the mass persecution of Jews and were actively involved in the Holocaust. It was an open secret."[26] In October 1941, when Franz Rademacher visited Belgrade to meet officials of the Government of National Salvation of General Milan Nedić of Serbia, he submitted an expense claim for his trip to his superiors at the Auswärtiges Amt after his return to Berlin; on his expenses claim, Rademacher described the purpose of his trip to Belgrade as the "liquidation of Jews."[27] At the Wannsee Conference in January 1942, the Auswärtiges Amt was represented by Martin Luther, who agreed that the Auswärtiges Amt would do everything within its power to persuade the governments of neutral and allied states to hand over their Jewish populations to be exterminated. Later on in 1942, Ambassador Otto Abetz arranged for the deportation of 25, 000 French Jews to the death camps in Poland while Ambassador Hanns Ludin arranged for the deportation of 50, 000 Slovak Jews to the death camps.[28] In the spring of 1944, Ambassador Edmund Veesenmayer played a key role in having 400,000 Hungarian Jews deported to Auschwitz.[29] In 2003, the French historian Lucas Delattre published a biography of Fritz Kolbe, a mid-ranking diplomat who become a spy for the American Office of Strategic Services because he believed his country deserved to lose the war on the account of the genocide it was waging against the Jews. Delattre stated that Kolbe really was a case of a diplomat being "sand in the machine" as Kolbe provided intelligence to help his country lose the war, but added sarcastically that if every German civil servant really were "sand in the machine" as almost all of them claimed to be after 1945 that Hitler would never had managed to get anything done.[30] Diplomats like Kobe were the very much the exception, not the rule.[31]

Foreign Office building in Bonn

In May 1945 after Germany's defeat, the German state was abolished by the Allies. For the next four years, there was no German government, and Germany was divided into four zones administered respectively by the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union. In August 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany was founded and received certain powers over what had been the American, British and French zones. In October 1949, the German Democratic Republic was founded in what had been the Soviet zone. Whereas Georg Dertinger had already been appointed the first minister of foreign affairs of East Germany in 1949, due to the Allied occupation statute the Auswärtiges Amt of West Germany was not reestablished until March 15, 1951. Chancellor Konrad Adenauer took office as the first Foreign Minister in Bonn until he was succeed by Heinrich von Brentano in 1955. By and large, the men who had served in the new Auswärtiges Amt were the same men who had served in the old Auswärtiges Amt. In a Bundestag debate on 23 October 1952, Adenauer admitted that 66% of the diplomats of the Auswärtiges Amt had belonged to the NSDAP, but justified their employment as: "I could not build up a Foreign Office without relying upon such skilled men".[32] Upon Willy Brandt's taking office as Foreign Minister in the grand coalition under Kurt Georg Kiesinger starting in 1966, the office was usually connected with the position of the Vice-Chancellor. From 1974 until 1992 - with a short pause in 1982 - Hans-Dietrich Genscher served as Foreign Minister and continued to champion Brandt's Ostpolitik while also playing a crucial role in the preparation of German reunification.

In 2000 the Foreign Office returned to Berlin where it took up quarters in the former Reichsbank building, which from 1959 to 1990 had served as the seat of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany and was enlarged by a newly built annex. The former ministry in Bonn was retained as a secondary seat. The Foreign Office has always stressed its continuity and traditions going back to 1870.

German representation overseas[edit]

In addition to the ministry's headquarters in Berlin, Germany has established embassies and consulates around the world.

List of Federal Foreign Ministers (since 1949)[edit]

Political Party:       CDU       SPD       FDP       Green

Portrait Name
(Born-Died)
Party Term of Office Chancellor
(Cabinet)
Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F078072-0004, Konrad Adenauer.jpg Konrad Adenauer
(1876–1967)
Chancellor
CDU 15 March 1951 6 June 1955 Adenauer
(I • II)
Heinrich von Bretano.jpg Heinrich von Brentano
(1904–1964)
CDU 6 June 1955 30 October 1961 Adenauer
(II • III)
Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F008145-0002, Gerhard Schröder (crop).jpg Gerhard Schröder
(1910–1989)
CDU 14 November 1961 30 November 1966 Adenauer (IV • V)
Erhard (I • II)
Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F057884-0009, Willy Brandt.jpg Willy Brandt
(1913–1992)
Vice-Chancellor
SPD 1 December 1966 20 October 1969 Kiesinger
(I)
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1989-047-20, Walter Scheel.jpg Walter Scheel
(b. 1919)
Vice-Chancellor
FDP 21 October 1969 15 May 1974 Brandt
(III)
Hans-Dietrich Genscher (1989).jpg Hans-Dietrich Genscher
(b. 1927)
Vice-Chancellor
FDP 17 May 1974 17 September 1982 Schmidt
(I • II • III)
Helmut Schmidt (13.07.1977).jpg Helmut Schmidt
(b. 1918)
Chancellor
SPD 17 September 1982 4 October 1982 Schmidt
(III)
Hans-Dietrich Genscher (1989).jpg Hans-Dietrich Genscher
(b. 1927)
Vice-Chancellor
FDP 4 October 1982 17 May 1992 Kohl
(IIIIIIIV)
Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F063645-0024, Pullach, Besuch Carstens beim BND.jpg Klaus Kinkel
(b. 1936)
Vice-Chancellor 1993–98
FDP 18 May 1992 26 October 1998 Kohl
(IVV)
Joschka Fischer.jpg Joschka Fischer
(b. 1948)
Vice-Chancellor
Greens 27 October 1998 22 November 2005 Schröder
(III)
Frank-Walter Steinmeier 20090902-DSCF9761.jpg Frank-Walter Steinmeier
(b. 1956)
Vice-Chancellor 2007–09
SPD 22 November 2005 28 October 2009 Merkel
(I)
Guido westerwelle.jpg Guido Westerwelle
(b. 1961)
Vice-Chancellor 2009–11
FDP 28 October 2009 17 December 2013 Merkel
(II)
Frank-Walter Steinmeier 20090902-DSCF9761.jpg Frank-Walter Steinmeier SPD 17 December 2013 Incumbent Merkel
(III)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Budget 2015". 
  2. ^ Rothwell, Victor The Origins of the Second World War, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001 page 30.
  3. ^ Rothwell, Victor The Origins of the Second World War, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001 page 30.
  4. ^ Jacobsen, Hans-Adolf "The Structure of Nazi Foreign Policy 1933-1945" pages 49-94 from The Third Reich The Essential Readings edited by Christian Leitz, London: Blackwell, 1999 page 60.
  5. ^ Jacobsen, Hans-Adolf "The Structure of Nazi Foreign Policy 1933-1945" pages 49-94 from The Third Reich The Essential Readings edited by Christian Leitz, London: Blackwell, 1999 page 60.
  6. ^ Kershaw, Ian Hitler Hubris, New York: Norton, 1998 page 551
  7. ^ Jacobsen, Hans-Adolf "The Structure of Nazi Foreign Policy 1933-1945" pages 49-94 from The Third Reich The Essential Readings edited by Christian Leitz, London: Blackwell, 1999 page 60.
  8. ^ Jacobsen, Hans-Adolf "The Structure of Nazi Foreign Policy 1933-1945" pages 49-94 from The Third Reich The Essential Readings edited by Christian Leitz, London: Blackwell, 1999 pages 60-61.
  9. ^ Conze, Eckart (October 27, 2010). "Hitler's Diplomats Historian Calls Wartime Ministry A 'Criminal Organization'". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 2011-07-07. .
  10. ^ Jacobsen, Hans-Adolf "The Structure of Nazi Foreign Policy 1933-1945" pages 49-94 from The Third Reich The Essential Readings edited by Christian Leitz, London: Blackwell, 1999 page 60.
  11. ^ Jacobsen, Hans-Adolf "The Structure of Nazi Foreign Policy 1933-1945" pages 49-94 from The Third Reich The Essential Readings edited by Christian Leitz, London: Blackwell, 1999 pages 60-61.
  12. ^ Kershaw, Ian Hitler Hubris, New York: Norton, 1998 pages 490-491
  13. ^ Jacobsen, Hans-Adolf "The Structure of Nazi Foreign Policy 1933-1945" pages 49-94 from The Third Reich The Essential Readings edited by Christian Leitz, London: Blackwell, 1999 page 61.
  14. ^ Jacobsen, Hans-Adolf "The Structure of Nazi Foreign Policy 1933-1945" pages 49-94 from The Third Reich The Essential Readings edited by Christian Leitz, London: Blackwell, 1999 page 61.
  15. ^ Jacobsen, Hans-Adolf "The Structure of Nazi Foreign Policy 1933-1945" pages 49-94 from The Third Reich The Essential Readings edited by Christian Leitz, London: Blackwell, 1999 pages 62-63.
  16. ^ Jacobsen, Hans-Adolf "The Structure of Nazi Foreign Policy 1933-1945" pages 49-94 from The Third Reich The Essential Readings edited by Christian Leitz, London: Blackwell, 1999 page 63.
  17. ^ Jacobsen, Hans-Adolf "The Structure of Nazi Foreign Policy 1933-1945" pages 49-94 from The Third Reich The Essential Readings edited by Christian Leitz, London: Blackwell, 1999 page 63.
  18. ^ Germany - Speech by Federal Minister Westerwelle on the presentation of the study by the Independent Commission of Historians Federal Foreign Office
  19. ^ canadaeast.com - German foreign minister 'ashamed' of diplomats' role in Holocaust | The Associated Press - Breaking News, New Brunswick, Canada
  20. ^ Report Confirms German Foreign Ministry Role in Holocaust - TIME
  21. ^ German foreign minister 'ashamed' of diplomats' role in Holocaust - Winnipeg Free Press
  22. ^ Niemcy: Szokujący raport. "To nas zawstydza" - Wiadomości w Onet.pl
  23. ^ Moshe Zimmermann. Secrets and Revelations: The German Foreign Ministry and the Final Solution, in: Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, Vol. V, No. 1 (2011)
  24. ^ "The Machine's Accomplices". The Economist. October 28, 2010. Retrieved 2011-07-07. .
  25. ^ Conze, Eckart (October 27, 2010). "Hitler's Diplomats Historian Calls Wartime Ministry A 'Criminal Organization'". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 2011-07-07. .
  26. ^ Moore, Tristana (October 27, 2010). "Were German Diplomats Complicit in the Holocaust?". Time. Retrieved 2011-07-07. .
  27. ^ "The Machine's Accomplices". The Economist. October 28, 2010. Retrieved 2011-07-07. .
  28. ^ Bloch, Michael Ribbentrop New York: Crown Publishing, 1992 1992 page 356.
  29. ^ Bloch, Michael Ribbentrop, New York: Crown Publishing, 1992 1992 pages 400–401.
  30. ^ Delattre, Lucas A Spy at the Heart of the Third Reich: The Extraordinary Story of Fritz Kolbe, America's Most Important Spy in World War II, New York: Grove Press, 2006 page 2.
  31. ^ Delattre, Lucas A Spy at the Heart of the Third Reich: The Extraordinary Story of Fritz Kolbe, America's Most Important Spy in World War II, New York: Grove Press, 2006 page 2.
  32. ^ Tetens, T.H. The New Germany and the Old Nazis, New York: Random House, 1961 page 48

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°30′53″N 13°23′58″E / 52.51472°N 13.39944°E / 52.51472; 13.39944