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
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)


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.

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 1932 Konstantin von Neurath was appointed foreign minister, he also held the office after Hitler became chancellor, finding himself exposed to increasing competition from Nazi politicians like Alfred Rosenberg and Joachim von Ribbentrop, who followed him in 1938.

A report written by historians and released by German government in 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.[2] [3][4] [5][6] [7] In a 2010 interview, the 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.[8]

Foreign Office building in Bonn

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. a 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".[9] [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
Party Term of Office Chancellor
Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F078072-0004, Konrad Adenauer.jpg Konrad Adenauer
CDU 15 March 1951 6 June 1955 Adenauer
(I • II)
Heinrich von Bretano.jpg Heinrich von Brentano
CDU 6 June 1955 30 October 1961 Adenauer
(II • III)
Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F008145-0002, Gerhard Schröder (crop).jpg Gerhard Schröder
CDU 14 November 1961 30 November 1966 Adenauer (IV • V)
Erhard (I • II)
Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F057884-0009, Willy Brandt.jpg Willy Brandt
SPD 1 December 1966 20 October 1969 Kiesinger
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1989-047-20, Walter Scheel.jpg Walter Scheel
(b. 1919)
FDP 21 October 1969 15 May 1974 Brandt
Hans-Dietrich Genscher (1989).jpg Hans-Dietrich Genscher
(b. 1927)
FDP 17 May 1974 17 September 1982 Schmidt
(I • II • III)
Helmut Schmidt (13.07.1977).jpg Helmut Schmidt
(b. 1918)
SPD 17 September 1982 4 October 1982 Schmidt
Hans-Dietrich Genscher (1989).jpg Hans-Dietrich Genscher
(b. 1927)
FDP 4 October 1982 17 May 1992 Kohl
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
Joschka Fischer.jpg Joschka Fischer
(b. 1948)
Greens 27 October 1998 22 November 2005 Schröder
Frank-Walter Steinmeier 20090902-DSCF9761.jpg Frank-Walter Steinmeier
(b. 1956)
Vice-Chancellor 2007–09
SPD 22 November 2005 28 October 2009 Merkel
Guido westerwelle.jpg Guido Westerwelle
(b. 1961)
Vice-Chancellor 2009–11
FDP 28 October 2009 17 December 2013 Merkel
Frank-Walter Steinmeier 20090902-DSCF9761.jpg Frank-Walter Steinmeier SPD 17 December 2013 Incumbent Merkel

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

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