|Information on the Auswärtige Amt archive and the selected dossiers|
The Auswärtige Amt archive for 1933-1945, which survived World War II reasonably unscathed, contains written records of the actions of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its diplomatic representation at the time of the Third Reich. The documents in the archive show how the diplomats of the Auswärtige Amt facilitated and covered up the Holocaust, which was underway in large parts of occupied Europe. The most famous document is without doubt the only surviving copy of the minutes of the Wannsee Conference on the Final Solution to the Jewish Question. After the archives had been seized by the allies in 1945 they were taken to Britain in 1948, where they were classified by academics. The archive documents played an important role in the Wilhelmstrasse Trial of 1947-1949, in which staff from German ministries, including the Auswärtige Amt, were prosecuted. The dossiers were returned to West Germany between 1951 and 1958.
The archive reveals that between 1933 and 1940 the Auswärtige Amt promoted the interests of Germany in general and of German residents in the Netherlands. It had a legation in The Hague for this purpose and consulates in Amsterdam, Arnhem, Dordrecht, Groningen, Harlingen, Maastricht, Nijmegen, Rotterdam, Venlo, Vlissingen and IJmuiden amongst other places. The activities related to personal matters, such as visas, but also extended to political, economic and cultural affairs. In 1934, however, the staff was entrusted with additional duties which required them to report on German refugees and immigrants (Jews/communists) entering the Netherlands and the Dutch response to such events. Particular attention was paid to reports in the media, parliamentary debates and actions by public and political organisations. In 1940, after the establishment of the civil administration under Arthur Seyss-Inquart, the German diplomat Otto Bene assumed responsibility for information, but by then, everything revolved around the persecution of the Jews.
The conserved archive of the Auswärtige Amt contains four dossiers that relate specifically to Jews in the Netherlands.
The Auswärtige Amt
Ever since the founding of the German Empire, Germany had conducted its foreign policy via the Auswärtige Amt (Foreign Office). The Auswärtige Amt had a rich tradition and was headed by professional diplomats from the aristocracy and upper middle class. It was led by people who subscribed to a world vision in which conservatism was mixed with antidemocratic, antiliberal and anti-Semitic sentiments. The primary task of the Auswärtige Amt was to piece together a reliable picture of developments abroad to serve as a basis for a successful foreign policy. The embassies and legations played a key role in these efforts and promoted trade and cultural exchange at the same time. After 1933 other competing political organisations emerged, such as the Auslandorganisation der NSDAP (Foreign Organisation of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party) later known as the Dienststelle Ribbentrop (Ribbentrop Bureau) but they never managed to supplant traditional diplomacy. The Auswärtige Amt became an important mainstay for the Nazi power-wielders. Foreign Minister Constantin Freiherr von Neurath, who served from1932 till 1938, made an excellent job of camouflaging the revisionist foreign policy of the Third Reich thanks to the adeptness of the Auswärtige Amt. Meantime, many diplomats openly subscribed to the theory that ‘world Jewry’ was Germany’s arch enemy. Under Von Ribbentrop, who served from 1938 till 1945, the influence of the SS grew at the Auswärtige Amt. Cooperation on the ‘Final Solution’ was smooth and harmonious. A representative of the Auswärtige Amt participated in the Wannsee Conference in January 1942, thereby signifying that traditional foreign policy was becoming ever more intertwined with the policy of occupation and extermination. Hence, the so-called Judenpolitik was a policy domain that could compensate for the decline in importance of foreign relations (originally the territory of the Auswärtige Amt) in the Third Reich.