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On Wannsee anniversary, German FM says Nazi-era diplomats share blame for Holocaust

Annalena Baerbock calls for more antidiscrimination training, at 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, which set Hitler’s genocide in motion

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaks during a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, Russia, January 18, 2022. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaks during a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, Russia, January 18, 2022. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister said Thursday that the country’s diplomats during the Nazi era shared blame for the Holocaust and she wants more training for staff to speak up against all forms of discrimination.

In a statement marking the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, Annalena Baerbock said it was important to recognize the role played by members of Germany’s diplomatic service at the time.

The meeting of senior Nazi officials by a Berlin lake on January 20, 1942, is seen as a key moment when Germany began implementing the plan to systematically round up and kill all Jews in Europe.

“Today we remember the murdered Jewish women, men and children, and those who survived the Holocaust,” Baerbock said. “We will never forget what Germany did to them.”

She added that Foreign Ministry officials “who put themselves at the service of the crimes and genocide of the Nazi regime also bear responsibility for their suffering.”

“This chapter of history must act as an incentive to us to ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again,” she added.

A critical exploration of the role played by the ministry is already part of the training that diplomats undergo, including how to spot and confront antisemitism.

“From now on, all our staff throughout the world will be reminded of this on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27,” said Baerbock. “We intend to focus even more strongly on the issues of diversity and antidiscrimination in the context of further training in order to ensure that our staff remain vigilant.”

The German government’s coordinator against antisemitism has called for teachers to be required to visit the Wannsee Conference site or former concentration camps as part of their training.

Felix Klein told Germany’s Funke media group that antisemitism remains a serious threat in Germany, even 77 years after the end of World War II.

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