Duties and Dilemmas: Discussions about the German Foreign Ministry during the Third Reich and the lessons that can be drawn for today
Enlarge image Panel discussion (© AJC Chicago) How would you act when all of a sudden you find yourself as a diplomat serving an authoritarian state? Hugo-Ferdinand Simon was Germany’s Consul General in Chicago from December 1926 to June 1933. On March 13, 1933, he acted as his conscience told him in an extraordinary way by writing a cable to the German Embassy in Washington, DC expressing his concern about the political developments in Germany. Simon pointed out that the reputation of Germany will be damaged by the current actions of the Nazi regime to such an extent that it may be for years irreparable.
This example of a German diplomat voicing his concerns during the Third Reich is described in the German government-sponsored report entitled “Das Amt und die Vergangenheit“ (The Federal Foreign Ministry and Its Past), a best selling and controversial book in Germany about the role of Third Reich diplomats during the Nazi regime. The book has sold about 75,000 copies (the book is currently only available in German, but a Polish version of the book is to be published in 2013). Consul General Onno Hückmann mentioned the example of his predecessor while introducing the discussion entitled “Duties and Dilemmas” that took place at the internationally acclaimed Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie on June 13, 2012. Enlarge image Consul General Onno Hückmann during his speech (© AJC Chicago)
Richard S. Hirschhaut, Executive Director of the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, led the discussion in which the former Spanish Ambassador to Washington, DC Javier Rupérez , Northwestern University History Professor and co -author of the book „Das Amt und die Vergangenheit” Dr. Peter Hayes, and Consul General Onno Hückmann discussed the actions of individual members of the German Foreign Ministry during the Nazi regime and focused on lessons that could be drawn for today.
The discussion was organized by the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in association with the American Jewish Committee Chicago and the German Consulate General. They were joined by colleagues from the Chicago Consular Corps with representation from around 20 different countries. The meeting also examined the challenges that diplomats face today when their home nations engage in actions with which they might disagree. Enlarge image Consul General Onno Hückmann and Ambassador Javier Rupérez (© AJC Chicago)
In his closing remarks, AJC Chicago President Jack Levin detailed AJC’s historic relationship with Germany. He also spoke about his participation in AJC’s German-Jewish exchange program.