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Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle at the ceremony marking the exhibition of the Yad Vashem certificates honouring Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz and Dr Michael Jovy at the Foreign Service Academy in Berlin on 10 December 2013

11.12.2013

-- Translation of advance text --

Members of the Jovy family,
Ambassador Duckwitz,
Mr Finkelgruen,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to welcome you to the Foreign Service Academy.

Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz and Michael Jovy were honoured as “Righteous Among the Nations” many years ago by the Yad Vashem memorial centre in Jerusalem. The awarding of this title, especially to Germans, is an outstanding honour.

We want these two men to become part and parcel of the Foreign Service’s collective memory.

“Righteous Among the Nations” is the distinction awarded to those who risked their own lives to protect and save Jews from persecution. Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz and Michael Jovy belong to this group. Their brave actions were inspired by courage and compassion and remain an example for us to this day.

We have made a conscious decision to hang the certificates in a place which our young trainees will pass every day. Both men are shining examples of civil courage and compassion.

Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz and Michael Jovy were very different personalities and belonged to different generations. Duckwitz was a working professional when the National Socialists came to power. Jovy was still a child at the time.

Duckwitz joined the NSDAP in 1932 and was initially, on his own admission, a “fervent” National Socialist.

Jovy grew up in a Catholic family which rejected the Nazis from the start. He himself had to endure persecution and repression as a young man.

Duckwitz already belonged to the old Foreign Service, although he had not undergone regular diplomatic training. He was to play a significant role in the Federal Republic’s diplomatic service, latterly as State Secretary and a close advisor to Willy Brandt. He was one of the pioneers of a new German Ostpolitik which was then implemented by Brandt and Foreign Minister Scheel in the early 1970s.

Michael Jovy first joined the German Foreign Service after the war. His name would probably not ring a bell with most members of the Foreign Service today. Arrested in 1939, he was sentenced by the People’s Court to six years in prison for “Preparation for high treason” and continuation of the Bündische Jugend, a prohibited youth movement, in 1941. In 1944 he was released from prison and transferred to the notorious 999th penal battalion.

Jovy was a member of the Edelweisspiraten, who helped Jews in hiding.

In November 1944, when he heard the news that the Ehrenfeld group had been broken up, he escaped through the front lines to the US Army, where he was granted political refugee status.

Jovy died in 1984 following a career in the Foreign Service which had spanned more than 30 years, including the posts of Ambassador in Algiers and Bucharest. Foreign Minister Genscher wrote to his widow on his death, “In difficult times he was strong enough to show the courage of his convictions despite the risk of persecution. His charisma, humour and compassion will remain in everyone’s memory.”

From today’s perspective Michael Jovy stands as a man who let only his conscience dictate his actions, a non‑conformist who did not shy away from unconventional behaviour and had no qualms about rubbing people up the wrong way. In the 1950s and 1960s many were not willing to honour resistance fighters like Jovy. That, too, is documented in the files.

Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz and Michael Jovy were quite exceptional characters. Only a tiny minority of Germans were willing to take a personal risk to help Jews.

As we now know, that goes for the Foreign Service as well. It is a horrifying fact that German diplomats participated and actively collaborated in the Shoah.

The guilt that Germany brought upon itself during the Second World War remains unforgotten and its legacy lives on. Our responsibility for the Shoah is a key element of the Federal Republic’s political culture.

And this is not just an abstract concept. On the contrary, it calls us to draw concrete conclusions from our history.

It is behind the fight against all forms of anti‑Semitism, discrimination and racism in Germany. It drives our efforts to promote human rights throughout the world. And last but not least, it inspires our solidarity with the State of Israel and its people.

Duckwitz and Jovy did not stand by and watch while the Nazis committed their crimes. Each has their own story. What they have in common is their readiness to take decisive action and embrace the risks this involved.

The Federal Foreign Office honours the memory of Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz and Michael Jovy with gratitude and respect.

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