Conceived by the international Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, the exhibition “Beyond Duty” documents how individual diplomats tried – in some cases in breach of service regulations – to save Jewish citizens from persecution and murder.
In his opening speech, Foreign Minister Gabriel paid tribute to the efforts of individual diplomats, who risked their lives and disobeyed their governments. Despite the extreme circumstances during the Nazi regime, most diplomats continued their duties as usual. Few were prepared to oppose their government’s policies and save Jews. Only a few showed courage – “far too few”, said Gabriel.
For all the praise, also for German diplomats who were awarded the title of “Righteous Among the Nations”, it should not be forgotten that “the Federal Foreign Office was a part, an active part, of the heinous policies pursued by the National Socialist regime.” It was not until 2005 2010 that an Independent Commission of Historians investigated the history of the ministry. “We must all continue to confront our own past,” the Foreign Minister stated.
A gesture of unity
The Ambassador of the State of Israel Jeremy Issacharoff also declared that what had happened must never be forgotten. At the same time, he added, the burdens of the past could also create new ties in the future. “We cannot change the past, but the past can change us,” said Issacharoff. The exhibition Beyond Duty is being displayed concurrently at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem and at 70 Israeli missions abroad around the world in 20 different languages. It was therefore also a gesture of unity, said Foreign Minister Gabriel. “Especially when dealing with our difficult past, this shows how close Germany and Israel are once again.”
Commemorating the Holocaust is our duty. Gabriel said that the exhibition should therefore serve as a reminder to today’s diplomats. Foreign Minister Gabriel: “In our commitment to peace and security worldwide, we are challenged each day anew to make decisions of conscience and to demonstrate humanity and courage.” He continued: “Freedom of conscience, which commits us to humanity, is a guiding principle of our constitution today.”