German Publisher Gives Auschwitz Blueprints to Israel

On Aug. 27, Kai Diekmann, the editor-in-chief of the mass circulation German newspaper BILD, presented the 29 original Nazi blueprints for the Auschwitz concentration camp to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a ceremony in Berlin. Axel Springer Verlag, the largest publishing empire in Europe, gifted the recently discovered documents to Israel, rather than to a German-based archive. Following is the text of a speech Diekmann delivered at the presentation.

Mr. Prime Minister, Mrs. Netanyahu,

Welcome to you and to all personalities who accompany you on this historic trip to Berlin.

That you visit us personally today is an honor to all at Axel Springer publishing. We are proud to be able to welcome you here. 

The founder of our publishing house, Axel Springer, had a mission that he pursued his entire life: reconciliation between Germans and Jews. He was horrified by the atrocities committed by the Germans during the Second World War. He felt deep shame and guilt. And until his death in 1985, not a day went by in which he did not try to make amends, wherever he could.   

Axel Springer personally even wrote this commitment into the contract of every journalist in his company, compelling them to work toward this reconciliation. And this commitment is still part of each and every contract to any and all journalists at Axel Springer.

The German-Israeli friendship is of the greatest significance for our company. And the strong ties between Axel Springer and the State of Israel, but also the fact that there is once again Jewish life in Germany today, fill us with joy — but also with humility. Because there can never be a real “normalization” of German-Israeli relations after the Holocaust. One can only hope that the spirit of reconciliation will be continuously strengthened by both sides.

In this spirit, then, we are meeting here today, Mr. Prime Minister, to hand over to you exclusive plans of the Auschwitz extermination camp. Twenty-nine original blueprints of the most inhumane structure ever erected by mankind, plans of hell, as the former Polish foreign minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski called them on his last visit to this house.

One of my employees at BILD found these plans by chance last year. After decades of lying hidden in the eastern part of Berlin, they were uncovered during a house clearance. More details of the origin have not been definitely cleared.

In February, BILD and Die Welt made them available to the public in the form of an extensive exhibition. And of course we also reported in detail about it all in our newspapers. The public reaction, way beyond Germany, was enormous.

These plans have an important function: They remind us of a crime that, with the passing of time, seems ever more incomprehensible. Auschwitz, like nothing else, stands for the guilt and blindness of an entire nation. Only if we are fully aware of the past can we see to it that it will never happen again.

There were many arguments in favor of giving the original documents to the state archive here in Berlin. But it was our distinctive wish to give them to the State of Israel, because we strongly believe that these documents are best kept there as an everlasting memory.

The handing over of these historic documents is concrete proof of how seriously we take our responsibilities: The reconciliation with Israel means very much to this country and its people. After 50 years — and forever more.

Mr. Prime Minister, it is the wish of our company to hand over the documents to you personally as a token sign of our respect and admiration, and we are very content to learn from you that you will pass on the documents to Yad Vashem.

Thank you very much.