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German military to get US-style Veterans' Day
Photo: DPA

German military to get US-style Veterans' Day

Published: 04 Apr 2012 10:34 GMT+02:00
Updated: 04 Apr 2012 10:34 GMT+02:00

The German military is to have a US-style Veterans’ Day, despite criticism from opposition parties and general unease about the army’s history.

German Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière has proposed May 22 as an annual Veterans’ Day to honour former soldiers, both living and dead.

“Against the background of our operations and the questions they pose our society, it is time to speak objectively and openly about our veterans’ policy,” de Maizière wrote in his proposal.

He originally suggested using the Volkstrauertag in November, a public day of mourning which takes place in Germany two Sundays before the first Advent Sunday, intended to mourn war victims and the victims of dictatorship around the world. But this idea received widespread opposition across the country.

But the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) has criticized the idea. “I’m sceptical whether there can be a day that really reaches society,” SPD defence spokesman Rainer Arnold told the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

The socialist Left party was even less impressed with the plan. “If the defence minister wants to do something for former soldiers, he should get some money and improve their social security, instead of invoking some cheap ‘ideal honour,’ “ commented Left defence spokesman Paul Schäfer.

The Green Party was equally scathing. Their defense expert Omid Nouripour called the Veterans Day nothing but a “fig-leaf” for a minister who is “avoiding his core duties.”

He condemned the Veterans’ Day as “superfluous,” unless it was used to open a national debate on the purpose of military operations abroad, and also honoured the work of development workers and diplomats in foreign countries.

Germany’s first foreign military mission since World War II took place in 1991 when they made a minor contribution in the second Gulf War. Since then 300,000 German soldiers have been in action abroad and over 100 have lost their lives.

The Local/DPA/DAPD/bk

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Your comments about this article

11:42 April 4, 2012 by wood artist
While I would be amongst the first to agree that Germany's military history is unlike most other nations, those who have served their country very often have little to say about such things. For the most part, soldiers of all nations are honorable people, asked to take on impossible tasks and risking their lives. Every country has participated in wars that were questionable at best. Every military has experienced times when soldiers did things far outside the "rules" such as they are.

In the US there is traditionally a question about whether you can support the troops while disagreeing with the war itself. That was true in Vietnam and in Iraq, and remains true today in Afghanistan. I'm sure that attitude was present in earlier wars also, and WWI was seen by many as "Europe's Problem" and not an issue for US participation.

Personally, I have no problem with Germany recognizing the sacrifices that the country's military have made over the years. It takes nothing away from the men who carried the day at Waterloo to, at the same time, acknowledge that other times and other battles were "different." The bulk of the men who died defending Germany were no less men.

Maybe this is a chance to remember their sacrifices, and the events that led the country to embark on the adventures that necessitated them. Those who have participated in war seldom have a desire to do it again. Remembering that is worth it.

wa
11:53 April 4, 2012 by starsh3ro
nobody needs a day like this.
12:14 April 4, 2012 by The-ex-pat
This will be a black and white for or against subject. All I can say, is if you have never served you will never have a true understanding either way.
12:23 April 4, 2012 by Zobirdie
Well said, Wood Artist!

Soldiers go to fight and die where they are told. They don't have the option of saying 'Nope. Not today... I am not in the mood.' They don't always agree in the ideology of the government they serve but they do their job.

They deserve to be properly honoured for their sacrifice. The dead are apolitical. They are dead and deserve to be remembered.
13:12 April 4, 2012 by ChrisRea
Well, I guess we should have then special national days for all jobs that can be deadly. They took the job knowing that there people that died while earning a buck. And they all brought their contribution, smaller or bigger, to the country. So "Professional Athletes' Day" (Sport ist Mord), "Police Workers' Day", "Construction Workers' Day" and so on ...
14:27 April 4, 2012 by Major B
Is for the German people to decide.

Why not honor the soldiers who put their lives on the line for their country, especially the last 10 years, and complete the circle of healing from the past?
15:22 April 4, 2012 by auslanderus
As a vet from the USA, I agree that Germany needs to honor the men that served in there military in the past and future. The key word is honor. Men have died and wounded and need to know there country is/are proud of there service and this is one form of saying thank you and the cry babies can stay home with there beer.
16:04 April 4, 2012 by Herr Ed
Well said, wood artist. Those who choose the profession of arms take an oath to follow the orders of those elected or appointed over them. Wars may be political, but the average grunt on the ground has two goals - to complete the mission he's given to the best of his ability, and to try and ensure that he and his fellow soldiers get to go home to their families when it's all over.

ChrisRea - I'll support a Professional Athletes' Day when people start shooting at them from the stands to stop them from scoring. As for a day recognizing those who serve and protect as police or firefighters, they deserve that recognition as well.
16:44 April 4, 2012 by Bluecrane
As a USA vet I find one of the proudest moments I've had as a citizen is when Reagan visited that cemetary in Bitburg and placed a wreath for both American and German soldiers buried there.

We don't have a choice what country we're born into. If I were 20 years old in 1940 and lived in Germany, I would have served in the German Army. Had I been a citizen of North Viet Nam in the late 1960s I would have served in that military.
16:52 April 4, 2012 by ChrisRea
@ Herr Ed

"when people start shooting at them from the stands to stop them from scoring." - you mean when the athletes are fully armed and use tanks? :)

German athletes achieve things that serve as a source of inspiration. If a Bundeswehr veteran is asked by his children if he defended the country, all he can say is that he was actually always on the aggressive side, in pointless wars like the Second Gulf War and Afghanistan, against countries that did nothing against Germany or the military alliance Germany belonged to. Quite a good reason for a big yearly celebration, isn't it?

For your information, it is more probable to die as a German driver than as a German soldier. But you would not support a Drivers' Day, do you?
18:51 April 4, 2012 by jmclewis
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
09:38 April 5, 2012 by raandy
WA ,Nice comment .

the argument that germany should put more money in to improve Social Security instead of a ay of recognition for the military.

Why not do both?
10:45 April 5, 2012 by prussian grenadier
Throughout history, Germany's sons have fought valiantly, suffered and died like the soldier's of any other nation. They did not ask if the politics of the time was right or wrong, they just answered their nation's call. Whether it was 1813, 1870, 1914, 1945 or 2012, they did their job, and their sacrifice was no less honorable than any other solider from any other nation. They most certainly deserve to be remembered, and to be honored as any solider does.
16:40 April 5, 2012 by kangaruh
After suspending conscription in a witless, planless rush (thank you Guttenberg, wherever you may be), the Bundeswehr is having trouble attracting volunteers. I'd suggest that now some marketing consultant has recommended inaugurating a "Veterans' Day" to increase the Bundeswehr's attraction for impressionable 20 year olds. Everybody loves a good Fackel... And you all think it's about honouring soldiers? It's just an advertising ploy for a branch of the civil service. If it is introduced, it will be comprehensively ignored.
21:37 April 5, 2012 by AJS
Long overdue!

Soldiers of any army who fight honorably deserve such recognition.
22:49 April 5, 2012 by Karlischnarli
Any soldier willing or forced to die for his or her country, even if the country loses the war should be appreciated, respected, and celebrated
06:37 April 6, 2012 by volvoman9
@ Chango Mutney. Well I must say everything about your rant simply screams Pommy. I was at school with your ilk. Sad little blokes still insisting that in fact it was the was the Brits that single-handedly brought Hitler to his knees. The rest of the world especially those Yanks, were simply in the way. I suppose you slept through most of your history lesson about the golden years of the Empire and the means by which it created the vaunted Commonwealth. Not a pretty tale as I recall. A nation bent on world domination and the demise of so many more primitive defenseless cultures. Hmmm. Come to think of it this theme sounds familiar. All it lacked was a villain of stature. Of course Palmerston does come to mind.

Even more prevalent with your mindset is the curious habit of habitually allying with the very country that you choose to vilify in so many of their ill fated excursions of late. What's up with that then Laddie Buck?
16:11 April 11, 2012 by Harry Grouse
The German soldier served his country and gave his life for future generations. So yes they deserve a day to be honoured
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