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New soldiers to be sworn into army at Reichstag

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New soldiers to be sworn into army at Reichstag
Swearing. Photo:DPA
09:54 CEST+02:00
New soldiers will be sworn into the army in front of the Reichstag for the first time this evening, in a controversial ceremony which had put the country's top politicians in a whirl of indecision as to whether to attend.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had initially said they would not be at the swearing in ceremony, but after furious criticism from the army and in the media, are both now expected.

The ceremonial swearing in of new recruits is controversial despite being conducted each year on July 20, marking the date of the failed 1944 Stauffenberg bomb plot to kill Hitler.

This date is designed to remind soldiers – and the public – that they are swearing loyalty to the country, the law and freedom rather than to a person.

Hitler had demanded that soldiers swore a personal oath of loyalty to him specifically.

Pacifists often try to interrupt the ceremony, often by running through the ranks of soldiers naked, since it was first held in 1999 – also the first year that Germany broke with the post-war convention of not sending armed forces into combat.

This year, with soldiers in active service in Afghanistan, and the ceremony being held in front of the Reichstag, the authorities have mustered 1,800 police officers to keep demonstrators and potential disruptions well away.

More than 2,000 guests are expected at the ceremony, where former chancellor Helmut Schmidt will speak, and defence minister Franz Joseph Jung will be present.

The last-minute confirmation that Merkel and Steinmeier will be there – confirmed in today's Bild am Sonntag newspaper – comes after former general inspector of the army Klaus Naumann hauled them over the coals for not planning to go.

He said the point of staging the ceremony in front of the Reichstag was to make the point that the army is controlled by a democratic parliament which should publicly accept this responsibility.

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