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Merkel mourns fallen Bundeswehr soldiers

DDP/DPA/The Local · 9 Apr 2010, 16:40

Published: 09 Apr 2010 16:40 GMT+02:00

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Merkel was joined by Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and hundreds of military and civilian mourners at the St. Lamberti church in the Lower Saxon town of Selsingen. Both politicians bowed before the three coffins draped with the red, black and gold German flag and soldier’s helmets.

The chancellor expressed her deep sympathy for the family and friends of the fallen soldiers, saying their loved ones had died for Germany.

“They paid the highest price that a soldier can pay,” she said. “I bow before you. Germany bows before you.”

Merkel also acknowledged that her government had chosen to break the long standing political taboo of calling the conflict a “war.”

“We must look the facts in the eye,” the chancellor said according to public broadcaster ARD. “Many call the mission in Afghanistan a war. And I understand that well.”

“I stand behind the mission in Afghanistan, because it serves the security of our country,” she added, also acknowledging that work there has been more difficult than was expected when German soldiers first arrived eight years ago.

Guttenberg also acknowledged that the Afghan mission is indeed a war.

“What we endured on Good Friday in Kunduz is understandably described by most as war – by me too. A country mourns with you,” Guttenberg said during the service. “Rest in peace, soldiers.”

The event marked the first time that Merkel – or any modern German leader – has attended a service to honour German soldiers killed in action. Germany has lost 39 soldiers in Afghanistan since the Bundeswehr joined NATO operations there.

The Bundeswehr paratroopers – aged 25, 28 and 35 – were shot during a fierce battle against insurgents in the Chahar Dara district southwest of the city of Kunduz on Good Friday. Eight other soldiers were injured in the fight, four of them seriously.

The three soldiers had been deployed from the nearby Seedorf military base, where flags flew at half-mast on Friday.

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“We cannot grasp what has happened,” military reverend Hartmut Gremler said during the service. “Why these deaths? We stand here helpless.”

But even as mourners prepared to attend the church service, a spokesperson from Germany’s military command centre in Potsdam confirmed on Friday morning that two explosives were detonated as a convoy passed on a road four kilometres from a Bundeswehr camp in the Kunduz district of Afghanistan around 9:30 am, damaging a German military vehicle but injuring no-one.

The recent bloodshed in the country has renewed debate over military policy in Afghanistan and whether the Bundeswehr is being properly outfitted and trained.

DDP/DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

17:09 April 9, 2010 by Henckel
Guttenberg is right. This is a war, no matter how the far-Left wishes to define it.
17:20 April 9, 2010 by michael4096
Military supremacy is niether required nor desired in 2010, but what about 2020..? These guys deserve honour and respect for their role today but are they the last of an old race of proud warriors or the beginning of a new breed of daring policeman?

Maybe, my father asked the same questions, 60 years ago, sitting on top of the king david hotel in jerusalem - without a blue helmet, because they hadn't been invented yet.

The future is taking its time.
19:03 April 9, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
I've noticed that no one has actually given their names…

The fallen were all paratroopers of Fallschirmjägerbataillon 373.

All three were professional soldiers who fell in battle at the hands of the enemy on the second of April, 2010. Their names were:

Hauptfeldwebel (OR7/OR8) Niels Bruhns

Hauptgefreiter (OR3) Martin Augustiniak

Stabsgefreiter (OR4) Robert Hartert

A personal note to my fallen comdrades:

You followed the flag, and in doing so, honored us all with your sacrifice. Thank you for the defense of those that could not defend themselves.
19:39 April 9, 2010 by fair1day
Thankyou for your service. My wife and kids and I appreciate your gift. It is more valuable than anything else in life. You cannot go to a store and buy it.

I saw a bumper sticker that said "My son fought in Afghanistan so your son can party in college"

Pretty much says it all.

Thankyou guys again, and God bless your families now.

They will need it.
20:33 April 9, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
Want to briefly amend my above comment with the following extra information:

The name is HptGefr Augustyniak; my apologies to the family.

The three fallen were members of a small German motorized patrol. They were ambushed outside of Kunduz by an estimated ~100 enemy combatants. Of the three, one fell to remotely-detonated mine-turned-IED. One fell to a bullet wounded to the head. The third fell from multiple bullet wounds to the body. 8 other men were wounded.

It should be noted, with great emphasis, that the reason for the high casualty count was due to the fact that these honorable men refused to bring heavy ordinance to bear on the enemy, because the enemy positions were composed of civilian homes whom the paratroopers believed to also be occupied by non-combatants.

On another note, another patrol vehicle was attacked today with an IED in the same area. No casualties are reported.
21:12 April 9, 2010 by Major B
@ Der Grenadier aus Aachen,

You seem to have alot of details about this. The Bundeswehr rules of engagement are pretty restrictive and it seems stricter than the general NATO engagement rules. Hope in conferring with Gen McCrystal and the NATO command this can be cleared. Don't expect the Americans to be so nice once they arrive in force in the Kunduz area. The American military and public wouldn't stand for it. It would have been the same for the Germans many many years ago but the perhaps the citizen-soldier stuff is good for warriors. And hope I don't sound callous. They should be able to use the Americans for cover as they ramp up their responses to the cowards.
23:08 April 9, 2010 by Prufrock2010

Of course this is a war. The far left doesn't define it. It is what it is -- a sh*tty, useless war that is needlessly wasting lives and treasure. It's time for it to end.
08:47 April 10, 2010 by Psychoid
My solidarity as German is with those soldiers who refused to serve in Afghanistan.

Those who went there knew that there is a huge risk that they will die. And if they had an IQ over 100, they knew that Germany does not "get defended at the Hindukush". If they had an IQ under 100, then I'm sorry for them, for getting their stupidity exploited by those in power.

Things like this will happen as long as the Bundeswehr is in Afghanistan. The war can not be won. And for taking my taxpayer money to play war in Afghanistan I hope that those who are responsible for sending our troops there, will suffer from cancer and die a slow and painful death.

The Bundeswehr is a DEFENSE ARMY and WE DID NOT GET ATTACKED. I'm not willing to pay money for this. Once we get attacked by another country my complete solidarity and support will be with the soldiers. Untill then I couldn't care less if they die.

At least it's soldiers who died. Who mourns about the innocent civillians who got killed by the Bundeswehr??? No word about them...
16:37 April 10, 2010 by Haig
@Major B

The American military also fights with one hand tied behind it's back too. Soldiers are discouraged and often prevented from using heavy force on the enemy, even though this would help the fight. Some soldiers are even charged in a military court for using doing what they should be as a soldier.

Read about Michael Behenna and his capture of Ali Mansur, a known member of an al-Qaida cell. After capture, Mansur was uncooperative and became physical with Behenna, lunging at him and trying to take his gun. In self defense, Behenna shot Mansur. The military deemed this as excessive force, even though witnesses back up Behenna's actions. Behenna is now sentanced to 22 years in prison all for doing his job as a soldier.

Ultimately, the American army is also fighting with a handicap too. The war cannot be won if things keep going to this way.
18:24 April 10, 2010 by mixxim
Whose war is it?

Which people are defending their country?

Was Hitler's invasion of Poland a defensive act?

Perhaps Germans should really confine their forces to defence of their country.
20:58 April 10, 2010 by Thames
9 years and counting and yet no sign of 'victory".


While I agree with you that the Army has no business in this moonscape of a land, insulting the intelligence of those who are fighting there and believe they are doing a service is offensive and untrue. If you know anythingabout the Fallschirm Jaeger it is that they are not stuipid.

Rot scheint die Sonne!
17:04 April 11, 2010 by wenddiver
@Der Grenadier Aus Aachen-Thank you for listing Germany's fallen Warriors names. I am sure that free men and women everywhere honor these families sacrafices.

Has the German Armed forces set up a fund to assist the families/children and if so what is their adress?

The cost of Freedom is eternal vigilance.

If we can't supress garbage like the Talliban, our days of Freedom are numbered.
20:00 April 11, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen

I am not aware of one. I will look, but I doubt it is necessary. Between military death benefits and the social welfare network, the families are probably more than taken care of.
21:08 April 11, 2010 by dbert4
@Der Grenadier aus Aachen - Not more of that, "socialism" that the Amis can't stand!!!!
05:28 April 12, 2010 by wenddiver
@Der Grenadier aus Aachen- Nothing said was ment to imply your country would not take care of it's own. It is just traditional in my country to assist in the education and upbringing of the fallen's family and children as a way of honoring their sacrafice. My own town's Guard Unit six in one day in Iraq, so I know how this can affect individual lives. Certainly, coming to the aid of fellow soldiers in a fire fight, is a very honorable way to go if you have to.

@dbert4- Socialism is when you give to everyone equally in need. What these families have given to the cause of Freedom can never be repaid, but only honored with tribute.
06:01 April 12, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen

I didn't mean to sound offensive; I'm not. I just mean that that is really not an issue in Germany that I have ever heard. It's taken care of.
10:16 April 12, 2010 by moistvelvet
I caught some of the coverage on friday and was wondering why are these three soldiers being given so much attention by the media, is this type of ceremony normal practice for every fallen soldier or was it magnified due to the presence of government officials? I have no axe to grind, but would like to think that every soldier killed would get the same treatment regardless of the attendance of politicians, also in the coverage it was refreshing to see so much open support for the Bundeswehr, regardless of the politics and reasons why they are in Afghanistan they still deserve the support of the people in Germany.
15:41 April 12, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen

Well, the presence of the Chancellor certainly changes the scope a bit. More uniforms, more people, more venue. However, all soldiers, sailors, and airmen get a very dignified funeral and viewing with full honor guard. Whether the location is disclosed, and whether it is open to the public, is entirely up to the family.

However, I think you're asking whether we have any crazy people like the Westboro Baptist Church in Germany, that go and protest at funerals. No, that doesn't happen, really. It's just not done. You don't go to a funeral, anyone's funeral, and start protesting a political issue.
16:17 April 12, 2010 by Prufrock2010
@ Der Grenadier:

I agree with you that no civilized person would attend a funeral, particularly a fallen soldier's funeral, to protest.

The Westboro mob is not civilized. As you may have read, that group of crazies just prevailed in an appeal to a federal appeals court which overturned a lower court ruling in favor of the father of the dead soldier who was trashed by these homophobic "christians" at his funeral. Not only that, the dead soldier's father has been stuck with the court costs for the "church," somewhere in the neighborhood of $17,000.

Germany has its share of things to complain about, but I can't imagine something like that happening here.
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