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.