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Should Germany have a Veterans' Day?

The Local · 5 Apr 2012, 09:40

Published: 05 Apr 2012 09:40 GMT+02:00

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The number of German soldiers hurt and killed increases with every year of Germany’s involvement in active military missions – as does the number of those who return home physically intact but suffering psychological damage.

As Germany grows out of its post-war ban on sending soldiers abroad, it is learning to deal with the political and social consequences that come with that.

For many, a day to honour those soldiers who suffer while carrying out the orders of their civilian masters seems appropriate.

But in the post-war era, Germany has also built up a strong aversion to all things military and jingoist.

The annual swearing-in of new recruits often attracts protests, while traditional honour marches such as the torch-lit parades for departing defence ministers and presidents seem to sit uneasily in a modern Germany.

Story continues below…

Is it time for the German military to finally shrug off its post World War II hair shirt and hold a veterans’ day, a contribution to the increasing acceptance of national pride? Or should Germany treat its soldiers like other professionals whose jobs involve physical and mental risk? Have your say below.

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Your comments about this article

10:03 April 5, 2012 by Lawdog20636
German soldiers deserve a Veterians Day and should not be penalized for World War II. The young soldier put their life on the line without question when called upon. If you don't think they deserve a Veterians Day showing appreciation you should enlist, endure the training, go off to a hostile land and put your life in harms way and see how it feels.

Next time you see a soldier you should just simply say

" Thank you for your service & sacrifice to protect us!"
10:39 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.
10:39 April 5, 2012 by WMD1998
I dawned the Uniform for 5 Years and totally agree with Lawdog20636 comment.
11:19 April 5, 2012 by Bigfoot76
Why this could possibly even be questioned is beyond me....of course they should have a Veterans Day for the German Military. There were specific people who were responsible for the crimes and atrocities committed during the war. It was not the entire military. Honor the ones who served honorably.
13:27 April 5, 2012 by sagamoreny

I am an American, son/nephew/brother of veterans of WWII and career military officers, some of whom fought against the German Army, who agree with me. (At least those who are stil living)

Veteran's Day in the US is about the Veteran, not the politics or purpose of the war. Some of our actions in Vietnam were, to say the least, horrific, but we still honor those who served.
14:30 April 5, 2012 by SchwabHallRocks
While I agree with the idea of Veteran's Day celebrations, I must say that the torch-lit ceremonies are odd.

However, I do note that the article says these torch-lit parades are for defence minsters and presidents and not soldiers.
15:51 April 5, 2012 by AJS
I think it goes without saying that they should be allowed that day of honor! There is no greater honor than being ready to lay down your life for your country. In America (where I am from) this is an important day of the year.

Even in the days of the war it was the military itself that several times tried to knock off old Adolf. One needs to understand the difference between the armed services and the Waffen SS -- which was a criminal organization. There are huge differences.
16:24 April 5, 2012 by Tanskalainen
Every country should honour its veterans. I was out of the Navy for over 20 years before someone handed me a veteran's flower. I started crying I couldn't help it, that recognition was so good!
16:24 April 5, 2012 by Bigbobswinden
You are commemorating those who gave their lives for what the leadership of the day thought was right. Every country has sent its troops to do things we would sooner forget, stop worrying and get on with honoring those who paid the ultimate price.
16:41 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.
17:11 April 5, 2012 by tdm3624
I agree with what 'sagamoreny' said above. Veteran's day is about honoring the sacrifice of the nation's soldiers, not politics. German soldiers have fought bravely throughout the years and deserve recognition and thanks.
17:53 April 5, 2012 by McNair Kaserne
AJS said "One needs to understand the difference between the armed services and the Waffen SS -- which was a criminal organization."

AJS, you need to crack a history book or two. Then you will learn that there is a difference between the Waffen SS and every other formation of the SS. The vast majority of those who served in the Waffen SS never guarded any concentration camps, they were combat troops in a combat unit, known for being exceptionally capable and disciplined.

The German service member should have a Veteran's Day, no doubt about it.
18:17 April 5, 2012 by Lawdog20636
McNair Kaserme, You are right abour the Waffen SS and other SS Units. I think the whole SS after Waffen just confused him. ( Hamburgers - Cheese Burgers). Now lets get past this and have a veterians Day.

If you see a vet, thank a vet.....................................
18:19 April 5, 2012 by wlecrerar
Many German soldiers died honourably for their country in many wars, irrespective of the politics behind them, including WW I and WW II. Germany should definitely have a veterans day with one caveat. It should not be permitted to glorify individual units, particularly the Einsatzgruppen and the SS, which committed war crimes in WW II.

(Retired South African soldier).
18:20 April 5, 2012 by tdog1964
Geramsy should have a veteran's day. Many germans fought ansd died for their country without any political orientation. We observe Veteran's Day here and we have the Confederacy to contend with.
18:23 April 5, 2012 by gtaglia
Of course, German military veterans should be recognized and honored, including those who served in the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS. Most who served were conscripted and most who volunteered did so to serve their country, rather than to enforce the evil policies of the Nazi leadership. There is no question of their patriotism, bravery and devotion to duty. They did an outstanding job, under the circumstances.
18:54 April 5, 2012 by Englishted

Just read "The Scourge of the Swastika" by Lord Russell.

The rewrite you comment .
19:07 April 5, 2012 by Lady Daphne
I lived through WWII, and it's hard for me to comment on this, but yes, I do believe Germany should have a veteran's commemoration. I won't go into my confused feelings, but overall, yes, give them commemoration.

19:36 April 5, 2012 by Acechaser
Too little, too late...but all who fought in war should be remembered. As for a holiday, most of the wartime generation are gone, and most of the generation today doesn't really care...here AND in America. Sad, but true. In America, most national holidays are simply a day off work, a cookout, and yet another reason to drink, with MOST not giving a rat's d**k about what the holiday is about...a sign of the times. Again, sad, but true...and I think it's a shame. As for this topic-too little, too late...but all who fought in war SHOULD be remembered. I know the cold, hard facts are hard to swallow, but there it is.
19:39 April 5, 2012 by Drewsky
I am an American with some nice German friends. One of their fathers had served during WW II and they have a framed photo of him, with some of the Iron Crosses he earned. They're uncomfortable about having the photo in open view when we visit, and I think that's unfortunate. I believe a Veterans Day in Germany would help to alleviate old fears and allow people to more openly discuss history. Think about it; adversaries in two World Wars and now a model relationship that others should emulate. A number of middle eastern nations comes to mind ...
20:56 April 5, 2012 by johnny108
It is right to honor humankinds' most noble aspect: the self-sacrifice of the soldier.

Give the Veterans their day- it is time to stop blaming the current generations for the sins of the past.
21:05 April 5, 2012 by AJS
McNair Kaserne

Perhaps rather than parading your rank incompetence in matters of history you should read some of the books yourself. While it is true that they had nothing to do with the Concentration camps, you missed the other points like these:

Wormhoudt massacre by SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, 1940, Belgium

Le Paradis massacre by SS Division Totenkopf, 1940, France

Oradour-sur-Glane massacre by SS Division Das Reich, 1944, France

Ochota massacre by SS Kaminski Brigade, 1944, Poland

Wola massacre by SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger, 1944 Poland

Huta Pieniacka massacre by SS-Galizien division 1944, Poland

Tulle massacre by SS Das Reich, 1944, France

Marzabotto massacre by 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division Reichsführer-SS, 1944, Italy

Malmedy massacre by Kampfgruppe Peiper part of 1st SS Panzer Division, 1944, Belgium

Ardeatine massacre by two SS Officers, 1944, Italy

Distomo massacre by 4th SS Polizei Division, 1944, Greece

Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre by 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division Reichsführer-SS, 1944, Italy

Ardenne Abbey massacre 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, 1944, France

Not to mention that they seldom took prisoners, but rather shot them -- in direct contradiction to the Geneva convention.

Before you start spouting at the mouth, perhaps you better get some education pal....
21:23 April 5, 2012 by Englishted
Well said @AJS#22
21:29 April 5, 2012 by AJS
The major point is that during the Nuremburg trials the *ENTIRE* SS organization *INCLUDING* the Waffen SS was declared a criminal organization -- due in part not only to the atrocities done in the camps, but those listed above.

Only a unencumbered veteran should be able to recieve honors on such a day, and as such there has been no such rehabilitiation on the part of the German government -- so stands this logically. Whereas the Heer divisions were not in this category -- they deserve recognition as a soldier as in any other nation.
01:37 April 6, 2012 by Acechaser
Everything Chango Mutney (above) posted is crap!
01:55 April 6, 2012 by yuri_nahl
Better to have "War Criminals Day". It's cheaper. Would drain away less resources. Anyway, can you remind me, who is attacking Germany?

There are too many militaristic psychopaths in the world as it is. Waffen SS was ended 65 plus years ago. A good distraction from war crimes happening last week in Pipelineistan.

Nuremburg trials! Nobody gives a hoot about that voodoo anymore. Obviously. What, nobody read about the hero who shot 20 women and children in Afghanistan last week?

American Army Air Force General Curtis "Bombs Away" LeMay said, "If we had lost the war, we'd be charged with war crimes." Something like that.

Ever heard of the war crime called, "The Fire-Bombing of Dresden"? How about, "The Systematic Starvation of the German Population" after WW II was over? Lots of interesting reading. All you have to do is not be too lazy to type it into your search bar and press "enter".

I say it's a pity that Germany does not have an ex-colony-island somewhere in the South Atlantic like the British. Y'all could drain away a few million right there, and do a little flag waving, like in the 1930s.
02:03 April 6, 2012 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
I think we can all agree, fundamentally, that the State must exist as an organ. For the State to continue to exist, it must provide a feeling of security to it's members. To that end, there are three kinds of peoples that are needed, and they must all feel a sense of satisfaction to keep being able to do their jobs - because we ask them to be ready on a daily basis to be the ones running towards death and mayhem, rather than running away from it.

1) The helpers - Firemen, paramedics, search & rescue, and a dozen other disciplines I've forgotten. The satisfaction in this career is apparent; you get to see the good you do, and feel the gratitude of your fellow man.

2) The enforcers - Police, secret services, etc. These people also get a lot of personal, hands-on job satisfaction.

3) The warriors - Armed forces, the organized militia, and the auxiliaries. These people can derive no satisfaction, or little satisfaction, because an inherent part of their work is to constantly be surrounded by death and destruction. The take horrible wounds in our place, they die for us and our way of life, never knowing us, and when they do come home alive, it's usually with images in their minds that they will never forget - usually for the worse. These are the people that have volunteered to catch a bullet for you - as a profession. Don't you think it might be a good idea to say "Thanks, I appreciate it", just once a year?
03:31 April 6, 2012 by Illogicbuster
Well spoken Der Grenadier aus Aachen.
06:04 April 6, 2012 by volvoman9
@ Der Grenadier aus Aachen. I agree that his is the only post of honor. Every country has been guilty of atrocities committed under the guise of the good fight. God is on no ones side in war. Just ask anyone who has served in conflict. Every bit as serious crimes are occurring at this very moment all over the world and yet the collective do gooders of the world are sitting on their collective hands and shaking their heads in dismay. It appears that there is no profit margin in these little backwaters and nothing to be gained by choosing either side.
07:11 April 6, 2012 by Landmine
"shrug off its post World War II hair shirt" ????? Lol, who comes up with these crazy terms.....
21:09 April 6, 2012 by Dono
The German soldier deserves Veterans Day. They were fighting, as were the allies, for what they were ordered to do. I suggest reading Panzer Commander, the memoirs of Col. Hans von Luck. He was an honorable man, as were thousands of others in the Wehrmacht who fought honorably.
02:05 April 7, 2012 by vladpootin
Veterans Day is a day to honor veterans...It is not a day of the celebration of war!

Many Germans suffered under the Nazi party and the percentage of true Nazis was about 10-12% of the German population. The Nation has been humble and contrite ever since. There is nothing wrong with honoring those - who served honorably...and many Germans have...and even more so in recent, post WWII conflict.
14:10 April 8, 2012 by Wrangler
Definitely Germany should have their own Veteran's day..some sort of an official Volkstrauertag which is already observed with the singing of the national anthem and the song "Ich hatt' einen Kameraden." It is the right way to honor the dead who laid down their lives for their country.

Because of the relation to Advent, the date is the Sunday nearest 16 November, i.e. in the period from 13 November to 19 November.
00:01 April 10, 2012 by mikecowler
AJS you seem well informed here,s a link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_events_named_massacres but i dont think you will be too interested as many were carried out by the saintly British and Americans who,s fallen soldiers you honour with a memorial vets day...

Many German men volunteered for the Nazi army as they were promised that they would only serve 2 years in the infantry...many never cared about the politics especially those in the Wehrmacht those that did were bitter about their own country being sucked dry and pillaged by the League of Nations members... Why should these fallen soldiers should not be remembered on a veterans day i believe is un christian....

Each and every country historically has had its sadistic murderers, but vets day or poppy day we rememer them all,,,
17:29 April 10, 2012 by JAMessersmith
Honoring a soldier who was born in the 80s and fought in Afghanistan is not the same thing as glorifying the atrocities committed by the Waffen SS some 70 years ago. We're not talking about a "Concentration Camp Guard Day". I don't know why this is even an issue. The post-WWII generations of Germany have been paying for the sins of thy father (and grandfather in many cases) for long enough.
01:39 April 11, 2012 by mikecowler
JAMessersmith Some German soldiers liked the Nazi system ie reclaiming land they beleived was rightfully belonged to Germany...They also sympathised with the Nazi party orders of attacking other countries who threatened them......

I dont understand your point? Its not about glorifying, nazism or the SS by having a German vets day of rememberance....People should look at the whole picture...

So its ok to honour German fallen soldiers born in the 70,s or 80,s?? What about ones born centuries ago that fought with the British against American Independance, can we honour them too?

The whole WW!! and WW1 excuse of germany having no vets day is crazy....
04:17 April 11, 2012 by TomUSA
The Simple answer is yes they should. They deserve it. They need to get some positive recognition for serving their country. I have to agree with Mikecowler.
07:34 April 11, 2012 by insight101
To the first two comments in the thread let me just start with: Wow! I wouldn't have expected so many to voice such opinions! 'They didn't question the politics of the time...They put their life on the line without question...' Isn't that exactly why they should not be honored? The age-old 'I was just doing my duty as a soldier' line of crap. How about do your duty as a human being which means following moral principles over orders. And also to the statement that they put their life on the line: They also put a hell of a lot of other people's lives on the line. Something to the tune of 60 million if memory serves.
20:00 April 12, 2012 by Richcrane
If it is done tastefully, yes...of course. The vast majority of those that fought for their country in WW2 did not know that Hitler was deranged, and the majority did not know of the atrocities that were being commited. They fought hard and made many sacrifices, many with their lives. I see no problem, as long as it is recognized that the horrors of that small percentage of war criminals be referred to and seperated from those good soldiers who fought for what they thought was a good cause, not knowing what was really going on with the leadership.

I might add, I live in the USA.
22:29 April 12, 2012 by Gustav Jung
chango muntney and yuri_nahl have got it just right. As for all those yank warmonger/"patriots" wait till the Chinese get started on them - they'll be dead "patriots" then.
15:33 April 13, 2012 by Kölner
YES, unconditionally! It's way overdue. Who's uneasy with the military in Germany? Don't know a single compatriot who is. Went to a fair where the Bundeswehr had an information-

and recruitment-center recently, found it to be overrun. Hardly managed to have a word with the soldier on duty, had to stand in line. No, the German audience seemed quite eager, actually.

Not uneasy at all. On the contrary, bright-eyed and fascinated. They'd honour their soldiers

by giving them a holiday, no doubt in the world.
19:34 April 15, 2012 by Bravo2
Absolutely, every country should recognize the sacrifices of its fighting men and women. As an American I am all for German soldiers to have their day too.
00:48 April 17, 2012 by Whipmanager
I think that the total majority is correct: Give the Soldiers their due. A day for them. places like Holiday Park, and warner brothers park, and every other one should give them discounts, and maybe once a year have a free day of entry for the Soldiers, Policemen and firemen.

Leave teh justifying and history to the historians and idiots that bash the men in uniform where ever they are.

If you ahven't been there, haven't taken an order that might not have seemed totally to your agreement, but followed it anyways, and by doing so, if most of yor friends, or all came back, or some (in some cases), you can be proud that your immediate comrades made it through another day in paradise. The US, The Brits, probably even the canadians, the french (although probably during retreat) the chinese, japanese, certainly the russians (more than the Germans in any total count), the norwegians, the Irish (mostly in terrorist campaigns against the brits - hey not judging, just saying, the iraquis, the iranians, turks, the Italians, the Spanish, name me a country that can't say they have been to war, and there is not secret embarrassment in their history.

Some of you can talk trash about Americans, we are out in the world everywhere and deserve soem of it, but look at your own land, and you will see that we are not all that different basically, and the soldier is just the one tangible strategic tool every diplomat has in his pocket to try to get an edge.

GOD BLESS ALL SOLDIERS. And those that are criminals (few in comparison) well, since we wont know in most cases, let God Judge them.
03:31 April 17, 2012 by zigf
I was born in Australia but my parents are German and Austrian. Every year we celebrate the soldiers that fought for Australia, I'm shocked to hear that you have not been doing so for your fallen. My Grandfather was killed in Stalingrad. We don't know the full circumstances of this death but from what I'm lead to believe many knew it was hopeless and that they were soon to die but they were there as they saw it as their duty. This being the case, how must my Grandfather have felt knowing he was leaving behind three young children. And you don't honor this?
03:46 April 17, 2012 by Larry Thrash
Without a doubt, yes.
07:57 April 17, 2012 by insight101
'The majority of soldiers didn't know about the atrocities'. Are you serious? I mean if they didn't notice the 7 million disappearing Jews, which is hard to believe since the average German knows if a piece of parsley is missing from his garden or if a dog set foot on his land...maybe they could have noticed the invasions of Poland and France without aggression? And to the statement they died defending their homeland. No one was attacking their homeland until they began aggressions.
10:40 April 17, 2012 by scout1067
Of course Germany should have a Veteran's Day. At some point people have to stop letting the policies of the Nazi and Wilhelmine eras define what it means to be a German.

To those who say Germany should not forget the crimes of the Nazis the holiday could be May 8th and used to honor veterans and reflect on the past with the determination not to repeat it. They have to be careful to avoid indicting the present generation because of what happened 60+ years ago though. Veterans Day is a day to honor the sacrifices of those that put themselves in harm's way for their kith and kin, no more.
20:04 April 18, 2012 by Whipmanager
insight101: I think you are a bit off. From your perspective, you feel that Germany's response was an act of aggression in WWII with no one attacking them. I tell you now that had the Versaille treaty not been so destructive and vindictive in it's own rights, you wuold not have seen anything that would have pushed people like the nazis and Hitler to the forefront. I believe, with soem research to abck me up, that you are probably right (See book: Hitler's willing executioners for support of your point of view) that most people in germany had at least a cursory knowledge of the movement of political prisoners and what they were being used for. The sign at Dachau is stupid, and the American general who pushed everyone from the town to witness what he found upon arrival was correct to do so.

At what time do we let by-gones be by-gones. Not forget, but learn from it and not hold a populace accountable when probably 75% of germans alive today were not of age or around to have had any impact on the war of 39 (from the German perspective). Your vitriloic arguments seem to be more emotional than fact based. But, who am I? No one, so I apologize for the emotional response I give but damn it, we are getting closer to 100 years after the facts....
02:29 April 20, 2012 by Jeff10
It might be that it cuts both ways. Read 'Other Losses.' It's a 1989 book by Canadian writer James Bacque, in which Bacque alleges that U.S. General Dwight Eisenhower intentionally caused the deaths of as many as one million German prisoners of war. The prisoners were mostly Wehrmacht.

So, in light of this, should any allied country have a veteran day?

Of course, they should have veterans days. War is war and soldiers will kill others.
16:58 April 20, 2012 by Whipmanager
Jeff10: While you didn't say that the book you reference is fact, a great many people will think it is. As most of the public believe, if it is in writen print, it must be true...so I just want to say that I hope that there is no way we (THE US) would be responsible for the deaths of 1 Million prisoners. It sounds so far fetched. That is quite a number to have heard nothing about in all of these years.
00:21 April 21, 2012 by wigbat
Should Germany set aside a day to honor it's war veterans? Absolutely, and for the many reasons already stated on this board. They answered their nation's call, and except for one, indisputably ugly and pernicious war, almost all served honorably.

The government may want to rethink the torchlight processions, though. Too reminiscent of the NSDAP rallies. Just saying.
00:11 April 22, 2012 by Samurai007
Like some other posters here, I'm an American who says the soldiers deserve to be honored and remembered for their duty to their country. While the excesses of past regimes should never be forgotten, neither should it be allowed to tarnish or overshadow the many thousands of German soldiers who have fought and died for their families and country. Germany's soldiers of today were not even born until long after WW2, why should they be stigmatized by it?
20:04 April 23, 2012 by Whipmanager
Samurai: Amen. You said it very well.THank you.

Wigbat: You are right about the torches. there is something sinister about torches and military people doing something ceremonial in the dark. Scary and unnerving to the outsider....
08:31 April 25, 2012 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
I'm afraid we can't get rid of the "torches" anytime soon. The "torches" are, in fact, the Grand Tattoo of the Germany Army, and it's most important tradition.

12:33 April 26, 2012 by mikecowler
Why do people only think the German soldiers history of fighting a war is just 12 years....ridiculous......

I,m quite offended by the Scottish agony bags ....bagpipes...

Torches sound alot better lol
14:11 April 26, 2012 by kiwigerman2
I agree with Chango Mutney and can't stand the Yanks for what they do to others. However like most soldiers they are not making the decisions only following orders.

Just don't turn the parade into something you would see in the USA, you know over the top and just outright crap. I also think most Yanks are just so dumb they don't even know what their fighting for half the time unlike the educated Germans.

Yes the deserve a parade and Germany in general should talk more openly about the war as anyone with some common sense will not judge them for what a mad man made them do. Once all these soldiers and older generation are gone, so is all the knowledge and history of events from the German side of the war and I for one am sick of seeing American or British one sided movies about the subject. Open your minds and hearts to the fallen hero's they deserve some rememberance.
14:37 May 29, 2012 by MrPC
Of course Germany should have a veteran's day if only to see what "former" national socialistic folks might crawl out from beneath their rocks.
02:41 June 25, 2012 by Nessus
It is a darn shame we didn't NUKE Germany too.

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