German army to employ rabbi for first time in a century

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German army to employ rabbi for first time in a century
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer with a group of soldiers in Iraq this year. Photo: DPA

The German army will employ a rabbi as religious counsellor for the first time in a century, a firm signal that Jewish life is an integral part of the country, Germany's Defence Minister said Wednesday.


Priests and pastors are already providing religious services to the estimated 94,000 Christians in the military.

But the equivalent has not been available to Jewish soldiers, who number around 300.

"Today at the cabinet meeting, we sent an important signal to our Jewish soldiers," Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Twitter.

"After about 100 years, we will install a Jewish military rabbi in the #Bundeswehr (German army) again. A clear commitment – Jewish life is self-evident in our country."

Religious counsellors in the army offer advice on ethical issues and accompany soldiers as they carry out training or further education.

Plans are also afoot to put in place a religious counsellor for the 3,000 Muslim soldiers, although talks have been held up because there is no central coordinating institution representing the community.

Germany's armed forces have over the years repeatedly come under fire over suspicions that some members are far right-leaning.

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Last year, then Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen ordered the military to cleanse itself of all links to the wartime Wehrmacht, after learning that steel helmets and memorabilia of the Nazi-era army were openly displayed at one of its barracks.

Most recently, Kramp-Karrenbauer vowed to take decisive action against cases of radicalism in the army, after it emerged that the Bundeswehr was to suspend a member of its elite force on suspicion of far-right extremism.



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