The subject of any military engagement has stirred deep feelings in one NATO country. Many Germans are concerned over their country’s growing military responsibilities. For decades after World War II, Germany’s military policy was one of restraint. VOA-TV’s Larry Clamage recently traveled to Germany to understand how that country is dealing with all this.”
The UN Training Center at the Hammelburg Infantry School in Germany. Here, German soldiers take part in role-playing exercises. The scene: a refugee camp in Bosnia Herzegovina. Soldiers in uniform play UN peacekeepers. Other soldiers in street clothes pretend to be refugees.
It is training these recruits it will need as UN peacekeepers in Bosnia, a relatively new role for German soldiers.
After World War II, Germany made a conscious decision to limit the use its military to defending its own territory and the territories of the NATO Alliance. That policy has been slowly changing since the early 1990s.
But after September 11th, it changed dramatically, when Germany deployed a small number of Special Forces on the ground in Afghanistan, to take part in the international coalition against terrorism. It was the first time in nearly 50 years that Germany used ground combat forces to fight in a foreign war. General Harald Kujat is chief of staff for Germany's armed forces.
GENERAL HARALD KUJAT, CHIEF OF STAFF FOR GERMANY'S ARMED FORCES
"The eminent threat of terrorist attack has I think changed the minds of the people in our country. As a result of that, the German government has provided more money already last year, but this year and will be in the future to the military budget."
Not everyone in Germany agrees with the country's military role in the war on terrorism.
DR. WINFRIED WOLF, MEMBER OF GERMAN PARLIAMENT
“If German soldier would be present in countries like Iraq, for instance, it would be linked to the past of German history.”
Dr. Winfried Wolf is a former Member of the German parliament. He represents the West German faction of the Communist Party or PDS. For decades, the "Peace Movement", which Dr. Wolf's party supports, had a strong influence on German military decisions. The “Peace Movement” began at the end of World War II, during the Cold War, a reaction to two fears: that a rearmed West Germany could become an easy target for Soviet nuclear weapons. And, that it risked repeating the horrors of the Holocaust.
DR. WINFRIED WOLF
"We have a big responsibility from the background of our history, from the background of the Shoa and the Holocaust. And, therefore, we say 'never again', German soldiers out of our country."
Ironically, it was that same fear of repeating the Holocaust that convinced many Germans ultimately to the abandon the peace movement, in the late 1980s. Hans Ulrich Klose is deputy chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee of the German Parliament.
HANS ULRICH KLOSE MEMBER OF GERMAN PARLIAMENT
"Then suddenly, after the fall of the Soviet empire we had a new situation in Europe. Close to our own territory, There were mass killings going on in the Balkans. And we were looking at the second side of our history. We were witnesses of the Holocaust. And we knew what was going on, most people knew what was going on but they didn't do anything. We decided that we should draw another conclusion from our history. That is to say never look away. This was the starting point for a new way of thinking."
GENERAL HARALD KUJAT
"We participated in that operation in Bosnia and later on in the air campaign in Kosovo. And from then on, German contribution to peacekeeping operations had been expanded."
General Kujat says, Germany's role in the war on terrorism was an extension of its commitment to its international alliances. But, there was another reason to get involved, according to Hans Ulrich Klose.
HANS ULRICH KLOSE
"... A clearly defined national interest. Next time, it could be this city or Cologne or Frankfurt where international terrorists hit."
At this peace rally in Berlin, protesters continue to demonstrate against what they call, the “immorality of German citizens killing and being killed in foreign lands.” But, today, they are in the minority. Most Germans support the new role of Germany’s military. Meanwhile, back at the Hammelburg Infantry School, German Soldiers continue their military training. Germany now stands ready to assume its part of the responsibility and its part of the risk in international alliances, according to General Harald Kujat.
GENERAL HARALD KUJAT
“I think the fact that this international coalition is fighting together side by side against international terrorism is a very promising fact. We all appreciate that because I think no nation, no country can withstand this challenge alone.”
More on German Military Issues