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German defense minister Thomas de Maiziere Photo: Getty Images
German defense minister Thomas de Maiziere Photo: Getty Images

Germany to honor 3rd Reich soldiers?

Berlin's defense minister's proposal to hold notional veterans' day stirs controversy, concern over Nazi soldiers' commemoration

Published: 04.05.12, 15:14 / Israel Jewish Scene

Germany's Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere proposed Wednesday to set May 22 as Germany's national veterans' day, with aim of honoring former soldiers, both living and dead.


"Against the backdrop of our operations and the questions they pose our society, it is time to speak objectively and openly about our veterans' policy,” de Maiziere wrote in his proposal, breaking a major post-war taboo.


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According to the British Times, May 22 ,1956 is the date of establishment of the new German Army. However, it is also the birthday of composer Richard Wagner, who was adored by Hitler and whose music is perceived as an iconic Nazi soundtrack.


Minister de Maiziere believes that Germans are ready to honor the 300,000 soldiers who served around the world, and to remember the 100 soldiers who were killed in action during the past two decades.


הצבא הגרמני ב-1935 (צילום: Getty Images)

German Military in 1945 (Photo: Getty Images)


Germany's first foreign military mission since World War II took place in 1991 during the second Gulf War. Since than, German solsiers served as peacekeeping forces in Kosovo and Bosnia, as well as in the anti-pirates campaign in Somalia. Germany is also the third largest contributor to the international force in Afghanistan after the US and Britain.


The minister stressed that there must be an open discussion on who qualifies a legitimate veteran. Thousands of Germans who served in WWII are still alive, among them ex-chancellor Helmut Schmidt.


The centre-left Social Democratic Party is against the move. "I'm skeptical whether there can be a day that really reaches society," said SPD defense spokesman Rainer Arnold. "If the defense minister wants to do something for former soldiers, he should get some money and improve their social security, instead of invoking some cheap 'ideal honor,'" Left party defense spokesman Paul Schaefer said.


Berlin's Green Party was equally critical, with defense expert Omid Nouripour saying Veterans Day was "nothing but a fig-leaf for a minister who is avoiding his core duties." 



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