Germany ends conscription – is that good?

Contradictory images thrown together by a Google search

If the proposed legislation goes through, then from 1st July 2011 there should be no more youngsters from Germany called up to do their military service.  

It means that the threat of another armed conflict is seen as less and less likely. It means that Germany is lowering its defences, actually and metaphorically. It means that my nephew and his classmates will not have their lives disrupted by a call-up.

That all seems to be good news. But not all the young people ended up as soldiers in the army. Some of them helped in the community. Any institution or person who benefited from the labour and company of those young people will probably feel the loss when it is withdrawn. The young people themselves may also be the poorer if they don´t spend a period of time learning to stand on their own feet. Some people think that a period of time spent away from home focusing on discipline, responsibility and service are a good thing, especially for youngsters who would not be going away from home to study.

Are discipline, responsibility and service outmoded concepts now? I get the feeling that discipline is being replaced by other concepts, like motivation or focus. It also seems to me that responsibility is being pushed aside by the other side of the coin, “rights”.  What about service? Not sure about that one. A lot of people do talk about giving something back to the community once they get to a certain age, or a certain level of income. Many businesses have  woken up to the fact that good service is essential to profits. 

Before I get lost in the philosophy of the question, here are a few words of German which I have learned this week, in connection with this subject.  They come from the magazine “Focus” which has named Guttenberg as their man of 2010.

Schlagwörter (n) means headlines (hit words)
Armee (f) is armed forces
Bundeswehr (n) – federal armed forces, presumably not applicable to unfederal Britain
CSU – the party of Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the name behind this legislation
Pflicht (f) is task, duty or obligation and Wehr (n) can mean barrage or weir as well as defence.

Need more info? Try the magazine   SPIEGEL (mirror),,1518,706490,00.html

What do you think about compulsory service?   Germany´s neighbours who share the same language, Austria and Switzerland, still have it.


About Fun with languages

Blogging about learning languages, making it fun Hobbies: paragliding, cycling, reading, BBC radio 4.
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9 Responses to Germany ends conscription – is that good?

  1. Martin Shaw says:

    Compulsory military service is CONscription – A good idea if you don’t have to do it. It does at least teach everyone how to behave, eat regular meals at a table with a knife and fork, wash, dress presentably, go to bed at a regular reasonable time and generally all sing from the same hymnsheet. – Skills which have been lost in Britain over the fifty years since conscription ended.

    • Hi Martin
      Thanks for dropping by. I will go and alter the title to conscription …(I must have subscriptions on the brain. This being a relatively new blog it is great when people subscribe. It costs nothing but not everyone wants to receive an e-mail everytime a new post is made). Good point about it occasionally being fatal. I suspect a lot of parents fear that.

      Made me laugh when you said “good idea if you don´t have to do it”. It could be good fun to write a long list of things other people should do.

  2. Martin Shaw says:

    More to my last : –
    Against it is that it is a boring waste of young people’s lives and can occasionally be fatal – vis the “Glorious Gloucesters” in the Korean war when a large number of young conscripts were killed. At least they didn’t die in vain – Their memory prevented the UK government 10 years later from joining the Vietnam War – perhaps Blair should have attended history classes as a child.

    Most armies are also against having to train an endless stream of young men who don’t want to be there, using resources that could be used to provide an efficient defence force.

  3. Linda says:

    I live in the US and serving is by choice. I am not as concerned about young adults learning lessons of responsibility and social / service as I have met many of the current 20 something generation that is more responsible to their community and their jobs than some of the 40 somethings I know. (I’ve done a great deal of research on the generations and my philosophy is that it’s about the individual, not the generation). That aside…
    I wonder how Germany (or any other country) can make the transition more smooth. So that it does not impact the communities that have received service in the past. So that there are programs for young adults who may not have been taught responsibility at home and want to learn a few skills before entering the workforce. It is a difficult change management project!
    Keep us posted!

    • Hi Linda
      It is good to have input from another country, and from someone who has studied topic from a generational point of view. It made me wonder whether a feeling of service to the community is emerging on-line. In the last year I have noticed a lot of service giving going on, on the internet.
      Regarding people entering the workforce, I have the impression that there is a much stronger apprenticeship structure here than in the UK.
      You talk of a change management project and I don´t know to what extent the government intends to intervene. If they take a “hands off” stance, then some sectors such as hospitals will feel the pinch.
      After July 1st it would be interesting to do another search on German words such as hospitals problems conscription ends and see which images or reports emerge.
      Thanks for your interest.

  4. Die Wehrpflicht war doch die letzten Jahre sowieso nur mehr ein Witz:

    • Hi Andreas, good to meet you.
      Thanks for your comment that in recent years conscription has become a bit of a joke. Maybe that is true if you are talking of a full-on experience in the armed forces. What I do know is that conscription is still causing significant disruption in the life of those who are/were called up.
      I have just been looking at your blog and see that you write about “Politics, law, philosophy, history, literature, travel – and sometimes slightly less sophisticated issues”. I like your idea of sometimes including less weighty issues too. Your article on “Das War die Wehrpflicht” looks interesting and I have printed it out to read on the train this weekend.
      I will visit your blog again some time and tell my nephew about it. He is doing a doctorate in politics at the moment.

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