HEIL (HAIL) THE WEHRMACHT ... I MEAN, THE BUNDESWEHR. German pacifists object to the Bundeswehr closing its golden jubilee ceremonies in Berlin with Der grosse Zapfenstreich ("bar time," in Wisconsin English.)

The "Zapfenstreich," originally just a signal indicating lights out dating back to the end of the 16th century, took on a musical form and has been an institution in the German armed forces since 1838.

Politics professor Wolf-Dieter Narr of Berlin's Free University argued that the ceremony belongs to the eras of German imperialism and the Nazis.

"I don't claim it was the product of the Nazis, but it was certainly a ceremony they used," Narr said.

I have a recording of one such ceremony from before Reunification. Was it in Ordnung to hold it in Bonn, but not in Berlin? Where was the professor on the subject of goose-stepping by the Volksarmee of the so-called Democratic Republic, 1949-1989? That, too, is a holdover from the Kaiser that the Nazis used. Zapfenstreich has a back-beat you can goose to, but the current German military doesn't do that. For that matter, where does the professor stand on the subject of placement examinations for Gymnasium? That was certainly a ceremony in use in the Nazi period. Come off it, already.

More interesting is this observation by another protestor.

Frank Brendle of the anti-ceremony alliance said the transformation of Germany's military from a purely defensive force to more professional units capable of operating abroad was another focus of the protest.

"It is an expression of militarized politics. We have moved from an army of defense to one of attack," Brendle said.

But outgoing Defense Minister Peter Struck defended the celebrations, saying it had nothing to do with the Nazis or the Wehrmacht.

"The military tattoo is an old Prussian tradition," he told Reuters television.

Ah, those old Prussian traditions. (They include surrendering to Americans, a tradition the Prussians borrowed from the Hessians.) All the same, when you see German troops doing close-order drill with bicycles, worry, particularly if you're French.

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