Democracy in danger in Germany

This 2013 video is about a pro-peace protest in Berlin against Thomas de Maiziere, then the ‘defence’ war minister of Germany.

By Ulrich Rippert in Germany:

German Interior Minister De Maiziere calls for a police state

9 January 2017

The “Guidelines for a strong state in difficult times” published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung by Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) on January 3, amounts to a call for a police state. The interior minister, who is also responsible for ensuring compliance with the constitution, has proposed a series of measures that violate the fundamental principles contained in the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany.

The minister’s actions are virtually unprecedented. Such drafts are normally carefully prepared in ministries. “There is pre-planning, followed by preliminary discussions with the minister, then speech writers and press spokespeople get involved, then the work is passed through the hands of a thousand experts,” wrote the Süddeutsche Zeitung. “And then, only then, is an opinion piece by a minister published.”

But this time, the minister reportedly wrote the text largely alone over the Christmas break. Bypassing all political committees and democratic decision-making, he presented his provocative demands to his ministry in a conservative daily newspaper.

At the heart of the wide-ranging catalogue of demands is the centralisation and strengthening of the country’s security apparatus. The federal structures of the police and intelligence agencies and their strict separation—codified in the Basic Law following the bitter experiences of Hitler’s state secret police (Gestapo)—would thereby be largely done away with.

De Maiziere called for the federal state to have “management competencies over all security agencies.” The powers of the Federal Criminal Office (BKA) and federal police are to be expanded, the domestic intelligence agencies in the states dismantled and integrated into a centralised domestic intelligence service.

The federal police, a paramilitary force which emerged from the border protection force and was originally only responsible for border security, will in future no longer be confined to border regions, but instead operate throughout the country. The German army is also to be deployed more regularly domestically. “Debates about this may have been understandable in the past. Now they are no longer,” wrote the interior minister.

What lies behind de Maiziere’s proposals?

For his part, he justified it by referring to the “horrific attack on the Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz in Berlin.” But it is already clear that in that case there was no lack of competencies, information or cooperation between the intelligence agencies. They had the suspected perpetrator Anis Amri under surveillance, knew his movements and various identities, and were aware of his plans for an attack and his relations with militant Islamists. They were so well informed that the question is posed as to whether they allowed him to carry out the attack in order to provide a pretext for the strengthening of the state apparatus.

One must look elsewhere for de Maiziere’s real motive. It is the social storm brewing in Germany and throughout Europe.

Social tensions are already at the breaking point. While a tiny minority is enriching itself fabulously at the top of society, working conditions for the vast majority are becoming ever harder and incomes are declining.

Should US President-elect Donald Trump follow through on his trade war pledges, this would have drastic consequences for Germany’s export-dependent economy. The same applies to the breakup of the European Union, which is progressing rapidly in the wake of Britain’s Brexit vote. In the Netherlands, Austria, France and Italy, where elections take place this year, parties hostile to the EU have significant chances of emerging victorious.

In Germany, the mounting anger at the established parties is currently finding expression in the growth of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD). But this will not remain so. In addition, the German government is rearming the military and preparing a vast expansion of foreign interventions, against which it anticipates significant opposition.

A recent edition of Der Spiegel, titled “The great erosion,” described some of these developments and posed the question, “Can it be that a revolution awaits?”

Under these conditions, de Maiziere’s proposal is aimed at prevention and suppression. Under the pretext of combatting terrorism, a “strong state” is being built and readied to suppress social opposition and resistance to militarism.

Many similarities with the 1930s are present. At that time, the ruling class responded to the radicalisation of the working class following the financial crisis and mass unemployment in 1929 by governing with emergency decrees and ultimately assisting Hitler to take power, even though his party controlled just one third of seats in the Reichstag. He was needed to destroy the workers’ movement and prepare the next war.

Thomas de Maiziere knows this history very well. He has to some degree grown up in Germany’s intelligence agencies, which have survived all of the twists and turns of German history and always served the interests of the ruling elite.

As a Wehrmacht officer, his father Ulrich de Maiziere served throughout the Second World War, including the Polish offensive and the siege of Leningrad. In the closing months of the war, he was a close confidante of Hitler as first officer of the general staff, and was highly valued. He continued his career as an officer in the Federal Republic and became General Inspector of the German army in 1966.

The elder de Maiziere’s brother, Clemens de Maiziere, was a member of the CDU in East Germany and a long-term collaborator with the Stasi. His son, Lothar de Maiziere, the interior minister’s cousin, was the last prime minister of the German Democratic Republic and dissolved it in 1990.

De Maiziere’s proposal is a warning. For some time, representatives of the ruling class have asserted that democracy and democratic rights are entrenched and that there would never be a return to dictatorship and war in Germany as in the 1930s. But social and political conflicts have only begun to emerge and they are already resorting to police state methods.

German government plans propaganda agency in response to “fake news”: here.

Namibians sue Germany about colonial genocide

This video says about itself:

2004 BBC Namibia – Genocide and The Second Reich documentary commemorating 100 years since the Herero and Nama genocide.

From the BBC:

Herero and Nama groups sue Germany over Namibia genocide

6 January 2017

Representatives of two indigenous groups in Namibia, the Herero and Nama peoples, have filed a class-action lawsuit against Germany in New York.

They are seeking reparations for what former colonial power Germany acknowledges was genocide.

The plaintiffs are seeking reparations and the right to representation at talks between Germany and Namibia.

Some 100,000 people are believed to have been killed when Germany crushed an uprising, beginning in 1904.

Namibia and Germany have been in talks about a joint declaration on the massacres, which Germany has recently admitted were genocide, but Herero and Nama descendants have been excluded from the talks.

Unlike with the victims of World War Two atrocities, Germany has also refused to pay reparations to victims, saying it pays millions of dollars of development aid to the country instead.

The dispute relates to a period in the late 19th and early 20th Century, when Germany was the colonial power in Namibia, then called South West Africa.

The suit claims damages on the basis that, as it states:

from 1885 to 1903, about a quarter of Herero and Nama lands were taken without compensation by settlers with official oversight – German descendants still farm some of that land today
colonial authorities ignored rapes of Herero and Nama women and girls as well as indigenous forced labour
as many as 100,000 Herero and Nama people died after they rebelled in 1904 in a campaign led by Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha

Studies also suggest that colonial rulers placed captives in concentration camps, and shipped off thousands of heads belonging to the dead to Berlin in an attempt to prove the inferiority of the defeated Africans in now discredited medical experiments.

The plaintiffs say Germany’s insistence it is making amends by paying development aid is unsatisfactory.

“There is no assurance that any of the proposed foreign aid by Germany will actually reach or assist the minority indigenous communities that were directly harmed,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer Ken McCallion said in an email to Reuters news agency.

“There can be no negotiations or settlement about them that is made without them.”

The case was lodged with the US District Court in Manhattan under the Alien Tort Statute, a 1979 law often invoked in human rights cases.

Berlin atrocity abused for xenophobia

This video says about itself:

Following Deadly Truck Attack, Islamophobia Fails to Gain Ground Among Germans

21 December 2016

Liberal left and anti-fascist forces in Germany are keeping anti-Muslim politics at bay for the moment, says political scientist Lars Bretthauer

By Peter Schwarz in Germany:

Right-wing, anti-immigrant offensive escalates in aftermath of Berlin terror attack

22 December 2016

Although the background to Monday’s attack on a Berlin Christmas market remains unclear, politicians and the media are using it to mount a right-wing offensive in Germany and throughout Europe. The attack claimed 12 lives and left 48 people injured.

On Tuesday, the police released a 23-year-old refugee from Pakistan because of lack of evidence that he had driven the truck that ploughed into a crowd at the Breitscheidplatz in central Berlin. Now the search is focused on a young Tunisian, Anis Amri, who has been living in Germany since July 2015 and has been under surveillance by the security authorities because he is alleged to be in contact with a German network of the Islamic State [ISIS].

According to press reports, the investigators found an identification document from Amri under the driver’s seat of the vehicle. Why they discovered it only after one-and-a-half days, although they had previously examined the vehicle for DNA traces of the first suspect, remains unanswered. Just as puzzling is why a perpetrator on the run would leave his visiting card at the crime scene.

Ralf Jäger, the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, the state where Amri was registered, told the press that the participation of the man in the attack was “still not at all clarified.”

On the basis of available information, nothing definitive can be said about those responsible for the Berlin attack. An Islamic background cannot be excluded, but neither can a provocation by home-grown right-wing forces be ruled out. It should be recalled that the attack carried out by an 18-year-old student in Munich this past summer was immediately declared an act of Islamist terrorism, until it turned out that the offender was a right-wing extremist.

The lack of clarity has not stopped politicians and the media from using the Berlin attack to launch a concerted campaign against refugees and demand a massive buildup of the state apparatus. The right-wing extremist Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the federal government, are leading the pack.

Their attacks are directly or indirectly directed against the CDU chairperson and chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, who plans to run for a fourth term as chancellor in the Bundestag (parliamentary) elections next autumn. Although Merkel has long since dropped her pose of acceptance of refugees fleeing the imperialist wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and other countries in the Middle East, Northern Africa and Central Asia, and switched to a course of ruthlessly deterring and deporting refugees, her critics continue to denounce her for being “soft” in regard to the refugee “problem.”

Marcus Pretzell, a leading AfD politician, tweeted immediately after Monday’s attack: “The deaths are Merkel’s responsibility!” On Wednesday evening, the AfD organized a vigil in front of the Chancellery at which far-right organizations such as Pegida, the Identities, and the National Democratic Party (NPD) planned to take part.

On Tuesday, Bavarian Prime Minister and CSU Chairman Horst Seehofer declared in Munich: “We owe it to the victims, their families and the entire populace to rethink and readjust our entire immigration and security policy.”

The Bavarian minister of the interior, Joachim Herrmann, claimed on Deutschlandfunk that the perpetrators were “people who had come to Germany as part of the refugee stream.” He added, “The risks are obvious.”

Participants in the Maischberger news interview program broadcast by ARD Tuesday evening demanded a massive state buildup. Shlomo Shpiro, known as an Israeli terror “expert,” described the Berlin attack as “Germany 9/11.” In the US, he declared, people had woken up to the threat of terrorism from one day to the next. This was now taking place in Germany. “The solutions,” he said, “are police, intelligence, security policy, but also social.”

Shpiro called for doing away with the “outdated laws, regulations and structures” that had been anchored in the German constitution as a consequence of Nazi rule. He said it was necessary to centralize the state surveillance and police apparatus. He acknowledged that “services in Germany have a bad reputation—keyword, Stasi, Gestapo, etc.” But, he said, the times when people could dwell on the crimes of such organizations were “over.”

Klaus Bouillon, the chairman of the Interior Ministerial Conference, called for “clear solutions” to deal with the terror threat, which “will certainly continue.” He continued: “We need to significantly strengthen the police, we need new forms of organization, we need more weapons. We need to think, do we need new laws to help investigation agencies, do we need to control the new media more?”

… The chairperson of the Green Party in the Bundestag, Katrin Göring-Eckardt, attacked Shpiro and Bouillon on the Maischberger show from the right. She criticized the fact that the intelligence services had not been centralized long before. On Deutschlandfunk, the Green politician Boris Palmer demanded: “There must be more deportations.” …

These reactions were not restricted to Germany. Across Europe, right-wing parties and governments seized on the Berlin attack as confirmation of their authoritarian and xenophobic policies.

Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babis, a millionaire entrepreneur, declared that Merkel’s policy was “responsible for this dreadful act.” He continued: “It was she who let migrants enter Germany and the whole of Europe in uncontrolled waves, without papers, therefore without knowing who they really are.” Migrants had “no place” in Europe, he insisted.

The Dutch extremist Geert Wilders published a picture of Merkel with blood on her hands and blamed Europe’s “cowardly leaders” for a “tsunami” of Islamic terrorist attacks.

The former UKIP (UK Independence Party) leader Nigel Farage posted on Twitter: “Terrible news from Berlin but no surprise. Events like these will be the Merkel legacy.”

The head of the Polish ruling party PiS, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, declared: “We will defend Poland.” The country’s interior minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, announced: “If the old government were still in power, we would have had several thousand, maybe 10,000 Islamist immigrants in the country. Then the danger would be great. It is all about a ‘struggle of Civilisations.’” He added that it was “no accident the target was a Christmas market.”

The editor of Die Zeit, Josef Joffe, a notorious right-winger, was jubilant, writing in the British Guardian: “Now the cocoon has burst for good. Ever protective of our privacy laws, Germans will soon come around to much intensified surveillance by our own intelligence services and those of our allies… Now Germany will invest even more in security—and perhaps show a bit more gratitude to the NSA, GCHQ and DGSE.”

Militarism in Germany would also benefit, Joffe continued. “Pacifism, the nation’s traditional posture since the Second World War, is losing its luster as Putinist expansionism encroaches on NATO’s eastern borders, while Donald Trump dismisses the alliance as ‘obsolete.’”

He concluded: “Above all, if the perpetrator does turn out to be a refugee, Merkel’s ‘open door’ policy on refugees will get a decisive make-over.” The policy of the “open door” was “a grand moral gesture stemming from Germany’s ugly past—an act of historical atonement.” But, he added, “The noblest of intentions go awry when terror legitimizes anti-migrant and isolationist parties on the right and on the far left.”

There is no indication that this right-wing campaign has significant popular support. The atmosphere in Berlin is calm. Most of those interviewed express grief and horror combined with the hope that the attack does not poison the public climate and lead to an upturn in the fortunes of the right wing. Seehofer’s attempt to politicize the terrible events after only 14 hours aroused widespread anger.

What is taking place is a deliberate campaign by ruling circles for which the attack on the Christmas market provides an ideal pretext. Here lies the real parallel to 9/11, as opposed to the claims of the Israeli terror “expert” Shpiro.

The attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington … provided the pretext for the wars in the Middle East by means of which the United States sought to defend its position as the sole world power, while erecting a huge surveillance and security apparatus for the control and suppression of the working class. The culmination of this development is the presidency of Donald Trump, whose government is comprised of members of the financial oligarchy and the military.

The ruling elites in Europe are now taking the same course. In so doing, they are responding to growing social tensions and the breaking apart of the European Union. The differences that arise between and within the bourgeois parties are purely tactical. In the basic direction of policy—militarism and social counterrevolution—all of the established parties are in accord.

As poverty levels grow in Germany, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) is fostering xenophobia. On Saturday, Economics Minister and SPD chairman, Sigmar Gabriel, called for the curtailing of child allowances for European residents in Germany if their children were not currently living in the country. In this case, “child allowance should be paid at the level paid in [the children’s] home country,” Gabriel told newspapers published by the Funke Media Group: here.

UPDATE: Amri may well have been responsible for the attack. However, the event itself remains obscure, and the extraordinary circumstances behind the attack raise many questions. It is now clear that security services were well aware that Amri was planning terrorist attacks. He had been in prison in Italy, was arrested in Germany and put under surveillance for months. Although the legal basis existed, the security and judicial authorities refused to detain him: here.

German protests against deportations to Afghan war

This 14 December 2016 video says about itself:

Germany: Protesters swarm Frankfurt Airport as first round of Afghans deported

Hundreds of protesters marched through Frankfurt Airport on Wednesday to defend the rights of the Afghan refugees who are being deported. The protest was orchestrated by the Afghan Refugee movement and was timed for the first collective deportation of 50 Afghans from Germany.

By Marianne Arens and Martin Kreickenbaum in Germany:

Massive protests in Germany against deportations to Afghanistan

16 December 2016

On Wednesday, 34 Afghan refugees were forcibly deported to Kabul from Frankfurt on a charter flight from the Frankfurt-Rhein-Main Airport. This is the first time such a mass deportation has taken place in Germany. A spontaneous demonstration at the Frankfurt airport involved about a thousand people, including many young people. They wore stop signs and chanted slogans such as “Deportation is torture, deportation is murder. A right to stay for all, immediately!”

Protests and demonstrations have already taken place. On Saturday, the “International Day of Human Rights,” thousands of people in Berlin participated in a demonstration to stop deportations to Afghanistan.

In spite of these protests, the German government went ahead with the deportations using extreme brutality. It is deporting refugees, many of whom have been tolerated for many years, back to a country where war rages and basic human rights are nonexistent.

In October, the EU agreed a repatriation agreement with the puppet government in Afghanistan and assured the payment of €1.7 billion when the Afghan government accepts refugees in return. The driving force behind the shabby deal was the German government. On this basis, the German Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maizière (CDU), wants to expel up to 12,500 people from Germany to Afghanistan whose asylum applications have been rejected and only have “toleration” status.

It was originally planned to deport 50 Afghan refugees on Wednesday. Fifteen people had gone underground, however, de Maizière explained. He announced that “in future families and women would also be deported.”

The deportees were by no means “criminal asylum-seekers,” as had been claimed earlier. Most of them were refugees who had lived in Germany for years and were now being deported overnight. Twenty-two-year-old Babur Sedik told the Frankfurter Rundschau that he had been in Germany for four years and had lived exclusively in refugee homes and camps. Rahmat Khan, also 22, had fled from the fiercely contested region of Paktia and has now been deported.

The Bavarian refugee council reported that an Afghan refugee from Dingolfing had jumped out of the window at 3 a.m. when police sought to arrest him. He was taken to a clinic and apparently placed on the plane after short-lived treatment.

The ruthlessness of the security authorities against Afghan refugees is also shown by the case of 24-year-old Samir Narang from Hamburg, who went to the Aliens Office to extend his toleration status. Instead of the extension of his residence permit, however, he received an expulsion permit and was put into the deportation prison in Büren, and has now been deported to Kabul. Samir Narang is a Hindu and belongs to a persecuted religious minority in Afghanistan, and who now has to fear for his life there.

The deportation of one 29-year-old Afghan was stopped at the last minute by the Federal Constitutional Court, because he was still pursuing an asylum procedure. This means that the authorities planned to deport refugees whose asylum applications had not yet been finally rejected.

The Federal Constitutional Court reported that the question of whether deportations to Afghanistan were constitutional had been expressly left open. Despite the obvious concerns of the highest German court, the deportations on Wednesday were carried out in a hurry.

The collective deportation is a clear violation of human rights. This is also the position of the international medical organization IPPNW (Doctors for social responsibility). According to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which is also applicable in Germany, deportations of refugees to countries where they are threatened with death, persecution or torture are illegal.

But that is exactly the situation in Afghanistan. Even the guidelines of the Federal Office for Migration, which serve as the basis for asylum decisions, leave no room for doubt. “In all parts of Afghanistan there is a domestic armed conflict in the form of civil war and guerrilla fighting between Afghan security forces and the Taliban, as well as other opposition forces.” Human rights violations are widespread, food supplies are scarce and half of all children in Afghanistan are “endangered by long-term malnutrition.”

The security situation has dramatically intensified in the last 18 months. The UN mission to Afghanistan reported more civilian casualties in the first nine months of this year than since censuses began in 2009. The New York Times reported recently that Taliban militias killed 30 to 50 Afghan security forces every month. They have also increased their attacks on provincial capitals, destroyed roads and infrastructure. The government in Kabul is losing control in more and more parts of the country. According to data from the US government, Islamic groups are increasingly filling the power vacuum.

A commentary on German TV by the journalist Georg Restle described the deportations as a “Christmas present for the extreme right.” He demanded an immediate stop to the deportations.

Restle went on: “The truth is: Germany is safe, Afghanistan is by no means safe. Also because we have fought a war there, which has made things much worse, rather than better. This is why the federal government has a special responsibility for this country and the people who flee from it. That is why the deportations to Afghanistan have to be stopped. And now, immediately!”

The brutality with which the federal government is enforcing illegal deportations in the dead of night and fog recalls some of the worst crimes of German history. The Nazi deportations also began with resettlement, long before the trains rolled into the extermination camps.

As was the case in those days, racist attacks are a reaction to the growing economic and social crisis. The ruling class is trying to divert the growing opposition to unemployment, poverty and distress with racism. This is why xenophobia is systematically encouraged to incite workers against one other. The attacks on asylum law in Germany and the brutal deportation measures are the prelude to massive attacks on all workers.

The choice of the right-wing demagogue Donald Trump in the US has also given rise to a sharp turn to the right in European and German politics or, more accurately, accelerated the turn to the right. Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer (Christian Social Union, CSU) commented on the deportations on television: “I hope this is not a one-time action.” Hundreds of thousands more people would still have to be deported. He based his comments on Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had said that now “return, return, return” was the order of the day.

Just last week a conference of the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) took up the main slogan of the far-right Alternative to Germany, “Foreigners Out!” in its main motion.

In the implementation of this policy, the federal government works closely with all other parties, which are governed by different coalitions at a state level. The states of Hesse, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hamburg, Saarland and North Rhine-Westphalia all participated in the collective deportation. The main responsibility fell to the Hessen state government, a CDU-Green coalition, which has ultimate control over the Rhein-Main airport and the deportations, which are decided upon at state level. The Greens in Hesse expressly agreed to the deportations.

In the Hessen parliament, Green Party chair Mathias Wagner declared the deportations to Afghanistan “difficult to bear,” but that the state parliament could not assess the security situation there and it was necessary to rely on the judgement of the federal authorities.

In Baden-Württemberg, Green Premier Winfried Kretschmann is working closely with Thomas Strobl (CDU). Strobl is the son-in-law of the federal minister of finance, Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) and a right-wing rabble-rouser, who represents the politics of the AfD in the CDU. Green politician Boris Palmer, the mayor of Tübingen, also recently called for deportations to Syria.

… In an appeal issued on the “Day of Human Rights” the Thuringian Refugee Council pointed out: “Many refugees living in Thuringia come from Afghanistan. Very long waiting times for a decision on their asylum application and more and more refusals lead to anxiety about their future among Afghan families, unaccompanied minors, women and men.”

Militarist propaganda in Germany criticized

Bundeswehr propaganda on the Berlin underground in Germany

By Stefan Steele in Germany:

Opposition mounts to German military advertising campaign

15 December 2016

Almost every large German city now features signs and billboards praising the services of the German military (Bundeswehr) and calling on people to do their “duty.” In many bus, tram and underground stations, as well as at schools, universities and education centres, the Bundeswehr has been campaigning with provocative slogans like “Do something that really counts” and “You can’t solve crises by hanging around and drinking tea.”

The propaganda campaign is part of the return of militarism launched by President Joachim Gauck and the German government at the Munich Security Conference in 2014. Since that time the Defence Ministry has been working hard to create a combat-ready army and recruit soldiers for military interventions in the Middle East and Africa.

In early December, Defence Minister Ursula Von der Leyen (Christian Democrats, CDU) presented the Bundeswehr’s new human resources strategy. The issue, her report argued, was to “have men and women with the right qualifications in the right place at the right time.” It continued, “In this way we guarantee the readiness of personnel to deploy, fulfill our obligations in a broad, shifting spectrum of interventions and make it possible for Germany to play an appropriate role in security policy.”

Since the end of compulsory military service on July 1, 2011, the Bundeswehr has faced major problems in attracting and training new recruits. As the parliamentary representative for army affairs, Hans-Peter Bartels (Social Democrats, SPD), complained recently in Handelsblatt (a leading business newspaper), “In June 2016 we had the smallest Bundeswehr ever.”

To counter this trend, the Bundeswehr has organised an advertising campaign aimed at youth and young adults. In 2015 alone, the Defence Ministry spent €35.2 million [US$37.5 million] on career advertising. This is €23.2 million more than in 2010, shortly before the end of compulsory military service. Costs for career advertising have thus nearly tripled.

So-called youth officers visit schools to appeal to students to join up. They offer the prospect of stable living conditions, as well as training or studying at university. These are offers that, given the miserable social conditions and lack of opportunities on the labour market, certainly sound attractive. The Bundeswehr is even prepared to appeal to children. When pictures of this year’s “Bundeswehr Day” were published in the media in which children were visible while smiling soldiers showed them how to handle a machine gun, they provoked a wave of protests.

A look at the Bundeswehr’s web site underscores that the army is deliberately targeting very young people. A school practicum of between two and three weeks is offered for children as young as 10, involving the “civilian sector” as well as “the armed forces.” The practicum placements are located “generally in military institutions and the temporary colleagues are usually soldiers, so that our practicants have sufficient opportunities to get an impression of the Bundeswehr as an employer.”

Militarist propaganda in Wolfsburg's main train station

The Child Soldier Alliance, whose members include Amnesty International Germany and UNICEF Germany, regularly criticises the German government for recruiting minors. In its “Shadow report on child soldiers” from 2013, it warned, “It seems possible that the number of minors in the Bundeswehr will increase. The Bundeswehr undertakes comprehensive advertising campaigns that increasingly target minors.”

This is precisely what has occurred. The number of minors who are being trained to use weapons is steadily increasing. While in 2010, 496 minors joined the Bundeswehr, so far this year there have been 1,576 recruits.

The centrepiece of the recruiting campaign among youth is the online series “The recruits.” It appears five days a week on YouTube and chronicles the training of 12 young recruits over three months. The Bundeswehr spent €1.7 million on the series. An additional €6.2 million has been spent on advertising on Facebook and other social media outlets.

The series recalls the “docu-soaps” broadcast on private television channels. With music in the background and humorously constructed characters, the daily lives of the “recruits” are made out to be like an adventure holiday with sporting challenges. While the first episodes mainly focus on discipline and the tough life of a soldier, the army as a whole is presented as a “cool squad,” where everyone sticks together and supports each other. This fits in with the advertising slogan, “What do 1,000 online friends amount to compared to one comrade?”

Bundeswehr advertising sign at the Humboldt University Nord cafeteria

But none of this can conceal the actual purpose of the training: a new generation is to fight in foreign interventions in the interests of German imperialism and, if necessary, die. While Von der Leyen boasts of the great response her campaign has received, opposition is growing among young workers and students.

Numerous videos on YouTube comment on and question the Bundeswehr series. A web site set up by the “Peng! Collective,” which effectively mocked the Bundeswehr campaign, attracted some 150,000 visits, more than the Bundeswehr’s official site. On the deceivingly realistic web site, the career suggestions from the Bundeswehr were replaced by “doctor,” “teacher” and “refugee assistant,” and the slogans replaced with phrases such as “Your life for the powerful” and “War can destroy you.”

Unfortunately, I could not find that parody site any more.

The campaign has also provoked resistance at universities. At the University of Hamburg, a protest by the general student representative committee led to the student centre no longer carrying the Bundeswehr’s advertising in the cafeterias.

At the end of November, the student parliament at Berlin’s Humboldt University (HU) spoke out against army advertising at the university. The university’s International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) chapter introduced the resolution. The text, adopted by the majority in the parliament, read, “The student parliament opposes all forms of advertising for the Bundeswehr at our university and calls upon the Berlin student centre and university management not to permit any Bundeswehr advertising initiatives on the HU campus.”