- Title: Germany defends post-war achievements of its scandal-hit army
- Date: 23rd May 2017
- Summary: BERLIN, GERMANY (MAY 23, 2017) (REUTERS) GERMAN DEFENCE MINISTER, URSULA VON DER LEYEN, ARRIVING TO SPEAK MILITARY PERSONNEL LISTENING CLOSE OF VON DER LEYEN GERMAN AND EUROPEAN FLAGS PEOPLE LISTENING (SOUNDBITE) (German) GERMAN DEFENCE MINISTER, URSULA VON DER LEYEN, SAYING: "I am convinced that after 61 years of the Bundeswehr we have a proud and impressive history in the Bundeswehr, from which we can develop our own tradition much more strongly, our own sense of meaning than we have done so far." MEDIA VARIOUS OF VON DER LEYEN TALKING SPD PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSIONER FOR THE GERMAN ARMED FORCES, HANS-PETER BARTELS, TALKING TO REUTERS CAMERA CLOSE OF BARTELS CLOSE OF BARTEL'S HANDS JOURNALIST TAKING NOTES (SOUNDBITE) (German) SPD PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSIONER FOR THE GERMAN ARMED FORCES, HANS-PETER BARTELS, SAYING: "I don't know who advised her to let her criticisms be seen so drastically and dramatically. But now it's happened and we have to repair the damage so that a culture of distrust doesn't seep into the armed forces. Rather there should be the best possible relationship between the leadership and those being led in the armed forces. There should be the best possible relationship of trust. For the internal leadership this is essential." REUTERS NEWSROOM (SOUNDBITE) (German) SPD PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSIONER FOR THE GERMAN ARMED FORCES, HANS-PETER BARTELS, SAYING: "It has already caused a certain breach of trust. Many soldiers are unhappy about how such actions are perceived in public and there is a sense of a general suspicion. So the trust has to be regained." REUTERS NEWSROOM CAMERAMAN BARTELS BEING INTERVIEWED
- Embargoed: 6th June 2017 19:11
- Keywords: Bundeswehr criticisms trust military Von der Leyen
- Location: BERLIN, GERMANY
- City: BERLIN, GERMANY
- Country: Germany
- Topics: Defence,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0016I2AA87
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Germany's armed forces can be proud of their post-war achievements, the defence minister said on Tuesday (May 23), responding to a series of scandals involving far-right sympathisers in the Bundeswehr army's ranks.
The Bundeswehr, founded in the 1950s as West Germany's democratically-controlled army in contrast to the Nazi-era Wehrmacht, is heavily involved in peacekeeping and training missions abroad and has fully integrated women.
Von der Leyen has come under fire for criticising the army following a scandal concerning a high-flying officer accused of planning militant attacks while disguised as an asylum seeker.
That case has triggered one debate over how the armed forces should deal with their past, and another about whether von der Leyen's criticism had discredited the army's 250,000 military and civilian staff.
"After 61 years of the Bundeswehr, we have a proud and impressive history," the defence minister told reporters. "From that we can develop a much stronger tradition, our own sense of meaning."
The case of the officer, identified only as Franco A., has stirred up uncomfortable memories because investigators searching barracks after his arrest found dozens of items of World War Two-era memorabilia.
In her initial reaction, von der Leyen pointed to this as evidence that too little was being done to stamp out far-right sympathies in the forces.
The German parliamentary armed forces ombudsman, Hans-Peter Bartels, whose job is to hear soldiers' complaints, said her criticisms had caused enormous disquiet throughout the army.
"I don't know who advised her to let her criticisms be seen so drastically," he told Reuters. "But now it's happened and we have to repair the damage ... Every soldier I've heard from has a sense of having been targeted by the criticisms."
Harking to military traditions to foster an esprit de corps among soldiers is difficult for the Bundeswehr, which rejects the militarism of the past and honours officers who disobeyed Hitler and tried to assassinate him.
Speaking to the foreign journalists association, von der Leyen said the Bundeswehr had to draw its sense of pride from its post-war achievements.
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