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Comradeship (from Italian camerata , "chamber community") describes an interpersonal relationship without sexual claims in the sense of solidarity within a group , earlier mainly among male people, today in general. The term originally comes from the military and is also used in the political choice of words. Sometimes it is used synonymously with the term friendship in common parlance .


The term is used in many contexts: class, sport, club and school companionship, also as a term in various groups in general. It is the climbing of mountains or in expeditions spoken by comrade expedition; Comradeship includes here for example - as a special characteristic - mutual comradely helpfulness under the conditions of natural hazards. Comradeship is generally a mutual motor for group dynamics , can motivate, arouse human empathy , collegiality and friendly feelings, give support, provide encouragement and consolation, reduce one's own physical awareness, especially when a situation is perceived as difficult. Comradeship can also: over-motivate and lead to self-overestimation in the group or organization, induce actions that a member would otherwise omit, provide a feeling of togetherness, represent something like a friendship or family substitute, in a greatly exaggerated and misunderstood form Letting go of one's sense of responsibility, leading to the denial of one's own religious or ideological convictions through to criminality and inhumanity, leading to self-denial , unconditional obedience , automatism in human action and complete self-neglect and this in particular in connection with ideologies , world views , political currents and the fanaticism that goes with it .


In principle, the term is a specific expression of collegiality. Norms of collegiality generally emerge in every organization. Standards of mutual collegial help make it easier for members of the organizations, among other things, to do a good job. They also minimize the risk of being fired from these organizations. In certain organizations - armies, police units or fire brigades - collegiality develops, among other things, under special circumstances in the form of camaraderie. Not only the role as an organization member is at stake here, but the whole person, because there is often a danger of being seriously injured or killed while exercising the profession. Overall, soldiers, police officers or firefighters are rarely exposed to such life-threatening extreme situations. Your everyday life consists largely of routine activities, exercises and, for example, waiting for hours. Nevertheless, thoughts about being able to get into a life-threatening situation shape their horizon of expectations . Not least if the equipment to be carried on the body is heavy, inadequate or inadequate food, life-threatening environment, exposure to heat or cold, as well as dirt, signs of illness, physical fatigue or lack of sleep, the existence of these threats is constantly evoked. Comradeship can be a necessary tool for members of an organization to improve their chances of survival or that of other members. But it does not develop automatically.

Word origin

Comrade is etymologically related to companion . Borrowed from the French word camarade from the Spanish camarada , it competes - initially under the influence of the Italian camerata - with the later abandoned secondary form of Middle French / French camerade , which was borrowed from German military language in the 16th century . The starting point is the Latin camera ("vaulted ceiling, vault", Middle Latin "room, bedroom" ("chamber"), apparently also "a room for soldiers"), because the Romanesque derivation describes the corresponding small military unit, the "corporal body" (in the sense of “a room full of soldiers”), then (changing from feminine to masculine gender) the individual member, the soldier, “companion in the room, in the army”. The word comrade was used during the Thirty Years' War and was soon used generally for “companion, comrade”. In the 17th century, comradeship is used for "friendship, solidarity, community", and in the 19th century the adjective "comradely" was added - alongside the now-unusual "comradely".

Comradeship as a soldier's duty and virtue

Comradeship is of particular importance in the military community . In particular, this means the duty of every soldier to assist his comrade under all circumstances - even if his life is in danger . The special thing about soldierly comradeship is that it is not tied to personal ties in the sense of friendship, companionship, or the like, but is required of every soldier as a duty . In the Federal Republic of Germany this results from § 12 Soldiers Act (SG) . Its need for regulation arises from the fact that it can be socially in tension with another military duty, that of " obedience ". The fellowship requires all soldiers, the dignity, the honor and the rights to respect of comrades and help him in need and danger . The duty of comradeship includes mutual recognition, consideration and respect for other people's views. Comrades with corresponding rights and duties can only be soldiers within the meaning of the Soldiers Act.

“Comradeship is not something the soldier can choose - it is ordered to the soldier. It takes place not only horizontally, but also vertically - not only from bottom to top, but also from top to bottom. "

- Real estate of Schnurbein KzS aD Kdt Gorch Fock
Lovro Kuhar (* 1893 in Köttlach Austria-Hungary / † 1950 in Maribor Yugoslavia ), writer / communist politician, photo of his place of birth.

In official and partially official representations, “comradeship” is demanded, invoked and sometimes glorified as one of the virtues of soldiers. Other sources, such as autobiographies and novels, paint a more nuanced picture of camaraderie. With the help of the Slovenian war novel Doberdò by Lovro Kuhar , the sociologist Sabine A. Haring shows that Kuhar's novel in 1940 included an “authentic” description of the everyday war life of the common soldier in the multi-ethnic - colloquially mostly Austro-Hungarian army - submitted to the Austro-Hungarian Army in the sense of a “counter-memory” to official or semi-official representations. He described the drill and the repression, the physical hardship and the struggle for survival in the Isonzo battles of World War I from a national Slovenian perspective.

In contrast to nation states in World War I - such as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland , France or Germany - the Habsburg Monarchy did not rule a state characterized by ethnic and linguistic homogeneity , but a multi-ethnic state made up of various ethnic groups. Ethnic diversity, different state-constitutional traditions, religious affiliations and languages ​​characterized the Austro-Hungarian army . Overall, only around 25 percent of the soldiers spoke German as their mother tongue. The remaining soldiers used one of the eight other languages ​​that were spoken in addition to German in the Habsburg army, which exacerbated the problems in this army. The composition of the punitive battalion in the novel partly reflects the ethnic composition of the Austro-Hungarian army . The individual characters also differ in terms of their social origins and their political views. As a result, there is sometimes no group solidarity at all, but rather hatred and mutual intent to murder. The individual soldiers use the term "comrade" in the sense of a functional designation when they speak of the fellow soldiers of the 1st platoon of the 1st company, but their feelings towards these "comrades" are ambivalent and have thoughts about those who usually do associated with “comradeship” as a virtue have little in common. The occasional measures for “political education” nevertheless define the “soldier spirit” as the “spirit of the will to win and of comradeship”. Solidarity can best be identified where exemplary punishments for the army members generate compassion among the fellow soldiers and mitigations are described in the execution of the sentences. It is only gradually that the first signs of a sense of community can be detected within the entire train. Only after individual comradely expressions of solidarity among soldiers who were previously suspicious of each other does mutual trust develop. Friendships sometimes result from comradeship. The expansion of mutual tolerance of ethnic idiosyncrasies and different national views later promotes comradeship at battalion level . When marching, for example, after the Slovenes have sung a folk song, a platoon leader orders the organization of a choir and says: “The Slovenes! Then we just sing Slovenian songs when there is no other way. ” One agrees on compromises or on a general consensus at the lowest level. Before the war, the soldiers are generally emotionally elated with military rites . But right at the front it is not only evident that survival - if at all - is only possible through mutual help, but also that: “ [...] Although everyone knew that the way they were led, the way was in death, everyone was afraid of lonely death in this stony field riddled with gunfire. "

Training of comradeship norms using the example of the soldier's profession

The sociologist Stefan Kühl , using the example of the discussion on incidents in the Bundeswehr , pointed out that the general public debate about it is almost naive about how norms of comradeship are created: “One seems to believe that comradeship develops simply because The Soldiers Act states that "the solidarity of the Bundeswehr is essentially based on comradeship" and that all soldiers are obliged to respect the honor and rights of comrades and to stand by them in need and danger. Comradeship is formulated here as a formal expectation of behavior that demands that you stand up for your comrades even in extreme situations - in "distress and danger". "

It is not the formal requirements in the Soldiers Act or the indoctrination of an ideology of comradeship by the highest military leaderships, but rather the norms of comradeship. These standards of collegiality develop much more in the shadow of the official formal organization - through the autonomous, self-initiated action of the soldiers.

Implementation of camaraderie expectations in the soldier and police professions

Expectations of comradeship in armies are generally enforced by means of which the leadership does not want to know exactly. But there is also a peaceful variant of the creation of norms of comradeship. As a rule, members of the military quickly learn how to practice loyal behavior towards comrades. Among other things: not to bare you in public situations, to help each other (e.g. if individuals are overwhelmed), to hide mistakes in the sense of camaraderie or fair play or to step in at short notice - if this appears necessary. In the ideal case, trust structures are formed, which lead to mutual support even in extreme situations and mutual trust already exists. If a subordinate does not accept such informal behavioral expectations, negative informal sanctions are used in armies. These range from disparaging remarks or insults, to social isolation of the soldier or the refusal to provide assistance, to physical attacks and drastic humiliation. Such sanctions usually do not serve to exclude the soldier from the group of comrades, but to enforce informal norms (not formal social norms).

Soldiers or police officers who - as practice shows - often do not report officially forbidden punishments, but allow themselves or others to be endured, are then consequently “rewarded”, so to speak, with remaining in the circle of comrades. Such processes of enforcing informal norms are well known in every organization. In the military, however, they occur in a more violent form. It stands to reason that in organizations whose main task is the use of military or police force and in which violence specialists, for example in the form of military police , are used to enforce formal expectations of behavior , the enforcement of non-formal social norms takes place in a more physical manner - than, for example, in in the free economy or in city administrations.

Comradeship among uniformed peers

Previous military research believed that the basis for their research on camaraderie development was building personal trust among soldiers through good knowledge of soldiers among themselves.

On the basis of statistically conducted surveys of German Wehrmacht soldiers, the scientists Edward A. Shills and Morris Janowitz came to the conclusion that their willingness to fight was not primarily in accordance with Nazi ideology (motivation via purpose identification), joy in killing (motivation via "attractive" actions) , Payment of high wages , enrichment through looting (motivation over money) or fear of punishment by the Nazi criminal apparatus (motivation over coercion), but because they felt obliged to a group of comrades.

The researchers limited their concept of comradeship to a group of four to fifteen soldiers, with one person trained, stationed and deployed in combat. According to Shills and Janowitz, the willingness to continue fighting even in militarily hopeless situations depended primarily on the contact with the “primary group” of five to seven people on a train. Only when these primary groups were torn apart due to the course of the war did this "cohesion" give way to an increasing dissolution of social cohesion and the willingness of the Wehrmacht soldiers to desert increased sharply. But for the development of camaraderie norms it is not necessary that the members of the organization know each other.

Anonymous expectations of comradeship are increasingly emerging, especially at the level of battalions, divisions or entire armies. Mutual support, especially when it comes to external presentation, is - according to the sociologist Niklas Luhmann - a "basic law of internal cooperation" in every organization. Personal acquaintance is not a necessary requirement for this. Equality of rank, however, is an essential and encouraging element in the development of comradeship expectations, since organizational members at the same hierarchical level are most willing to hide mistakes or cover small deviations from one another. In military, police or fire brigade units, uniforms allow the rank of a person to be quickly identified. In the case of the military or the police, there is also a high level of security that you will not be surprised by an invisible difference in hierarchy. One of the functions of uniforms is to clarify formal authority to issue instructions. However, they also make it possible to allow informal expectations of comradeship to take hold even if there is little or no knowledge of the other person.

The exertion of pressure by superiors - especially in the military - increases expectations of comradeship among peers. It is the "jointly experienced drill" in the training, the "harassment of the NCOs" and the "principle of group liability" which is sometimes used by them, which contributes significantly to the tightening of comradeship norms. However, as is often assumed in research, these not only strengthen cohesion within the small group that suffers from the same superior, but they transcend them. Because a soldier can assume that a comrade from another unit has had similar experiences with his superiors, a certain cohesion arises between members of an organization of equal rank, regardless of specific personal knowledge. Comradeship is formed in a community of suffering that promotes uncomfortability towards the superior.

Comradeship and military hierarchy

The establishment of friendly and generally cooperative structures is generally more difficult between superiors and subordinates than between members of the same rank in an organization. The loyalty of superiors is difficult to control only through collegial means. For this reason, members of the organization tend to be "cautiously reserved" when dealing with superiors. Because a lower rank cannot generally assume that a higher rank will ignore the everyday small deviations in the troops as a matter of course. In military crisis situations such as wars, street battles and major fires, everyone is particularly dependent on one another. This is where the reasons for the development of comradely norms beyond hierarchical levels are rooted.

This camaraderie is expressed in part with titles based on family structures - for example, such as “Papa” or “Father” for the commander, “mother of the company” or for the spit in military units. This is found in many armies around the world. These designations are reserved as "honorary designations" for those superiors who are valued by lower-ranking people - "their men" or "their women" - precisely because of their informal influence. However, superiors always “buy” their informal influence with the occasional toleration of rule violations by their subordinates.

For example, from studies on the US Army in the Vietnam War , it is known that the training of comradely norms across hierarchical levels can be vital for survival. Deviations from the rules were tolerated to a relatively large extent because the superiors were particularly dependent on the support of their subordinates. Correspondingly, young officers were made aware of the fact that this war could not be won according to the formal rules that are usually set up in soldiers' training courses, if necessary by subtle means.

Delimitation of the terms comradeship, camaraderie and friendship

Gustav Radbruch, trainee lawyer in 1902

The social democrat and legal philosopher Gustav Radbruch , who was influential through his theses , also explained the term in general in connection with the socialist concept of friendship: According to this, the origin of the word aptly describes the concept of comradeship. Since sharing a chamber with someone is a personal bond that is not based on an inner inclination, but on external circumstances. The greatest camaraderie is the opposition to others. But if comradeship is based solely on belonging to one group and opposition to another group, then comradeship is spoken of derogatory. The transitions between camaraderie and friendship are often imperceptible. The term “friendship” describes a relationship between people based on mutual affection, which arises from within. Friendship is therefore a feeling that cannot be demanded. Comradeship is behavior that can be demanded or ordered. While friendship is limited to a small group of people, comradeship can gather millions.

The socialist concept of comradeship

Cinema poster 1932

According to Radbruch's socialist thesis, there is real comradeship only in groups of people who are connected to one another in a common cause, work or work and only in a "community": "Comradeship, community spirit and joy in work are the three basic ideas of socialist morality". The highest form of comrade would therefore be the comrade .

Radbruch put it: “The community demands in the relationship of its members: comradeship; in the relationship of each of its members to the community itself: public spirit. ”He also spoke of“ brotherhood ”, the“ idea of ​​equality in everything that bears human faces ”and“ Christian love ”which stands aside for socialist comradeship and which, by its nature,“ Charity ”as elements of a“ relationship ”between socialism and Christianity. He confessed, however, restrictively to a “merry religiosity” and described the “affirmation of life” as religion.

The formulation All people are brothers! he saw as a beautiful dream. “ All people are comrades! ”Would be“ a not yet tangible ”, but“ still visible possibility ”. He noted that this was a sober consideration. He wrote in his cultural theory of socialism in 1922 that a new sense of community could be determined and made reference to the American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892). In his poetry, Whitman thematized the beauty of nature and the democracy of his country and influenced not only American literature, but also European naturalism and expressionism . Radbruch referred to him disparagingly as a "singer" in contrast to the romantic concept of comradeship.

The Franco-German “Reconciliation Film” from the interwar period, Kameradschaft , is about a mine accident on the border in which German unfortunate French miners rescue. Excerpt from the film dialogue: “Comrades! I couldn't understand what my French comrade said. But we all understood what he meant. Because it doesn't matter whether you are German or French. We are all workers. And buddy is buddy. But why do we only stick together when things get dirty? Or should we just watch until we have been hounded again to the point where we shoot each other to death in the war? "

The film critic Siegfried Kracauer analyzed: " Pabst is not satisfied with denouncing nationalism, he interprets it in the socialist sense."

The film received an award from the German committee of the League of Nations Committee for bringing peoples closer together through the film . Against the film background of the Courrières mine disaster in 1906, which was changed and moved to the film making time and the League of Nations idea discussed at that time , Georg Wilhelm Pabst thematized international solidarity . The film was commercially unsuccessful and only brought in about a third of its production costs. He was panned by the right-wing section of the German press. The director was later inducted into the Legion of Honor . At the 1958 world exhibition in Brussels, Kameradschaft was voted one of the 30 best films of all time by an international jury of critics. On closer inspection, he mixes the term buddy (colloquial: miner or friend) with that of comradeship and also interprets these two in a “socialist sense”. According to his thesis presented , socialism and comradeship can undermine catastrophic consequences, mine hierarchies, cultural and language barriers, formalism , social barriers , nationalism and post-war hostility, as well as all indoctrination . Courrières had already become a symbol of international understanding in the left-wing camp - against the background of the makeshift First Moroccan Crisis - also through cross-border relief services. A collegial farewell statement by a French firefighter to a German was quoted in the press: "Get the Deuvel the whole Morocco crisis."

The time of romance and the concept of camaraderie

Print version from 1815

In 1809 Ludwig Uhland wrote the poem The Good Comrade . It met with great approval - provided with the melody by Friedrich Silcher in 1825 . The text is - sober and yet moving - about two soldiers, the fate of the war and their comradeship; but rather from loyalty to friends. The song became known under the opening line of the first verse: "I had a comrade," and not under its actual title. The second line indicates that a strong emotional friendship has already developed between the two of them - going beyond pure soldierly comradeship: "You won't find a better one.", Together with the line: "I want to extend my hand". Nevertheless, the song ends with: “My good comrade!” And especially not with: My good friend.

The later line: "Meanwhile, I just invite." Followed by "Can't shake your hand" can easily be used as the sophisticated formulation of a request for help or a last consoling friendship - which is due to reloading the weapon due to the danger becomes impossible due to enemy fire - interpret. “You stay in eternal life” is to be identified as a Christian metaphor for an eternal life in paradise, which is comfortingly desired or predicted for good friendship.

Uhland was a well-known, if not too typical, representative of German Romanticism and later - for that time - a "left-wing radical politician". The lyrics describe well that romantic image of comradeship and soldiers that the romance spread.

The song was mainly used for propaganda purposes by the political reaction , among other things to gloss over and glorify the sacrifice of war and heroic death. However, the interpretations of the poem differ widely. In his habilitation thesis , Thomas Kühne shows the political versatility of the term comradeship, which is promoted in a certain direction . For the entire spectrum from left to right, he describes how a political-agitational camaraderie myth could be constructed. After the Second World War, this construct of supposedly “good comradeship” was increasingly viewed as “bad comradeship”.

The concept of comradeship in the youth movement

A movement that was particularly influential in the first third of the 20th century is called the youth movement , which opposed urban life, which was shaped by industrialization, with a trend towards experiencing nature that was spreading, especially in circles of bourgeois youth. The youth movement also arose out of displeasure with the rigid world of the old in Wilhelmism with its militarism and conformism . At first she indulged in the pathos of individualism . Friendship and not comradeship was the guiding principle of their movement. However, they did not develop an individualistic counter-model to comradeship , but worked on merging this term with that of friendship. A pejorative treatment of the term comradeship can rarely be found in retrospect. In the youth language of this movement, these terms often appear synonymous . In the linguistic mixing of ideas or philosophies into a new system or worldview, the indecision of a movement that wanted to combine the personal development of the individual with the security of a community was reflected. While many “I's” came together in campfire romance, a “we” ruled over them in hordes and leagues.

In their fundamental self-image, the various groups were initially apolitical. Nevertheless, they were exposed to contemporary ideological currents and only generally oriented towards them. The First World War represented deep cuts for the youth movement, which was followed by the politically more polarized phase of the Bundischen youth movement . The value horizon in society became increasingly conformist again. From 1930 it was no longer just a field in which predominantly nationalists and militarists moved, but it was again part of the common cultural property of the Germans. The youth movement also worked for him.

A new variety of sub-movements and new foundations was characteristic of the post-revolutionary early years of the Weimar Republic , which, however, also led to the organizational integration of scout associations in the youth movement. In contrast, the workers' youth movement always formed an independent branch among the organized groups.

According to the psychologist Ulfried Geuter, the tendency towards further diversification of the groups in the period after the First World War was promoted by the increasing importance of girls in some organizations. There were expressions of opinion that the nature of the sexes was so fundamentally different that there could be no comradely coexistence with the boys and others: “Where there are girls, it's cozy. You feel satisfied there, not revolutionary. ”According to Geuter, such demarcations on the male side became particularly noticeable at the time when women's suffrage was introduced in Germany and more and more women were going to higher schools and universities.

Die Kameraden, German-Jewish Wanderbund were a youth association within the Jewish youth movement in Germany and linked the term in the organization name when it was founded. The federation, founded in 1916, split into three successor organizations in 1932.

From 1930 onwards, the term comradeship, originally derived from military parlance, replaced friendship more and more until it became part of the Hitler Youth or all branches of the youth movement were banned and a shadowy existence in the underground (1933–1945). The Hitler Youth was supposed to harden almost all of the ten-year-old male youths in the Nazi state and prepare them for military service in the long term. Accordingly, the choice of words used was strongly influenced by the military. The Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM) was the variant for girls.

Comradeship and uncomfortability in the First World War

According to a statistical survey - of the Bavarian ministerial official Joseph Schneider from 1926 among war veterans - every twelfth had experienced “uncomfortableness, injustice”, every fiftieth “comradeship”. This can be seen as evidence that in the First World War uncomfortable tended to correspond to reality and comradeship was hardly noticed at all.

A soldier from the front of the First World War reported on Deutschlandfunk in 1976 : “Yes, that means comradeship. There was no camaraderie. Everyone was next to himself, not. ”This reflects a link with the Christian concept of charity .

Adam Scharrer (GDR postage stamp 1989)

The German writer and former participant in this war Adam Scharrer published his work Fatherlandslose Gesellen in 1930 . It is seen as nothing new as the proletarian response to Remarques in the West and as a settlement with the Wilhelmine system and the imperialist war that it started . He emphasizes the unwillingness of comradeship in war and refers to the “Uhland song”, but linguistically merges the term with that of friendship and that of comradeship in the socialist sense : “'I had' a comrade '? It may be that some find consolation in singing about their own tragedy. I am not one of those lucky ones. When the grenades die over us, the broken nerves await the attack, patrols sneak forward or an attack is imminent, then the lieutenant gives you a cigarette, the farmer's son or landowner a piece of sausage. 'Take it, comrade!' then say. What else do you want with it when the bullet hits you? It is then good to have a comrade you can rely on. It's cheap, this camaraderie - and stops immediately when we're a little further off the beaten track. Then the have-nots, the proletarians, eat their stale bread again. The lieutenants smoke their own cigarettes. The peasants and money people also try to cope with their abundance on their own. Whoever cleans their dirty boots, washes their dirty shirts, can inherit a chunk, but not from the 'comrade', the master pays his servant. Comradeship in war is the greatest lie ever invented. It was never a voluntary, but always a community of death row inmates. And yet I lost two good comrades. They were the carpenter Franz Daimler and the farm worker Döring. "

Then, looking back, he describes a first meeting with Döring during a well construction project: “The farm worker Döring helped us with our well. Before that he had never heard of the agitators, the homeless journeymen , other than that they belong on the gallows. Even now he didn't understand much of what we were discussing - but he sensed that we were his real comrades. "

The British submarine trap HMS Baralong

The shooting of the surviving submarine crew of U 27 can be seen as an example that got into the media of incomparability and atrocities in the First World War against soldiers - the opposing side . This operation was as baralong incidents (Engl. Baralong Incident ), respectively. All surviving crew members of the destroyed German submarine were killed by the crew of the British submarine trap . The incident led to a month-long exchange of notes between the German government and that of the United Kingdom. Even if the course of events could not be satisfactorily clarified under the general conditions of the world war - which is why the Baralong incident was never officially classified as a war crime - it fulfilled all the criteria for a war crime.

The concept of comradeship in church contexts in the interwar period

Josefa Fischer - a profound connoisseur of youth work at the time, author and critical contemporary observer in 1932 - vividly described the common appearance of young people in the youth movement of the late Weimar Republic:

“Marching, uniformly dressed groups of boys in closed, disciplined ranks. They keep step, the flag at their head, which will be the red flag of the coming socialist state, or the swastika flag as the symbol of the coming Third Reich; another time the cross of Catholic or Protestant youth or the black flag of resistance against the Versailles violent peace . Standing and marching in rank and file is all an expression of their strongest attitude towards life, means an elementary experience for everyone, has an intoxicating effect on everyone. "

In the world of ideas of the youth organizations of the Weimar Republic, the military element obviously played a major role. That of the "front soldier" became the model of the male youth. Military virtues such as bravery and toughness, camaraderie and readiness for action dominated the educational values. Thus, the male union emerged as an alleged ideal for the development of youth groups. There was hardly any room left for emancipatory tendencies.

There was a militarization among groups of the youth movement - denominational, political or alliance orientation. In addition, a mostly unreflected glorification of the past, which was just as widespread between 1918 and 1933 as the desire for utopian future plans. In the course of the associated discussions, through the establishment of associations and (fighting) leagues, publications and much more, a latent militarism was established - especially in young people's minds. As before the First World War - only exacerbated - there was a “struggle for the youth” in which the communist and, above all, Nazi associations certainly acted as the trigger through their agitation, but by no means as the sole culprit. In this struggle, a large number of young people let themselves be taken into service not only without resistance, but almost with over-identification. Not emancipation, but integration was a generational need on a massive scale. The HJ and the BDM made the latter an obligation for all young people.

The real key to the success of the camaraderie concept can be seen as its ability to give space to different experiences, attitudes and worldviews. In a tradition that is already deeply rooted in history, in the interwar phase - as after 1945 - camaraderie as a community of suffering was particularly compatible. A “quasi-sacred creation of meaning” of the soldier's death and the fading out of one's own active killing was effectively combined with the Christian motivation of suffering for the religious community.

Church council elections on July 23, 1933: Election propaganda with SA support, St. Marien Church on the Neuer Markt in Berlin
Opening of the National Synod, Wittenberg September 27, 1933: Regional Bishop Müller giving a Hitler salute

Comradeship among German Christians was described as the highest form of German-Christian community . The salutation comrade was used in everyday and business dealings. Various German-Christian groups formed comradeships. A new form of address that sounded strange to a pastor in a rural area, for example. Which he mostly only heard from firefighters among themselves. Much resonated in the mention of comrade; Among other things, associations with the war front, alleged "trench companionship", mutual reliability and readiness for action. Literary models provided the "trench friendship" between Walter Flex and the former theology student Ernst Wurche , which was glorified as comradeship . Flex placed it at the center of his booklet The Wanderer Between Two Worlds . The little book was the most widely read book about the First World War , along with Nothing New in the West . In the Christian song world there is a mixture of the terms friendship and comradeship. The comradeship in the German-Christian community was the longing for an ideal world in which in the later future all conflicts would be overcome, because then everyone would finally be National Socialists and Christians. Comradeship felt in the German-Christian community an intense spirituality of unconditional belonging away from family and parental home, of devotion and willingness to work, of the indomitable, death-ready will to penetrate the world with Nazi and Christian ideas and values. The Evangelical Lutheran theologian and German Christian, active supporter of the ideology and politics of the NSDAP, Emanuel Hirsch composed the following lines of songs from this comradeship:

"We walked for a long time / In struggle and work, joy and sorrow / you were my comrade /"

Since, according to Hirsch's theses, the Christian message was irretrievably lost for many people in the “age of doubt”, terms such as comradeship and national community were legitimate substitutes for an allegedly outdated Christian vocabulary for him. As a sober, rational scientist, he knew that there was no going back to the modern age . However, the German national conservative seems to have looked for a way out in him to mitigate the consequences of modernization. Although he had generally clearly and precisely named the essential elements of modern culture, he mistakenly saw National Socialism as an ally in the struggle for moderate modernism. In a blatant misinterpretation of the Nazi ideology, Hirsch saw National Socialism as the guardian of humanism , who defended central values ​​of the Enlightenment such as individualism, conscience and doubts both against its liberalist radicalization and against its totalitarian opponents. Like others, he became a spokesman for the German Christians and theological advisor to the later Reich Bishop Ludwig Müller .

Among other things, parts of the German Christians advocated a renewal of the church through popular missioning. They thought that when Hitler came to power, the "hour of popular mission" had come. How they understood the content of the people's missionary work is particularly demonstrated by the people's missionary publication presented by Müller under the title German Words of God . In the preface was written: "For you, my comrades in the Third Reich, I have Germanized the Sermon on the Mount, not translated ... your kingdom bishop." The beatitude of the meek (Matthew 5.5) he translated with: "Well keeps the one who always good fellowship . He will get by in the world. ” Dietrich Bonhoeffer succinctly criticized that Christian faith and the community had fallen by the wayside here.

The camaraderie myth and the stab in the back legend

Staggering legend variant, postcard around 1924: Philipp Scheidemann is in the process of stabbing German soldiers from behind. Behind him Matthias Erzberger and two men stylized as Jews, sitting on money bags.

The stab in the back legend includes the charge of a lack of camaraderie. According to Thomas Kühne, a social interpretation during the time of the Weimar Republic that the First World War was lost due to a lack of internal cohesion in a "national community" finally prevailed only in 1930. By promoting and using the stab in the back myth, the Nazi state succeeded in “democratizing” an ideal image of soldier comradeship in the sense of the planned new war. Through international veterans' encounters in the 1930s, for example, the National Socialist state imitated the socialist approach of international understanding comradeship - albeit under completely different circumstances.

Comradeship marriage

A comradeship marriage is a marriage that is based on a comradely and pragmatic relationship between the partners, with love and intimacy between the spouses playing a minor role.

Although the sex life of the general public of the “ Roaring Twenties ” was within the limits of the bourgeois code of morals, because ethical and social models did not lose their influence as quickly in terms of the history of mentality as they did later or the lifestyle of a pleasurable lifestyle was too expensive for many, ideals and Desires quickly changed. In turning away from the Victorian hostility towards pleasure , moral barriers of earlier generations are broken in the middle class. The “ sexual revolution ” in the second half of the 20th century finally separated love, eroticism and passion from the marital institution for the purpose of procreation. Abortion and its legal regulation, sexual education , contraception and nudism , homosexuality and lesbian love as well as comradeship and threesome marriage were discussed in public. The many associations and their publications, from those of the socialist labor movement to denominational organizations, had a great influence. They each pursued their own gender-political education programs, but there was also some overlap. The model of comradeship between women and men was discussed extensively - especially in the socialist youth associations. The Austrian writer Stefan Zweig wrote about the term as something that had already become a reality during his lifetime (1881–1942). A thin book that the socialist doctor and sex educator Max Hodann published in 1924 was entitled Bub und Mädel: Conversations among comrades about the gender issue . The term comradeship marriage has become something of a fashionable topic. In 1927 the judge Ben Lindsey brought out the pamphlet The Companionate Marriage in the USA together with Wainwright Evans . The German translation was available within a year. When the Frisian-Dutch doctor and gynecologist Theodoor Hendrik van de Velde published Perfect Marriage - in German for the first time in 1926 - the work had its 32nd edition just six years later. The fact that the Catholic Church had listed it on the index of banned books certainly contributed to this. The broad social debate was as new as the many marriage and sex counseling centers that opened in the 1920s.

The German journalist, politician ( SPD , USPD ), writer and poet Felix Fechenbach was married to Irma Fechenbach-Fey, a socialist and also highly political woman, in 1926 . The state archive of North Rhine-Westphalia states: "They led a modern, namely partnership-based marriage based on the socialist model of comradeship marriage, as it seemed downright revolutionary in the 1920s."

In 1933 Felix Fechenbach was arrested for his political activities and transferred to " protective custody ". On August 7, Fechenbach was allegedly "shot while trying to escape" while being transported from Detmold to the Dachau concentration camp . Irma and their children survived the era of National Socialism by fleeing to Switzerland and emigrating .

Comradeship in the time of National Socialism

Inscription on the war memorial (1930) in Speyer quotes the Uhland song, among other things

In NS organizations (cf. NS hierarchy ), principles such as “honor” or “decency” did not refer to universally valid norms, but to the welfare of the National Socialist group .

After the concept of comradeship was highly controversial in the 1920s, something like an apotheosis of the term took place around 1930 , before it was finally declared a virtue of the state in the “Third Reich”. This can be seen as a German specific. The establishment of the camaraderie myth "through the collective work on the burdens" of the First World War, which overwhelmed the individual and led to a general paradigm shift, was favored. In place of a Christian culture of conscience that relied on individual responsibility, there was something like a community-oriented culture of shame and guilt , which promoted conformity.

The comradeship phenomenon has been the subject of military-sociological research since the late 1940s. The investigations were initiated by a group of American sociologists who sought the first explanations for the research center of the US military as to why soldiers actually fight in war. Among other things, they chose the recent past of the Second World War as their subject of investigation. Based on the question of why Wehrmacht soldiers continued to fight after 1944, even though defeat was clearly imminent, they determined that the will to persevere in the German army was only to a very small extent attributable to the Nazi convictions of their soldiers and a continued resolute resistance against the enemy rather it was promoted by the satisfaction of primarily personal needs through the social organization of the military.

In the city of Bonn and before the corporation houses distributed HJ - leaflet (June 1934). Verbal attack on Catholic fraternities.

The contemporary witness of the events in the "Third Reich" Sebastian Haffner described in 1939 the downside of group cohesion. In the Jüterbog trainee camp in autumn 1933, as a prospective lawyer, he had to take part in an "ideological" training course and also in military training. As the “poison of comradeship”, he judged the fact that comradeship could completely dissolve the feeling for personal responsibility. The responsibility before God and one's own conscience can be lost if a person - in the group, like all his comrades - does what everyone else does. Without having time to think independently, the comrades would take the place of his conscience. Comrades would become his conscience because they give him absolution for his actions in the group: “Comradeship is part of war. Like alcohol, it is one of the great consolation and aid for people who have to live under inhumane conditions. It makes the unbearable bearable. [...] It corrupts and depresses people like no alcohol or opium. It makes him incapable of a responsible, civilized life of his own. [...] The general comradeship whoring that the Nazis seduced the Germans into brought this people down like nothing else. "

Haffner not only referred to individual Nazi organizations in a figurative sense - as “comrades”, but saw the entire German people in such a “state”: “The Nazis already knew what they were doing by using them as a normal way of life for an entire people imposed. And the Germans, with their little talent for individual life and individual happiness, were so terribly ready to accept them, so willingly and greedily, the tender, tall, aromatic fruits of dangerous freedom against the lush, luscious, swelling ones that were conveniently to hand To exchange the intoxicating fruit of a general, indiscriminate, common-making comradeship (...). "

The historian and head of the research center on the history of National Socialism, Detlev Peukert, emphasizes the political significance of the “fascination with formation” , which had a significant impact on the socialization of adolescents before 1933 and beyond - especially during the Nazi era. He describes the development of political culture in the crisis years around 1923 of the Weimar Republic as follows:

“The camp became a way of life, the column a way of moving. The uniformity and militarization of political currents from the radical fringes also overgrown the previous political center and at the beginning of the 1930s became the predominant manifestation of the directionally fissured political culture. This uniformity of form despite the hostility of the programs that characterized Germany (...) in the period between the world wars, only dissolved with the Second World War (...). "

The external circumstance on which the concept of comradeship is based was therefore extensive. The level of organization of the population in the Nazi state was very high and was reflected, for example, in the many youth, training, work or other Nazi camp events. Haffner uses the example of the Jüterbog trainee camp and, among other things, in connection with the forced " you " address there, how strongly forced comradeship hinders getting to know each other and also the uncivilized impression that this can create. In the Nazi state, mutual Duzen was a kind of camaraderie and was practiced on a small scale, so to speak. However, especially in the case of, to put it simply, “comradeship and national community on command”, its artificially created character was revealed right from the start. The reflection of a teacher as a former participant in a training course during the Nazi era is quoted as follows: “ In this training course, we should talk to each other. Then it happened that after 10 out of 14 training days we still addressed each other with the distance commanding 'you'. Now the camp leader gave us a lecture with the final speech that he would take us all to a pastry shop in the afternoon when we finally used the desired address. Now the groups of four in the shared rooms decided to use the mutual you. After the course, we of course returned to the usual address of you among adults. “This, too, shows such boundaries in the social barriers of mutual familiarity, closer knowledge and intimacy with one another. But not in general, because if such regulations are simply accepted, no such abnormalities come to light and the Duzen can be a means to facilitate the formation of groups or camaraderie. Comradeship, especially under the conditions of spatially cramped camp life, can lead to the human intimate and private sphere being strongly suppressed. But this is fundamentally an element of comradeship, it can also be intentional and was instrumentalized, for example, during the Nazi era.

Polish POWs Shot by Motorized Infantry Regiment 15 in the
Ciepielów Massacre (September 9, 1939)

Almost all organizations - the Wehrmacht in the foreground - were based on a certain concept of comradeship, which was an important regulatory principle of the National Socialist " Volksgemeinschaft ". In this context, among other things, questions can be asked as to how and whether “perpetrators” and “society” can be distinguished from one another at all and whether a community-building effect of violence cannot also be determined for the entirety of German society. It is obvious to draw parallels here, but at the same time skepticism about hasty analogies is called for. The comparatively complex German society even during the Nazi era was more than a simple addition of “comradeships”. As it were, the conditions of action on the “ home front ” increasingly became similar to those of the front, but fundamental differences between civil society and military formations continued to exist. In terms of community building, it made a substantial difference whether murders were committed jointly or whether they were only known to the public without being directly involved. Without the war, which gave perpetrators undreamt-of possibilities for action and created specific conditions for action that were unthinkable in civil life, a comparable escalation of violence and extermination would have been impossible. The Second World War and the enemy images on which it is based structured affiliations. He created a specific frame of reference for behavior and confronted the actors in this war with role expectations to which the majority of Germans easily adapted.

Since the concept of comradeship is based on a basic principle of participation and at the same time provides strategies of legitimation, it acted as a “motor of violence, both regular and criminal”. It can be assumed that most Wehrmacht soldiers, for example, carried out shooting actions only very reluctantly. Anyone who evaded the "unpleasant duty of murder" violated, so to speak, "the comradeship requirement of equal burden sharing". Seen in this way, any indulgence towards the propagandistically demonized external enemies ultimately meant the denial of the primacy of the internal group. In particular, this applied to acts of violence that were legitimized as retaliatory acts against the opposing side. This was something like a reversal of humanity - which the group cultivated internally, but excluded humanity towards the enemy. In the midst of the threat scenarios of the war of extermination, among other things, the deeply rooted "longing for community" contributed to the fact that soldiers participated in the collective breaking of norms, which resulted in the highest degree of social compression. Some contemporary witnesses identified this form of communalization as a "criminal complicity" at an early stage. Comradeship could unite soldiers in humanity and altruism , but also in violence and inhumanity in a two-faced social culture; without fundamentally causing inconsistency.

The concept of the men's association in the time of National Socialism

Under National Socialism, the concept of the men's association was closely related to that of comradeship. Generally speaking, this covenant is an oath of men who have a defined common goal. Women are fundamentally excluded from this. These groups were seen as preserving society. They were assigned an important function within the elite strata of the population and should at least be part of it themselves.

The term was coined in 1902 by the folklorist Heinrich Schurtz , with the purpose of describing the initiation rituals in East Africa. In Wilhelmine Germany, this concept was taken up by many representatives of the youth movement, but filled with new content (explicitly by Hans Blüher ). In general, groups that referred to themselves as a men's association, referring to Blüher and Schurtz, only appeared in Germany and Austria for a longer period. In human history, however, there were clearly many groups that Schurtz and his successors referred to as men's associations.

Nazi organizations such as the SS also referred to ancient Indo-European or “ Aryan ” male associations (e.g. the Vratyas in ancient India). The Germanist Otto Höfler , who was close to National Socialism , assumed in his investigation of the myths about the wild hunt that the Germanic peoples also knew male societies, to which he attributed a state-building force. They are said to have excelled in fighting witches . Höfler's theory is controversial in specialist circles. The Varangians were also made up of groups of men who traded or plundered in the Rus region .

The male image of National Socialism should be seen against the background of the deliberate delimitation from the bourgeois image of masculinity and thus also from the democratic Weimar Republic. The idealized male body became something of a symbol for the creation of the fascist state. In this context, Kühne particularly emphasizes the relevance of the model of comradeship as the male model of socialization. The concept of comradeship stands in a dialectical relationship to that of competition, which can be understood as a mode in which various masculinity are placed in a hierarchical relationship with one another. This dialectic of comradeship and competition, which is typical for male associations, can be documented as early as the 19th century (example: dueling or the fencing and drinking rituals of student associations ). Both are not only based on the exclusion of women, but also make the strength-measuring, competitive, internal hierarchical structure of bourgeois masculinity visible.

In the 20th century, these argumentative attempts at persuasion finally developed their full dynamic, as can be seen from the central meaning of the concept of comradeship as a “model of a state, social and gender-political upheaval” up to National Socialism. The “trench comradeship” of the First World War was initially propagated as “the epitome of the security of a community of men of equal rank, mostly simple team soldiers”. The Nazi propaganda modified this in two ways: on the one hand in the hierarchical - which was expressed, among other things, in "Aryan exclusivity", on the other hand in the heroic-martial. Front comradeship should now represent a "nucleus of a 'new person'". Elements of the specifically German men's association idea were mixed up with “völkisch” / “Germanic” ideas. Despite the Nazi appreciation of the concepts of family and clan, this concept also explains the central importance of leadership and allegiance-based organizations organized as a male union, such as the SA, SS, Hitler Youth and so-called elite associations such as the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler .

The term comradeship among prisoners in concentration camps

Buchenwald oath , April 19, 1945

Also concentration camp detainees, talked with each other "comrade". In the Buchenwald oath it says: "... We owe that to our murdered comrades and their relatives."

In 1946 Heinrich Christian Meier published his memoirs as a survivor of Neuengamme concentration camp . He describes the camaraderie under the conditions of a concentration camp, something like an automatism - between "creatures" that "run into death" - can become: "It has always depressed my conscience that I - if I succeeded - to hold a comrade back from a dangerous transport, perhaps automatically compelling another to run into death's arms. We were all creatures, and it is far from me to divine our deeds afterwards. "

The historian and research assistant at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial, Hermann Kaienburg , came to the conclusion in his research on solidarity and resistance: “Not camaraderie and mutual help, but violence, misery and despair formed the dominant everyday experiences of most concentration camp prisoners; little changed in this until 1945. Solidarity or even resistance was a rare exception. ”To the prisoners who managed to survive and report on“ this system of hopelessness ”, it seemed almost unbelievable to have experienced something like humanity and solidarity. This result can be assumed for all concentration camps. Often they owed their survival to camaraderie in the form of solidarity.

Many aspects of human language were found in the language conventions of the concentration camps. In many concentration camps, members of 35 to 40 different peoples or ethnic groups were also gathered. Older prisoners were often given the title "old number" in the camp language of the concentration camps - which is called " Lagerszpracha ". A typical camp expression for prisoners in the last stage of exhaustion was Muselmann . Thus, the concentration camp prisoners addressed each other with a wide variety of names, in addition to addressing each other comrade. Just like the “common understanding” of terms such as “society” or “community”, the linguistic situation in the National Socialist concentration camps did not correspond to current behavior in the social structure .

The camaraderie myth after World War II

Katyn massacre : mass grave found by Polish forced laborers of the German occupiers in summer 1942, made public by the Nazi regime from April 11, 1943 in order to weaken the anti-Hitler coalition and divert attention from its own crimes. In 1990, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev admitted that the Soviet Union was responsible for these mass murders of Polish prisoners of war.

The roots of conformism, which ensured the compliance of the Wehrmacht, were already anchored in the time of the Weimar Republic and its civil society - they were so strong that they lasted into the post-war period. War veterans who worked on the further promotion of the myth after 1945 again reduced camaraderie to its humanitarian dimension and shaped a victimizing culture of remembrance that was seldom questioned until the 1970s. From the eighties, when veterans lost their authority to interpret, also for demographic reasons, something like a “cleansing effect” of comradeship increasingly waned; From this time onwards, the downside of the “psychosocial motor” of violence and crime became increasingly popular.

Kühne sees a fundamental change compared to dealing with the war experience after the First World War. He emphasizes that after the Second World War, many soldiers in the camps experienced war captivity as "emasculation". In a progressively "westernized" Federal Republic of Germany, comrades 'and soldiers' associations were never able to gain nearly as much influence as they did after 1918. Despite the Cold War and the successful attempt into the 1970s to make people forget the fact that the Wehrmacht, for example, Europe 1939 had covered with wars of aggression. The concept of comradeship was increasingly “privatized” and then its gradual devaluation began. This happened in the course of a steady loss of importance of the military in West Germany, which was also evident in a change in its recruiting layers and ultimately also in the media attention that was becoming more critical. “Culture of shame” has gradually been replaced by “culture of conscience”. After that, from the 1980s onwards, questions were increasingly asked about the victims and later also about the perpetrators of the Second World War. The camaraderie myth was no longer up to the balancing act of (current) civil norms and (historical) criminal practice.

Kühne also sheds light on the gender-historical dimensions of the topic: In the western part of Germany, the soldier as a comrade lost his special (male) role model function, which he had between 1930 and 1945. The fact that Wehrmacht soldiers were able to become such a model and at the same time the primary representatives of a “fighting national community” is significant, especially in view of the fact that this conception was sometimes little present in the “culture of interpretation” before 1930. Today the salutation comrade is generally used without much distinction.

Misuse of Terms

Comradeship in fire brigades and aid organizations

July 21, 1985: "German-German Comradeship" - The GDR fire brigade selection team of the professional fire brigades (light-colored uniforms) and the only sports competition team of the German Fire Brigade Association , the FF Beselich-Obertiefenbach.

The concept of camaraderie is widespread in the fire service . The fire brigade camaraderie does not end at national or national borders, but is also cultivated on an international level. It is also used by the technical aid organization , where this requirement is anchored in the 6th guiding principle. Also in other rescue organizations, for example in the water watch , the term and the salutation comrade is used in places.


People who uphold the traditions of active, but also former military units, usually form comradeships. The “ reservist comradeship ” is the smallest organizational unit of the reservists' association .

Comradeships are also the smallest organizational units in the Kyffhäuserbund . In the comradeship 248 GSU e. V., history buffs as well as alumni of the former 248 German Security Unit of the British military police in Berlin organized themselves.


Web links

Wiktionary: Comradeship  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Thomas Kühne: Comradeship. The soldiers of the National Socialist War and the 20th century. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2006
  2. ^ Sven Grüneisen: Comradeship in Military Organizations - Comradeship in Extreme Situations, Bielefeld 2010 ; Sven Grüneisen: “Comradeship in the Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the genocide against the Jews. A sociological reconstruction of behavioral expectations in extreme situations ” , in: Alexander Gruber, Stefan Kühl (eds.), Sociological analyzes of the Holocaust. Beyond the debate about “completely normal men” and “completely normal Germans” , Wiesbaden 2015.
  3. ^ Hans Paul Bahrdt: Society and its soldiers. On the sociology of the military , Munich 1987, p. 97.
  4. Thomas Kühne, “Comradeship. 'The best in a man's life'. The German soldiers of the Second World War from an experience and gender perspective ” , in: Geschichte und Gesellschaft 22 (1996), pp. 504–529, here: p. 507.
  5. ^ Charles C. Moskos: Latent Ideology and American Combat Behavior in South Vietnam, Chicago 1968, and Charles C. Moskos, The American Enlisted Man. The Rank and File in Today's Military , New York 1970.
  8. ^ Heinz von Lichem: Spielhahnstoss and Edelweiss. The peace and war history of the Tyrolean high mountain troops "The Kaiserschützen" from their beginnings until 1918: Imperial and Royal Tyrolean Landesschützen-Kaiserschützen Regiments No. I - No.II - No. III. Graz: Stocker 1977, Hermann Fröhlich: History of the Styrian Austro-Hungarian Infantry Regiment No. 27 for the period of the World War 1914–1918. Vol. 1-2. Innsbruck: Wagner'sche Universitäts-Buchdruckerei, 1937.
  10. Lovro Kuhar (pseudonym Prežihov Voranc ): Doberdò . (Do-berdob. Vojni roman slovenskega naroda. Ljubljana 1940.) Translated from the Slovenian by Karin Almasy (parts 2 and 4) and Klaus Detlef Olaf (parts 1/3). Klagenfurt / Celovec; Ljubljana / Laibach; Vienna / Dunaj: Hermagoras / Mohorjeva založba 2008–2009.
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  17. Thomas Kühne: “Between the men's association and the national community. Hitler's soldiers and the myth of comradeship ”, pp. 165–189, in: Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 38, 1998, from p. 168
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  59. % 20Carpentry% 20mate & f = false
  60. = false
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  101. % C3% A4t% 20kz% 20 comradeship & f = false
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