Conscription in Germany

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The compulsory military service in Germany is the legal duty of male German citizen compliance with the obligations of military service in the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Germany . It has existed since July 1956 and until 2011 was associated with the general mandatory drafting of basic military service in accordance with Section 5 of the Conscription Act. In 2011, calling up for basic military service was limited to cases of tension or defense .


From the Napoleonic period to the founding of the empire

One of the reforms that Prussia carried out under the impression of the defeat in the war against France in 1807 was the introduction of general conscription in the context of the wars of liberation in 1813/14. This was associated with a fundamental upgrading of the soldier's status, because until then common soldiers had been considered socially declassed. Military service, to which the sons of the nobility and the bourgeoisie were drafted, was now regarded as service of honor and the army as the “school of the nation”. Conscripts from the “educated classes” could register as “ one-year volunteers ” and after this year had the prospect of being able to train to become reserve officers (which was associated with a lot of social prestige). Of all the larger European states, only Prussia had retained its system of general conscription after the Napoleonic Wars and modernized it in the early 1860s despite the army conflict .

In the other German and most European countries was the fit numbered of the required number of recruits chosen by lot. But the drawn athletes was a paid by him as a substitute " Once Rather ask" why more men served in these armies from poorer classes. When their term of service had expired, they moved again as a servant in his place for another conscript, so that the armies, as well as the French, actually consisted of professional soldiers . Other German states only drafted some of the conscripts for a very long period of service, including Austria, despite numerous special provisions, for 14 years.

After the Prussian conscription system had proven its efficiency in the wars with Denmark in 1864 and with its domestic competitor Austria in the German war in 1866 , the other German states adopted it. As a result of the entry into force of the obligation to perform military service for the North German Confederation in November 1867, the service of one-year volunteers and their entitlement to the reserve officer, which was previously set out in the Defense Act of 1814, was amended . After this, the candidates could now choose the unit in which they were to become reserve officers after the active year. In the years after France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71 , most of the European states introduced the Prussian model. In the German Empire "laws concerning the peace-keeping strength of the German army" were then passed at regular intervals. In line with this model, a benchmark for the strength of the armed forces in relation to the population of around 1% was established in many states with the help of conscription. The most significant exception was Great Britain . In the First World War - after Great Britain and the USA had also introduced conscription - the overwhelming majority of soldiers were conscripts.

Empire, Weimar Republic and Nazi era

Duration of military service in the German Empire (in years of life)

General conscription was changed by the law on the obligation to perform military service of the North German Confederation of November 9, 1867 and Article 57 ff. Of the law on the constitution of the German Empire (Reichsverfassungs) of April 16, 1871 as well as the Reich Military Law of April 2 May 1874 regulated by law. This conscription system was largely taken as a model by later German armies and also internationally.

Compulsory military service began at the age of 17. The conscript could not be represented in the exercise of this duty. The Landsturm consisted of conscripts between the ages of 17 and 42, who did not belong to the army or the navy. In the Reich constitution it was stipulated that every German capable of military service belonged to the standing army for 7 years, from 20 to 28 years of age. This implementation was further regulated in the Reich Military Law. The military obligation began on January 1st of the year in which the 20th year of life was reached. Military conscripts were subject to the draft . The military obligation lasted until March 31 of the year in which the 39th year of life was reached. There was an obligation to report regularly to the responsible authorities until a decision on the use was made. To control this regulation, so-called master roles were drawn up by the communities . Active service time was 3 years ( infantry , etc.). This was followed by 4 years in the reserve (changed to 2 years or 5 years from 1893). Cavalry and mounted artillery served actively for 3 years. The obligation to replace reserves lasted until they reached the age of 31. The reserve reserve consisted primarily of fit but surplus people, then less fit or exempted for other reasons who were not called up to perform active duty. Men who actively served for less than 2 years, e.g. B. the one-year volunteers , stayed longer in the reserve. The reserve served to supplement the active army. Teams that had voluntarily served actively for more than 2 years served correspondingly shorter in the Landwehr I. contingent . For the rest of the years up to March 31 of the year in which he turned 39, he was a member of the Landwehr II squad. Teams that had entered voluntarily before the age of 20 left the Landwehr II earlier. In the event of later joining the active army due to lack of physical development, an application in consideration of civic circumstances or a deferral of up to 5 years in order not to interrupt a career, the conscript no longer served in Landwehr II, but only until his 39th birthday. Age. He served in Landsturm II from March 31 of the year he was 39 to the age of 45. This entire rule applies to times of peace; during war there was no conversion from the standing army to the Landwehr.

Changes in the time allocation to the categories of leave of absence brought the law on changes to military service of February 11, 1888, such as the extension of the compulsory Landsturm up to the age of 45.

The number of those drafted for military service was determined by the size of the army. In Article 60 of the Constitution of the North German Confederation , the army's peace-keeping strength was set at 1% of the population by 1867. The future determination of the strength of the peace presence was regulated by the Reich legislation, which gave the Reichstag a considerable say.

“The army's peacetime presence of NCOs and men was 401,659 men for the period from January 1, 1875 to December 31, 1881. The one-year volunteers do not count towards the strength of the peace presence. "

- Section 1 of the Reich Military Law of May 2, 1874

However, this was not a worsening of the situation, although it was accompanied by an increase in the army. The National Liberals and the Progressive Party in particular saw the nominal determination of the army strength as a restriction of the Reichstag's budget rights, because it turns the approval of the military budget into a farce. Certainly Bismarck had learned his lessons from the Prussian constitutional conflict. But the rapidly growing population since 1871 meant that between the founding of the German Empire and the beginning of the First World War, only 63% of the men liable for military service were called to the flags. Even in a time of upgrading like 1912, the ratio of army size to total population was only 0.923%. An effective and fair conscription was only possible at the beginning of World War I with the edict on the general obligation to conscription of September 3, 1914, §§ 9,10, 11,12,16. But it also represents the legal basis that made an army of millions out of a relatively small army compared to its opponents.

Due to the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Germany had to renounce compulsory military service “in order to enable the introduction of general arms restrictions for all nations”. The Reichswehr was a professional army limited to 115,000 men . It became a “state within a state” in which forces hostile to the republic, especially those of the conservative-nationalist and anti-Semitic milieus, gathered.

The failure of the Geneva Disarmament Conference took the Hitler cabinet , which had ruled Germany from January 1933 , as an opportunity in October 1933 to leave the League of Nations and to reintroduce compulsory military service in March 1935 through the law for the establishment of the Wehrmacht . The move had been prepared for a long time and did not result in any countermeasures by the League of Nations. In the same year, Great Britain broke through the arms restrictions of the Versailles Treaty that applied to Germany in the German-British naval agreement . The Reichswehr was renamed the Wehrmacht .

The first year in 1935 to fulfill the one-year compulsory service was in 1914 (in East Prussia also in 1910). Upstream of the military service was the completion of a six-month labor service , for which the first draftees of the 1915 class enlisted on October 1, 1935. Members of the white age group before 1914 only received a two-month, later three-month training course . On August 24, 1936, the service was extended from one to two years.

The end of the Second World War in Europe with the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht on August 8th / 9th. May 1945 brought a temporary end conscription in now by the victorious powers of the anti-Hitler coalition occupied Germany .

After the Second World War until the end of the division of Germany

Federal Republic of Germany

Duration of military and community service in Germany (in months)

In 1949 the Parliamentary Council wrote the possibility of conscientious objection , but not conscription, in the Basic Law . The Bundeswehr was set up - after a rearmament discussion - on November 12, 1955 (" rearmament ") and general conscription was introduced with the entry into force of the Military Service Act (WPflG) of July 21, 1956. On April 1, 1957, a convocation based on this law took place for the first time. In principle, all German men who were born after June 30, 1937 (see white age group ) were required to do military service . In 1968 the following was enshrined in the Basic Law (GG):

Art. 12a [Military and military service]

  • (1) Men can be obliged to serve in the armed forces, in the Federal Border Guard or in a civil defense association from the age of eighteen .
  • (2) Anyone who refuses military service with a weapon for reasons of conscience can be obliged to perform alternative service. The duration of alternative service may not exceed the duration of military service.

Since this is an optional provision , compulsory military service can be introduced or suspended at any time by the Bundestag with a simple majority without the constitution having to be changed. As early as 1978 the Federal Constitutional Court ruled: "The military national defense required by the constitution can be ensured on the basis of general conscription, but - provided that its functionality is guaranteed - constitutionally unobjectionable, for example by a volunteer army."

Conscripted conscripts 1957–2011

German Democratic Republic (1949–1990)

Through the law supplementing the constitution of September 26, 1955, which declared the “service to protect the fatherland and the achievements of the working people” to be an “honorable national duty of the citizens of the German Democratic Republic”, the combat mission of the FDJ and the defense legislation Prepared from 1961, the law of January 24, 1962 introduced general conscription in the GDR five months after the Berlin Wall was built . It affected all male citizens between 18 and the age of 50 years and could by a 18-month military service in the NVA or with the consent of conscripts (at least in the 1980s) in the border troops of the GDR , or in the form of an alternative military service in the People's Police standby , the transport police , the civil defense units of the GDR , the building units of the National People's Army or, with prior commitment to a three-year period of service, in the Feliks Dzierzynski guard regiment of the Ministry for State Security . Every conscript had to expect to be called up for three-month reservist exercises once or several times after completing their basic military service.

The National Defense Council of the GDR had given religiously bound conscripts the option of unarmed conscription as a construction soldier of the NVA from September 7, 1964 as a special form of alternative military service that was unique in socialist states . The construction soldiers, known as “spade soldiers” or “spatis”, mostly had the task of performing work in the military or public construction sector and were not trained in weapons. Instead of taking an oath, they only had to take a pledge . Construction soldiers had to expect harassment during and after their service . Service as a construction soldier had a negative impact on training opportunities; they were often denied a place at university. A civilian alternative service was not possible.

Even before the first free elections in the GDR , the possibility of community service in the GDR was created in February 1990. This was part of the army reform forced by soldiers' strikes and the peaceful revolution. Even before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the persecution of conscripts who evaded conscription was practically suspended.

Protectorate Saarland (1947–1956)

In the partly sovereign Saarland from 1947 to 1956 there was no conscription. France was responsible for defending the country. The French troops were withdrawn as early as 1947 .

Special status Berlin (until 1990)

During the time of the division of Germany, citizens of Berlin (West) were not subject to compulsory military service because the military legislation had not been adopted in the city due to the Allied rights of reservation (see four-power status ). As a result, numerous men from West Germany moved to Berlin to evade military service. They were still conscripted, but the West German district military replacement offices could not get hold of them because of the special status of the city. It is estimated that 50,000 conscripts withdrew from military service.


All men over the age of 18 who are Germans within the meaning of the Basic Law and according to § 1 WPflG are conscripted

  1. have their permanent residence in the Federal Republic of Germany or
  2. have their permanent residence outside of the Federal Republic of Germany and either
  • had their previous permanent residence in the Federal Republic of Germany or
  • have a passport or a certificate of citizenship of the Federal Republic of Germany or have submitted to their protection in another way.

Compulsory military service ends at the age of 45. In the event of tension or defense, it ends at the age of 60.

The draft for basic military service was suspended in March 2011 when the German Bundestag amended the conscription law. The Federal Council approved this on April 15, 2011. Since then, there has only been an obligation to do military service in the event of tension or defense. This did not affect Art. 12a GG and thus the authorization to the legislature to later reintroduce the compulsory conscription for military service through a simple law.


The term recording referred to the process by which the Bundeswehr gained knowledge of the personal data of conscripts. This was done with the quarterly transmission of the data of male adolescents who had reached the age of 17 by the residents 'registration office - which meant that persons who were not registered with the residents' registration office before this point in time and until the call-up limit of 23 years in this case was reached could still be conscripted and drafted, but remained unknown to the Bundeswehr. De-registering from your actual place of residence was, however, an administrative offense.

The recorded persons were notified and requested to notify the responsible district military replacement office of any corrections to their data . This invited the conscripts to the draft , in which u. a. the degree of fitness was determined, which decisively decided whether the conscript was called up for military service.

Compulsory military service was fulfilled by military service or, in the case of Section 1 of the Conscientious Objection Act of February 28, 1983, by civil service . The duration of basic military service and community service was six months since January 1, 2011. On July 1, 2011, conscription was suspended.

Compensation through other services

Law enforcement officers do not do military service . Your conscription is considered satisfied when you join the police ( police of the federal states ( § 42 WPflG) and police of the federal government ( BGS / BP) ( § 42a WPflG)). There is an exception if the employment relationship in the police was terminated before the end of the conscription.

An exemption from basic military service is also possible with at least four years (previously eight years) obligation to provide alternative service in disaster control , for example at the Technical Relief Agency (THW), the volunteer fire brigade or aid organizations such as the Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund , Johanniter Unfallhilfe , the German Red Cross , the Maltese Aid Service or the German Life-Saving Society ( § 13a WPflG).

Exemption from military service

According to § 11 WPflG are from military service u. a.

immediately released:

  • Clergy
  • Severely disabled

exempt on request:

  • the third and every subsequent son in a family, provided that two siblings have performed basic or alternative service or military service of a maximum of 2 years as temporary employment service
  • Men who are married or registered partners
  • Men who have to care for a child.


According to § 12 WPflG u. a. to be postponed by military service:

  • Men who study theology with the aim of becoming a Catholic priest or Protestant pastor
  • Men who are undergoing vocational training (in the case of university studies only from the beginning of the 3rd semester)

Further exceptions are regulated for u. a .:

  • Men who have already done military service in another country's army
  • Men who have at least one ancestor (up to three generations back) who was persecuted during the Nazi era
  • Conscripts who worked in development service for two years

See also : Convocation practice

stay abroad

Male Germans who have reached the age of 17 had to obtain approval from the district military replacement office if they wanted to leave Germany for more than three months. If this was disregarded or if the stay was extended beyond the granted permit, this could constitute a reason for refusal of the pass. During a stay abroad according to the permit, the conscription was suspended.

For Germans who were already permanently abroad and had their livelihood abroad, the conscription was also suspended.

Special features in the case of dual nationality

A German who also has the citizenship of another country automatically loses German citizenship if he does voluntary military service in this country without first obtaining a permit, unless he is entitled to do so on the basis of an international treaty. When conscription had not yet been suspended, the permit could only be issued if he had his permanent residence abroad and was therefore not subject to German conscription. The loss of citizenship does not occur, however, if the foreign military service was performed solely on the basis of compulsory military service.

End of conscription and conscription

According to Section 3 (5), in the event of tension or defense, military service ends for all conscripts at the end of the year in which they turn 60.

A distinction was to be made between this, however, in terms of the ability to call up unserved persons, which is regulated in § 5 WPflG , and which in peacetime (incomplete extract)

  • usually lasts until the 23rd birthday;
  • lasts until the 25th birthday among other things
    • Stays abroad that require approval but are not approved and at
    • Deferrals that prevent a convocation up to the 23rd birthday;
  • lasts up to the age of 28 if, due to an obligation in disaster control, it was not possible to convene before the age of 23;
  • lasts up to their 32nd birthday for people who, due to their professional training , are used primarily for military purposes during basic military service (e.g. doctors).

Military service unserved in case of defense

Unserved conscripts belong to the general reserve and can, if they are fit and within the age limits , be called up for military service indefinitely in the event of tension or defense .

Convocation Practice

With the Second Civil Service Law Amendment Act in 2004, the rules for calling up were changed:

  • Lowering the threshold for military service from 25 to 23 years of age , d. H. For example, if someone turns 23 on June 30 of a year, he can no longer be required to attend the "July drawing" for the first time.
  • No use of married men or men living in registered civil partnerships or conscripts with custody of at least one child.
  • The degree of utilization T3 has been omitted. Conscripts who were drafted with T3 are now considered retired.
  • Conscripts and civil service conscripts who, after attaining the general university or technical college entrance qualification, have started training in a company or civil servant are deferred upon request.
  • Military and civil service conscripts can be exempted from compulsory service if at least two siblings have completed a year of civil or military service.

In anticipation of the new regulation, this has been practiced since July 1, 2003. The obligation to provide services in the event of a defense remained unaffected by these regulations.

The way to suspend conscription

At the beginning of 2010, the then Federal Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg commissioned a deficit analysis to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current Bundeswehr situation. On April 12th, a structure commission was set up under the leadership of the head of the Federal Employment Agency , Frank-Jürgen Weise . Their recommendation should prepare a comprehensive restructuring of the Bundeswehr with the aim of adapting Germany's defense resources to current and future security policy challenges.

A few days before a savings conference on June 6th and 7th, 2010, zu Guttenberg had proposed to "suspend" conscription. At this meeting, he coordinated his plans, which had previously been discussed within the ministry and the armed forces, with the rest of the cabinet and the Federal Chancellor. Merkel was initially hesitant.

On August 23, zu Guttenberg presented the government coalition with five different models for the future structure of the armed forces. In all models, 150,000 to 180,000 regular and professional soldiers were assumed. In some models, the suspension of compulsory military service was planned, while others assumed 25,000 basic military service and 25,000 additional voluntary military service. Variants with 30,000 basic military service or generally voluntary military service were among them.

At the CSU party congress on October 29, 2010, the delegates accepted with a large majority a request made by the CSU board of directors to suspend military service. The CDU party congress also approved this with a large majority on November 15, 2010, after zu Guttenberg had advertised his Bundeswehr reform in a speech. In the Basic Law conscription remained anchored.

The FDP had repeatedly asked for the suspension or abolition of compulsory military service for many years. With their decision, the CDU and CSU joined a demand from their coalition partner.

On December 15, 2010, the Federal Cabinet decided to change compulsory military service as of July 1, 2011. According to this decision, as of March 1, 2011, no one should be convened against their will. January 3, 2011 was the last draft date in terms of the old conscription.

Alternative suggestions and discussions before the suspension of military service

Various interest groups and parties, such as the FDP , the Left and Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen , have long been calling for conscription to be suspended or abolished in Germany. By contrast, the majority of the CDU / CSU politicians advocated retaining it until around 2010 . Within the SPD , after years of internal debates at the head of the party, a majority emerged in 2007 in favor of converting compulsory military service to voluntary military service.

In 2009 and 2010 there was a “new conscription debate” about the meaningful design of the shortened conscription in the media. In particular, the “5 plus 1” conscription concept described below is up for discussion in this context.

In June 2010, the news magazine Der Spiegel described the situation of conscripts in the German Armed Forces as a state-decreed "messing around" and the fight against boredom.

Differentiation between general conscription and general service

General compulsory service implies the involvement of all young people - including young women. The existence of a possibility of refusal is explained by the priority given to national defense services. In 2004, the Commission, Impulses for Civil Society, considered the introduction of general compulsory service instead of conscription through constitutional amendment to be fundamentally the wrong approach and contrary to international law. In the opinion of the scientific service of the Bundestag, a general service obligation could only be introduced after an amendment to the Basic Law. In doing so, the Federal Republic of Germany would violate its obligations under international law from the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (IpbürgR). The introduction of general compulsory service would also make no sense in economic terms.

Suggested service models

Voluntary military service

The conscription of volunteers was a push by the SPD for a volunteer army . The conscription anchored in the Basic Law should be adhered to, but in future it would only apply if necessary. The SPD spoke about "voluntariness in military service" that should be implemented through incentives. There should be a bonus system, such as advantages in the allocation of study places, further training or crediting of service and training times. The same should apply to alternative civilian service. A key proposal to include the goal of voluntary military service in the program was accepted at the SPD federal party conference at the end of October 2007 ; thus the voluntary military service is part of their "Hamburg program".

In 2009, several court decisions were open as to whether the convening practice at that time was constitutional. Corresponding complaints were referred to the Federal Constitutional Court. However, the transfer decision of the Cologne Administrative Court of March 25, 2009 was rejected as inadmissible by the 1st Chamber of the Second Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court in August 2009.

Social service

On the basis of the considerations outlined above, discussions have been held since 2008 about introducing a “social service” in which all male adolescents should perform a service for society. It is up to them with which government agency they perform this service. A greatly simplified refusal of military service according to Article 4, Paragraph 2 of the Basic Law as well as saved training costs should make the system constitutional. The information about military service as well as alternative services should therefore begin at school.

5 plus 1

Against the background of the priority of service in the Bundeswehr, the authors of the idea “5 plus 1” provided a basis for discussion on the further development of general conscription. The defense commissioner of the German Bundestag supported the model. This stipulated that the recruits, after a three-month basic training, would receive two-month special training in the areas of disaster control and advanced medical services . This was expressly not aimed at the deployment of the Bundeswehr inside, but for cases of administrative assistance i. S. d. Art. 35 GG. These five months (5) are followed by vocational support (+ 1) for each young person, which is highly individualized and tailored to their needs. The idea arose from the fact that a state obligation to do military service should also have advantages for those affected.

Statements from personalities

Federal President Roman Herzog

In 1995, the then Federal President Roman Herzog warned the commanders of the armed forces on the fortieth anniversary of the Bundeswehr.

“Conscription is such a deep encroachment on the individual freedom of young citizens that the democratic constitutional state can only demand it if the external security of the state really dictates it. So it is not a generally valid eternal principle, but it is also dependent on the specific security situation. It must be possible to justify their retention, suspension or abolition as well as the duration of basic military service in terms of security policy. Sociopolitical, historical, financial and internal armed forces arguments can then still be used as additions. But they will never be the sole basis for consensus in a conversation with the citizen. To keep conscription credible means to explain why we still need it despite the elimination of the immediate external threat. "

- Roman Herzog

General Inspector Hartmut Bagger

On July 16, 1996, then General Inspector Hartmut Bagger justified his position on maintaining general conscription in the Inspector's Letter 1/96.

“For many, the strongest argument in favor of a professional army seems to be the associated professionalization. Conscription and professionalism are not mutually exclusive. Compulsory military service also creates the opportunity to use the full potential of intelligence , skills and professional training of our young citizens. Not only do we benefit from this potential among conscripts, we also gain half of our junior officers of officers and NCOs from it . The quality and culture of leadership in the Bundeswehr , but also professionalism, will largely depend on conscription. The lack of plurality that is often associated with a volunteer army can lead to a loss of spiritual vitality. "

- Hartmut Bagger

Bagger therefore saw the conscription army as the “more intelligent army”, since its personnel were more qualified. In addition, it makes the defense of justice and freedom a matter for all citizens and prevents the tendency to misunderstand the armed forces as a "service agency for defense"; that is an important socio-political aspect.

Arguments and reasons for a desired change in conscription

Military justice

An important point in the discussion about compulsory military service was military justice . This is given when every fit young man who has not refused is called up for military service. Since in the meantime fewer and fewer young men of the same year were actually called up for military service, a lack of justice was complained. There was a difference between the creation of military justice in the legal sense and the sense of justice in society. As the need for conscripts in the Bundeswehr decreased, the suitability criteria were increased and further exemptions were created. This led to the fact that significantly fewer people fit for military service were available and it was easier to keep the exhaustion residue - i.e. the number of those from this group who do not have to do any service - small. Thus, although formal legal justice was established, this was often not perceived as really fair by the individual (and society), as they were more interested in what percentage of a year group would still have to serve. For example, only 24% of men (corresponding to 12% of the entire year including women) of those born in 1982, who last outgrown their compulsory military service and civil service, served the Bundeswehr (107,047 of 445,564 registered conscripts). Of the 440,000 men born in 1980 (who could no longer be drafted from 2004), 137,500 (31.25%) did basic military service, 152,000 (34.54%) did community service or another alternative service, and 150,500 (34.2 %) did military service %) were retired or not used for other reasons. Among those born later, the rate of those who were retired rose sharply: In the first half of 2007, only 53.8% of all those who were retired were declared fit for service, 46.2% had to or were not allowed to do military or community service for medical reasons. Many saw it as an obvious violation of the idea of ​​military justice. “In the district military replacement offices … there is often arbitrariness . The draft officers sorted out a recruit who had tooth decay, while another one with a healed fracture was considered fit. "

In order to keep the remaining exhaustion as small as possible, more conscripts should be drafted again in the next few years. In doing so, the Federal Ministry of Defense followed the ruling of the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, which granted the state a free hand in terms of suitability criteria and exceptions, but at the same time imposed "if possible to use all available conscripts for military service". From a constitutional point of view, however, this judgment is controversial because it is difficult to reconcile it with Article 12 (1) of the Basic Law. This imposed the requirement on the legislature to design involuntary state services in such a way that they apply “in general and the same for everyone”, so as far as this is possible, all shoulders are equally affected. The criticism from the legal side was that a drafting of the conscripts law by the legislature, which in fact subtracts large parts of a year from compulsory military service, the removal of which is not based on inevitable factual necessities (such as in the case of severely disabled or other incapable of work), but on political arbitrariness . This goes beyond the framework that the Basic Law sets the legislature in this matter. Constitutional lawyers pointed out that “general and the same for everyone” is to be understood as meaning that the legislature may not include any, or only minimally, unnecessary special rules in the law and that the suitability criteria that the legislature specifies in the law are not in this way It should be soft that young men are formally and administratively unfit who are not in reality. A final clarification as to whether the convocation practice still meets the constitutional requirement of equal treatment is pending for a decision by the Federal Constitutional Court.

"General" conscription - only for men

Although there was “general conscription” in Germany, it only applied to men. Although this fundamentally violated the principle of equal treatment of the Basic Law, it was decided by the Federal Constitutional Court that this would not lead to the invalidity of military service: the legislature had subsequently included "male military service" in the Basic Law. Thus, a “ lex specialis ” was created with regard to conscription against the “ lex generalis ” (Latin) of the principle of equal treatment ( Art. 3 GG).

The discrimination against men through compulsory military service, accepted by the legislature, raised not only legal, but also social questions. Depending on the level of equality achieved, there were corresponding acceptance problems and thus also increased the requirement for politicians to adequately justify compulsory military service. The debate was exacerbated by the fact that women now have free and voluntary access to the armed forces - including military service - whereby the original discrimination against women was eliminated, but the disadvantageous character of conscription, which only affects men, was increased. The argument that women should be protected from military service because of their weaker constitution no longer works.

It was often argued that women “sacrificed” a similar part of their life to give birth and raise children and otherwise do most of the social work, such as caring for family members. However, this comparison is controversial. Apart from the fact that there is no criminally enforced “obligation to give birth” and that children are usually born as intended children in times of contraception, the achievements of the fathers are also completely disregarded here. This must also be seen against the background that today a division of family work between both sexes is seen as desirable and in many cases also practiced, thus the strict division of roles of the man as the breadwinner of the family and the woman as the housewife and mother (like them at the time when conscription was introduced) no longer corresponds to social reality.

It is also criticized that, for example, the care work of a woman is taken into account, but not the work of her husband, who, for example, makes the care of his non-working wife possible in the first place through his earnings.

In addition, women are just as suitable for military service - even with weapons - as men. Women like Tanja Kreil, who had successfully sued the European Court of Justice (“ Kreil decision of the ECJ ”), stood up to clarify this fact .

Opponents of expanding compulsory military service to include women feared that there could then be fewer offspring in Germany. However, in Israel, for example, where conscription also applies to women, the birth rates are higher than in Germany. In addition, very few women become mothers in their early twenties (i.e. the age at which military or alternative service would have to be completed), but mostly in later years, so that the service should at least not immediately prevent the realization of the desire to have children.

Furthermore, it was asserted that men should not lose any further lifetime through compulsory service because they are already at a considerable disadvantage due to their meanwhile approximately six years lower life expectancy than women - which is also not reflected in lower pension insurance contributions.


Cost arguments have been made by both proponents and opponents of general conscription. It was argued that conscription was the cheaper and more efficient option compared to a professional army. The conscription makes it easier to recruit temporary and professional soldiers. In his role as Chairman of the Defense Committee at that time, the then Defense Commissioner of the Bundestag, Reinhold Robbe , came to the conclusion in a model calculation in 2004 that a professional army would be 3.5 to 7 billion euros more expensive than the current army, mainly because it was enormous Funding would have to be spent on recruiting. "France, Spain, Italy, all countries that have abolished conscription, have these huge problems and have to spend huge amounts of money on recruiting," said Robbe in an interview with Deutschlandradio.

This view was not disputed by the opponents of conscription either. However, it was pointed out by them that this was a purely business management view, while most of the scientific studies on the cost comparison of the various types of army argued economically. According to a study on the economic efficiency of conscription, which was carried out at the Institute for Armed Forces Management at the Bundeswehr University in Munich, a volunteer army would be around 50 percent more efficient than the conscription army at the same time. “The partial study revealed significant cost and efficiency advantages for a Bundeswehr made up of volunteers. This army of volunteers would lead to lower costs on the cost side and higher performance on the performance side, ”the authors wrote in their conclusion. The German Institute for Economic Research also said in its weekly report 4/2004: "From an economic point of view, a professional army is preferable to a conscription army, it is economically more cost-effective and more sensible in terms of regulatory policy than a conscription army."

The economic costs of a conscript army were, among other things, that the conscription leads to the loss of at least one annual salary for the young men concerned. This was associated with a corresponding loss of purchasing power, taxes and social security contributions. The conscript himself lost not only the belatedly low first annual salary, but also the considerably higher final annual salary. At the same time, the economy loses the prevented contribution of a trained workforce to economic value creation.

In return, it could be argued that the men had acquired skills in military service that would bring them advantages in their later career. This was not taken into account in the calculations. However, surveys show that at least in Germany there was no preference whatsoever for former military service or community service in most professions and companies. In addition, this skill acquisition was reduced by the increasing shortening of the military service period, because on the one hand there was not enough time for further training, on the other hand the Bundeswehr could not have any interest in specifically training conscripts (e.g. acquiring a driver's license) without their newly acquired skills in the remaining To be able to use service time.

According to these two perspectives, it may well be that a professional army burdens the defense budget more heavily, but that at the same time the burden on the entire economy is relieved. With a conscript army, the lower defense budget is bought at the expense of the conscripts and the rest of the economy. In a professional army, the - lower - total costs would be borne by all taxpayers.

There were similar cost arguments for community service , although the reservation was always that the actual exception did not legitimize the normal case. For example, it was feared that without civil service - which is linked to compulsory military service - social security could deteriorate in many areas. It was true that in the decades in which the number of conscientious objectors increased steadily and thus more and more places had to be created for those doing community service, a great many hospitals, retirement and nursing homes, Red Cross wards etc. “Helped over emergencies in nursing and health care at favorable financial conditions for them. But since it became necessary to reduce the number of people doing civilian service from 150,000 in 1999 to 70,000 in 2004 as part of the reduction in the number of people doing basic military service, the departments had to gradually adjust to the need to get by with significantly fewer auxiliary workers. Most of the departments succeeded in converting because some of the community service positions were converted into regular workplaces and some could be absorbed by mini jobs and Hartz IV measures. Therefore, the central office KDV (conscientious objection) came to the conclusion: "The civil service issue has long been resolved."


From 1982 onwards, most of the conscripts had disadvantages in terms of their pensions: only lump sums were taken into account, which from 1982 onwards were below average earnings.

  • before 1982: 1 earnings point per year (corresponds to 100% of average earnings)
  • 1982–1991: 0.75 earnings point per year (corresponds to 75% of average earnings)
  • from 1992: 0.80 earnings point (corresponds to 80% of average earnings)

An individual higher average earnings over all working years is also not compensated. A constitutional review from the point of view of military and pension justice is pending.

Ethical, social and internal armed forces arguments

Immanuel Kant's remarks in his work “For Eternal Peace” (1795) were sometimes used to justify the ethical justification of conscription. Here the philosopher argued that standing armies would only lead to arms races and, subsequently, to wars. Equating the concept of standing armies, used by Kant, with professional armies is forbidden because standing armies can be organized as both professional and conscription armies. Kant therefore by no means speaks of the conscription army as a preferable counter-model, but expressly emphasizes the voluntary nature of the periodic military exercises of the citizens that he has approved (cf. “For Eternal Peace”, BA 8f.). Only this voluntariness is also capable of the "use of people as mere machines and tools in the hands of someone else (of the state) ... who cannot be reconciled with the rights of humanity in our own person", mentioned by Kant in this context, to exclude.

Experience with the two world wars and the wars afterwards also show that conscription armies have neither prevented this nor hindered the arms race in any way. Modifying Kant's ideas, it is argued that conscription armies in democratic societies lead to greater responsibility for governments towards soldiers and that the pros and cons of deploying abroad are decided more responsibly.

Proponents of compulsory military service repeatedly warned of the experiences in the Weimar Republic, in which the Reichswehr formed a "state within a state". In doing so, they failed to recognize that this was given by the direct subordination to the Reich President and their own jurisdiction and was not necessarily a consequence of the form of defense. The lesson from the Weimar Republic had a significant influence on the formation of the military constitution, including compulsory military service, and made the Bundeswehr and its soldiers as "citizens in uniform" as a "parliamentary army" a comprehensive political, social and budgetary involvement.

Historical experience has shown that the alleged “legitimate child of democracy” called conscription in the German Empire, under National Socialism, in other dictatorships and other democracies contributed more to militarism than to peace.

Emotional and ideological reasons

Maintaining compulsory military service in Germany also had emotional and ideological reasons, which should not be underestimated. For many, the military was seen as a “symbol of the defensive sex” and “school of the nation” (see lecture by Prof. Uta Klein.) The origins of this assessment lay in the fact that civil status was historically linked to general conscription. Citizenship and national defense were seen as two sides of the same coin. Correspondingly, the exclusion of women from political rights was also justified on the basis of their alleged inability to carry weapons. The link between defensiveness and masculinity has a symbolic and ideological function and was in line with the idea of ​​gender roles at the time. It is also interesting that, conversely, the basic suitability of men for combat and armed service was never questioned. Only an unsuitability for pacifist motives was recognized over time.

According to Uta Klein, masculinity represented a functional element, one of the characteristics being socialization: This does not take place towards the sexless soldier, but towards the male. In the military , masculinity is socialized. Military service has the effect that young men are separated from women and binds them to other men. For the young men, the military means retreating into a men's society in which they have to prove themselves to be men. “Only through military service does a boy become a real man”.

This notion is still very real and the more conservative and patriarchal a society is, the more firmly anchored it is.

Conscription was also seen in Germany, especially by conservative and / or elderly people, as a fundamentally valuable and important experience for future men. It was positively linked to the concept of masculinity (“A real man was with the federal government!”) And is therefore affirmed emotionally and ideologically, regardless of actual conscription practice and regardless of the rational pro-contra discussion.

The Bundeswehr has long been made up of professional soldiers for the most part, and the trend is increasing. Insofar as they were regular soldiers, they have opted for a more or less long period of life “with the federal government”, they also do their work there self-confidently and responsibly, but many think with the same seriousness about their civilian follow-up work.

After all, some other large democratic states, such as the USA and Great Britain , and since the 1990s France and since 2001 even Spain , where there was an attempted coup in 1981 , have renounced conscription without anyone having serious concerns about their basic democracy. The Federal Republic with its firmly anchored democracy and democratic integration of the armed forces cannot be equated with the Weimar Republic.

Conscription is also of great importance when it comes to integrating the Bundeswehr into society. The conscripts had a double task. On the one hand, they should have a “monitoring” / “moderating” effect on the permanent military personnel. On the other hand, those who were “with the federal government” for some time should then become something like advertising media for the Bundeswehr in civil society. However, this double effect was weakened by several developments and circumstances.

The study “Violence against Men” showed that only about 1/3 of the ex-conscripts expressed positive comments about their military service. On the other hand, in recent years both the percentage and the absolute number of conscripts have been permanently reduced, so that the effect of democratic penetration has weakened accordingly. The shortening of the military service also meant that the young men almost only came into contact with regular and professional soldiers in training units and not with the rest of the Bundeswehr. The desired effect could therefore be strongest among those who, as volunteer conscripts ( FWDL ), experience everyday military life for up to 23 months, even if they started their service with a similarly positive basic attitude towards the military as their comrades with Temporary contracts, for example, for four years.

If society can expect a democratic control of the military from within and a means against its encrustation from the FWDL , then the ability and willingness to do so should not be denied to the regular soldiers as well as to the citizens serving as professional soldiers and family fathers / mothers. This means, however, that there is no need for conscripts, but a structure with a high proportion of short-term soldiers and further integration into the tried and tested military legislation.

Mirror or distorting mirror of society

The Bundeswehr should be a mirror of society, at least the male part. It was founded with this fixed goal and general conscription should serve as a guarantee. However, the Bundeswehr never fully met this ideal, even in the early years, for example because there were no unfit for military service, refusals and foreigners in its ranks. In the meantime, there have been developments that have made the Bundeswehr appear not as a mirror but as a distorting mirror of (male) society. The extensive freedom of choice between alternative service and military service has already led to the fact that more highly educated (Abitur), more sensitive and left-wing men as well as classic pacifists refused to do military service. Due to the low number of needs of the Bundeswehr and the associated stricter drafting criteria and increased exemption regulations, there was also a lack of married and older young men in the ranks of conscripts and those who knew how to use these rules for any service avoid.

The geographical origin of the soldiers also showed how distorted the reflection was. So 40% of the conscripts and also 30% of the regular and professional soldiers from East Germany were won. With the junior officers it was even now 60% and with the junior officers 80%. The reason for the strong preponderance of East Germany was the attractiveness of the Bundeswehr as an employer for regions with high unemployment. The attractiveness also increased with the decline in education. It was above all those with low qualifications who signed up for assignments abroad because they brought an extra allowance of up to € 110 per day. But when these foreign missions were increasingly perceived as a danger to their own health and life, the Bundeswehr succeeded less and less in recruiting more highly qualified people with better chances on the labor market for voluntary extension of their military service or even as temporary or professional soldiers . Accordingly, the Bundeswehr had to continuously lower the requirement profile in order to be able to meet their needs at all. It was and is feared that the Bundeswehr will become a meeting point for the lower class. Colonel Bernhard Gertz said "We have to take a closer look at the people who join us in the army." In the Bundeswehr, despite compulsory military service, the same personnel problems arose that were feared due to the conversion to a volunteer and professional army.

See also


  • Andreas Ahammer, Stephan Nachtigall: 5 plus 1 - conscription of the future in social service . Nomos, Baden Baden 2009, ISBN 978-3-8329-4710-1 .
  • Detlef Bald : Eckardt Opitz, Frank S. Rödiger (ed.): General conscription. History, problems, perspectives . Edition Temmen , Bremen 1994, ISBN 3-86108-232-2 , conscription - the myth of the legitimate child of democracy. * Human rights, civil liberty, state constitution . Kamp, Bochum 1964, ISBN 3-592-87010-6 .
  • Detlef Bald : Conscription - the legitimate child of democracy? From military law to conscription in Germany . In: Social Science Institute of the Federal Armed Forces (Ed.): SOWI working paper . No. 56 . Munich 1991, DNB  920607373 .
  • Detlef Buch : What to do with conscription? Are the partners really pointing the way? Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main [a. a.] 2010, ISBN 978-3-631-58811-6 .
  • Jürgen Kuhlmann, Ekkehard Lippert: Farewell to conscription? Arguments against and for conscription in peacetime . In: Social Science Institute of the Federal Armed Forces (Ed.): SOWI working paper . No. 48 . Munich 1991, DNB  910742405 .
  • Paul Klein (Ed.): Conscription and Conscripts Today . With contributions from German Drexler. 1st edition. Nomos , Baden-Baden 1991, ISBN 3-7890-2266-7 .
  • Roland G. Foerster (Hrsg.): The military service origin, manifestations and politico-military effect . Oldenbourg, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-486-56042-5 .
  • Conscription - Pros and Cons . In: Security and Peace . Issue 2. Nomos , Baden-Baden 1995.
  • Jürgen Groß: Army of Illusions. The Bundeswehr and general conscription . In: IFSH (ed.): Hamburg contributions to peace research and security policy . Issue 105, 1997, ISSN  0936-0018 , DNB  953045595 .
  • Jürgen Groß, Dieter S. Lutz: Is it obsolete? In: IFSH (ed.): Hamburg contributions to peace research and security policy . Issue 103, 1996, ISSN  0936-0018 , DNB  948562781 .
  • Matthias Sehmsdorf: Conscription versus volunteer army . Kovač , 1996, ISBN 3-86064-698-2 .
  • Heinz Magenheimer : On the question of general conscription . Writings of the National Defense Academy, Vienna 1999, ISBN 3-901328-38-6 .
  • Armin A. Steinkamm , Dietmar Schössler (Hrsg.): Military democracy 2000 - on conscription and military structure. Political, legal, social and military dimensions of the defense structure problem of the Federal Republic of Germany in the "post-confrontational period". Documentation of the "Defense Structure Symposium" of the Institute for International Politics, Security Policy, Defense and International Law of the University of the Federal Armed Forces, Munich from July 17th to 19th, 1996 in Munich with additional contributions (= Military Service and Society . Vol. 5). Nomos, Baden-Baden 1999, ISBN 3-7890-6298-7 .
  • Ute Frevert : The barracked nation. Military service and civil society in Germany . Beck, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-406-47979-0 .
  • Andres Prüfert (Ed.): Does general conscription have a future in Germany? On the debate about the future defense structure . Nomos , Baden-Baden 2003, ISBN 3-8329-0311-9 .
  • Christian Herz: No peace with conscription - history, effects and abolition of general conscription . Agenda, Münster 2003, ISBN 3-89688-165-5 .
  • Florian Birkenfeld: Conscription in Germany. Costs, comparison, prospects . Müller, Saarbrücken 2006, ISBN 3-86550-181-8 .
  • Jens Fleischhauer: Conscription Army and Justice. The constitutionality of general conscription in terms of security, social and demographic changes . Kovač , Hamburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-8300-3233-5 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Conscription  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Conscription  - collection of images, videos and audio files


Individual evidence

  1. Defense Amendment Act 2011 , Art. 1, Para. 1a and 2
  2. § 2 Conscription Act
  3. The law concerning the obligation to do military service for the North German Confederation should later become relevant for the entire German Empire .
  4. ^ Law on the obligation of the North German Confederation to perform military service of November 9, 1867
  5. Law on the Constitution of the German Reich (Reichsverfassungs) of April 16, 1871, scan on Commons
  6. Reich Military Law of May 2, 1874, Reichsgesetzblatt 1874, No. 15, pp. 45–64 Scan on Commons
  7. Law on the Landsturm of February 12, 1875, Reichsgesetzblatt 1875, No. 7, pages 63-64 scan on Commons
  8. Law, regarding the strength of the German army in peace, of August 3, 1893, Reichsgesetzblatt 1893, No. 30, pp. 233–235 Scan on Commons
  9. ^ Friedrich von Merkatz: Textbook for the machine gun companies, Device 08, Berlin 1918, pp. 67-68
  10. Law, regarding changes in military service of February 11, 1888, Reichsgesetzblatt 1888, No. 4, pages 11-21 scan on Commons
  11. Oliver Stein, German Army Armament Policy 1890-1914, pages 119,120
  12. Article 173
  13. ^ Proclamation of the Reich government to the German people regarding the introduction of general conscription of March 16, 1935
  14. ^ The reintroduction of general conscription in 1935 in the LeMO timeline of the German Historical Museum.
  15. Summary of the events at Golo Mann : German history of the 19th and 20th centuries. S. Fischer, Frankfurt (Main) 1979, ISBN 3-10-347901-8 , pp. 849-852.
  16. ^ Reichsgesetzblatt 1935, Part I, p. 697
  17. RGBl. 1936, part I, p. 706
  18. BVerfG, judgment of April 13, 1978, Az. 2 BvF 1/77 u. a., BVerfGE 48, 127 - Amendment to conscription.
  19. ^ Constitutions of the German Democratic Republic. Retrieved September 11, 2013 .
  20. Law on Military Service in the German Democratic Republic (Military Service Law) in the version of March 25, 1982. Accessed on January 4, 2017 .
  21. ^ Ordinance on community service in the German Democratic Republic of February 20, 1990.
  22. ^ EW: The Future of the Saar , in: The World Today, Jg. 9 (1953), No. 5, pp. 193-201 (here: p. 196).
  23. ^ Colbert C. Held: The New Saarland , in: Geographical Review, Jg. 41 (1951), No. 4, pp. 590-605 (here: p. 600).
  24. City of Refusers. In: Retrieved September 20, 2011 .
  25. § 3
  26. § 2
  27. This regulation is based on the secret annex to the Reich Concordat of 1933.
  28. Paragraph 28 of the Citizenship Act ( Memento of April 26, 2018 in the Internet Archive )
  29. Military service. (PDF) Archived from the original on July 11, 2009 ; Retrieved September 11, 2013 .
  30. BGBl. 2004 I p. 2358
  31. a b Report of the Defense Structure Commission October 2010 ( Memento from March 5, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 5.9 MB)
  32. June 2, 2010:  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. The pressure to save is likely to lead to drastic upheavals in the Bundeswehr. According to ZDF information, the political leadership in the Ministry of Defense plans to suspend conscription and downsize the force by 100,000 soldiers. The project has not yet been coordinated with the cabinet, but is seriously being pursued by the ministry, according to ZDF correspondent Michael Bewerunge from Berlin. “It's not just a theory.” Without the changes, the Bundeswehr's tasks could no longer be fulfilled with the planned savings, so Bewerunge. "That would be a historic upheaval."@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  33. ^ Spiegel Online: CSU votes for the suspension of compulsory military service, October 29, 2010
  34. Federal Ministry of Defense: Federal government lays down the cornerstones of the restructuring of the Bundeswehr., December 15, 2010, accessed on May 19, 2013 .
  35. ^ Taz: SPD invents voluntary conscription - August 17, 2007
  36. ^ "Die Zeit": Military service from 2011 as short as never before: Six months, October 24, 2009,, viewed on October 26, 2009.
  37. "NWZ Online from October 23, 2009": Conscription only 6 months? Service will be restructured, October 23, 2009,, viewed on: October 26, 2009.
  38. Der Spiegel No. 25 of June 21, 2010, pp. 32–35: The great emptiness .
  39. Perspectives for voluntary service and community service in Germany. (PDF; 753 kB) January 15, 2004, archived from the original on September 23, 2015 ; Retrieved on June 12, 2013 (illegal international law see pages 7, 15f. and 54).
  40. ^ Perspectives for voluntary service and community service in Germany January 15, 2004. PDF, 106 pages.
  41. Article of September 3, 2010
  42. ^ Hanno Beck: On the economy of compulsory services . In: Zeitschrift "4/3", No. 3, 1994, p. 94 ff.
  43. ^ SPD party congress: The most important resolutions | TIME online
  44. ^ Court doubts convocation practice ,, published on March 25, 2009.
  45. E.g .: new beginning or tattoo and care collapse. WDR , November 1, 2009, accessed June 12, 2013 .
  46. "5plus1": The entire model can be downloaded online from the homepage .
  47. Utilization of the birth cohorts. Bundeswehr , July 12, 2006, archived from the original on February 3, 2007 ; Retrieved June 12, 2013 .
  48. of June 21, 2010: The great void
  49. BVerwG, judgment of January 19, 2005 , Az. 6 C 9.04, full text; Lower instance VG Cologne, judgment of April 21, 2004 , Az. 8 K 154/04, full text.
  50. BVerfGE 12, 45 , 52 f .; BVerfGE 48, 127 , 161, 165.
  51. Conscription instead of professional army: An alternative against economic reason. (PDF; 317 kB) Retrieved September 11, 2013 .
  52. ^ Report of the board of directors to the general meeting on November 6, 2004 in Berlin. Retrieved September 11, 2013 .
  53. see § 115a GG.
  54. see Section 45b of the Basic Law and the Law on Military Pastoral Care of July 26, 1957.
  55. see § 87a / b GG.
  56. E.g. USA: The Vietnam War was waged with conscripts; the soldier was primarily a warrior. In order to be elected president, Nixon postponed the peace negotiations with North Vietnam. Example France: see Algerian war . And according to protocol, the soldier comes before the regional elected politicians.
  57. ^ The School of the Male Nation ( Memento of November 24, 2004 in the Internet Archive )
  58. Tagesspiegel: Conscription in other European countries
  59. BMFSFJ - list of publications - violence against men
  60. - archive
  62. Practically everyone is taken - NewsPolitics - WELT ONLINE
  63. Lower class in the federal government?, October 27, 2006, accessed on September 4, 2014 .