In 2017, the Bundeswehr ( German Armed Forces) launched an advertising campaign on university campuses and even in schools. The author of this article, born in 1931, recount some personal experiences and memories of his childhood and youth under Nazism s and during the world war Of them as a “reminder to all young people to take a stand against the lure of the Bundeswehr at school s and other public institutions.
My first experience of the World War period was in 1938. The next morning Kristallnacht a synagogue was still burning. In a Jewish store, the windows were smashed and the windows looted.
The first human loss I suffered dates back to the first year of the war. Our family learned that the 18-year-old soldier temporarily stationed with us had been killed in France.
The start of World War II on September 1, 1939, with the invasion of Poland, meant that years of air terror were about to begin for Duisburg, my hometown. The city, one of the steel production centers of the Third Reich, suffered a total of 311 air raids between 1940 and 1945.
The first aerial bomb in our immediate vicinity destroyed a pub and its customers, including a classmate of mine and his family. An incendiary shell, which penetrated the ceiling of an underground bunker and inflicted serious injuries on a woman, only missed our family because of a wall that separated us. In a surface bunker where we were seeking shelter, an explosive bomb penetrated the upper floor and exploded. We were only one floor below.
Due to the constant bombing of the heavily industrialized Ruhr area and Adolf Hitler’s “Führer’s order” to evacuate young people from areas at risk of air warfare, I was sent to Pomerania and then to the “Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia” in the former Czechoslovakia, much to the dismay of my parents. Here, away from my parents’ house, I spent the time after school with my classmates doing outdoor activities and other sports activities. We were taught to think in terms of friend and foe by glorifying the Führer, V old (the people), the homeland, victorious battles and heroic fights in singing lessons and marching through the village.
But with the advance of the Red Army, our days in Czechoslovakia were numbered. Shortly before our departure for Germany, all the children were again summoned to the spa gardens. There the company commander and his soldiers showed us how to deal with the enemy. The Czech population was driven through the Kurpark unprepared and threatened with rifles and blank fire.
On April 20, 1945, Hitler’s birthday, we all had to leave the capital Prague by train. But shortly before the scheduled departure, all students aged 14 and over had to get off the train. They were to defend Prague, arms in hand, against the overwhelming armies of the Soviet Union. I was lucky. My birthday was April 21, so I was still 13. Only a few hours separated me from the fate reserved for my classmates. Only 17 of them escaped with their lives. I returned to bombed-out Duisburg at the end of the war.
I am all the more shocked that the Bundeswehr is now massively increasing its advertising in universities and even in schools. A new recruitment offensive by the Bundeswehr, with which Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) wants to massively increase the size of the army and recruit thousands of new soldiers for the army in the next few years, can only mean one thing: young people must once again be consumed as cannon fodder for the geostrategic and economic interests of German imperialism, as in the last two world wars.
During World War II, more than half of the men between the ages of 25 and 30 who were drafted fell. Among recruits born after 1920, that is, children, teenagers and young men between the ages of 14 and 24, more than 30% fall, in each case. During the wars of the last century, millions of parents had to suffer the loss of their children. To prevent this from happening again, there is an urgent need to build an international anti-war movement.