GERMANY'S military defeat in 1945 destroyed a régime which had been a nightmare to many Germans, and, at times, to almost the entire world. Its disappearance nevertheless left the world, and of course Germany in particular, with a multitude of political, social, psychological and spiritual problems. The basic questions of German national life have all been newly posed. Among them now is how to construct a new army which will avoid the mistakes and dangers of the past and achieve the highest efficiency under the present changed circumstances. In this problem is revealed the whole complexity of the German situation.

The split in our country is part of the world-wide division between the free nations and Communism. This means that Germans cannot think about it merely in national terms.

The bitter lessons taught us under the Third Reich and the present fate of our compatriots between the Elbe and the Oder have made Germans genuinely desire a legal state and a free way of life. Even the sincerest pledge to democracy, however, cannot substitute entirely for what makes a parliamentary system healthy and viable in the long run: the slow growth of democratic traditions until the people are permeated with a sense of security down even to their subconsciousness. For the time being, our young republic can be only what the first German republic was in the twenties: an experiment in good intentions, a hope for the future. But in its rôle as a model and nucleus for a Germany united in freedom and peace the Federal Republic carries a special responsibility.

We pledge ourselves to democracy and to the free nations of the West partly because we remember our recent past, partly because we have the example of the Eastern Zone and partly because of the proximity of the Soviet Armies. At the same time we realize that there are intangible forces threatening to which not even veteran democracies are immune. The magnetic attractions of anonymity existing in the modern mass society make it difficult to describe democracy any longer in terms of the value of the individual and the dignity of man. The rapidity with which the conditions of modern life change makes it very hard for individuals to have the same sense of mutual interdependence that used to exist in a simpler society. This makes man lonely and increases his fear of life. The emphasis which both we and the totalitarians place on technical perfection blurs the borderline between us and them. The loneliness of the individual within the mass encourages escapism rather than devotion to principles. The desire for security is often stronger than the desire for freedom and a chance to develop according to individual aspiration. These dilemmas are intensified by the fear caused by nuclear weapons and the fact that Germany has only just recovered from a total defeat brought on by her own leaders. Together they may give an idea of the difficulties facing German political leaders and military planners today.

Nevertheless, one simplifying factor causes all these questions to fall into a clear pattern. We have become a border country of the free world. From a simply national point of view it is possible to think of defending Germany from the Elbe against the West. But the fact that any such idea would seem absurd to Germans shows how far they have come in realizing that any concept of German national defense must be identified with a democratic system of government. Today the spirit of German defense can be expressed only in the symbol of armed democracy. So much has the Hitler era sharpened our senses.

Experienced soldiers know how critical the spirit of an army is for its efficiency. In planning our armed forces, then, we would necessarily, from simple interest in their future efficiency, take account of the fact that among so many spiritual changes and faltering values the German soldier must be given the feeling that he is a member of a free nation standing on the side of freedom. In other words, the actual potential which the German armed forces will add to European and Atlantic defense is closely connected with the extent to which the free way of life has meaning for Germans and the extent to which the German soldier identifies himself with it.

Under the term Inneres Gefuege--"inner structure"--the planning section of the German Ministry for Defense has tried to develop a program for a democratic army. Many people think of "democracy" and "army" as irreconcilables. They are confusing democracy as a form of life with parliamentary procedures. In my view, the idea of democratic armed forces consists of simply three things: organic integration of the army into the democratic state; devotion of its leaders to the state and its constitution; identity of values in the army and in the democratic state.

Concrete proposals for giving this program effect are now coming before the German Parliament. But before we concern ourselves with the draft of this "inner structure" it may be well to indicate what was the foundation on which we based our specific concepts about the nature of the future armed forces. This may be done by outlining three specific problems.


We must draft and train our armed forces in the midst of a permanent civil war. Mankind is threatened by an ideological principle which denies all personal values and demands total submission of the individual. In this dispute, the old frontiers no longer exist; no limitations of place or time or ways and means hamper either side. Neutrality can only be had at the risk of choosing the opposite side. The enemy directs his attack at the individual. He plays all the keyboards of the propaganda organ, from blunt menace to nebulous reassurance, from threats of social disintegration to appeals to nationalist feeling. By reversing and confusing the meaning of everything he tries to make the individual capitulate without applying force. But he will be ready to use force the moment he is sure the opposite front has been sufficiently softened and undermined.

The formation of the German armed forces is thus seen to be simply an act in the general context of international civil war. But these armed forces are to do more than serve as a warning to an aggressor. They will form and hold an important sector of the inner front. Under their protection and with their help Germany will try to build up a form of life and government which every citizen will consider worth defending.

Before weapons speak, the soldier of today is already fighting in a jungle of ideas, slogans, sensational propaganda and disguised aggression. To fight it successfully he needs more insight, vision and confidence than were ever involved hitherto in the "art of soldiering." True, behind him there will stand a social order which should set an example for his conduct and make his decisions easier. But democracy is hard to comprehend under modern conditions and therefore is vulnerable to the down-draft of totalitarianism. Similarities between the forms which modern mass society assumes on the two sides of the Iron Curtain suggest that it may be possible to avoid choosing between them and simply adjust to circumstances. Whether or not to change sides thus becomes only a question of personal risk. As we know, the deserter who either by a moral decision or from weakness allows himself to be used against his own side is the classic symbol of a civil war. Here is a grave warning for those who consider the spiritual attitude of the future soldier unimportant.

Henceforward the German soldier must be conscious of the fact that he does not defend one sort of political system or another but a concept of life. Not national interests alone but decisive questions of human existence are at stake. If life is to consist of just production, enjoyment and consumption, of efforts to insure the material needs of existence and rise in the social scale, then the choice between a democratic and a totalitarian form of government will follow the line of greatest convenience. The chasm between the attempt to achieve democracy and the arbitrary planning of authoritarian systems is revealed by the judgment of our inborn conscience, using an entirely different set of values.

Those who are unable to recognize that the basis of democracy is respect for the human being will be particularly susceptible to arguments about democracy's technical shortcomings and particularly impressed by the degree of economic consolidation achieved in the Soviet Union and its capacity for decisive action. In a permanent civil war the "unpolitical" soldier, the "blind" citizen, will not in the long run prove able fighters. Units of the Foreign Legion type which are held together mainly by various fears or by esprit de corps are reliable only under special conditions not at all like those prevailing in Europe. Nor will loyalty to a government be sufficient by itself; it will not supply the soldier with the inner stability he needs in facing the intricate confusion of ideas, threats and temptations spread by the enemy. Only the man who knows that as a citizen he is at one here and now with the state and who sees its capacities for development as his own--only that man can survive in and win the cold war.


The German soldier entered the Second World War with more or less distinctly defined traditional values and military principles. Our experiences in the war deprived us of these supports. Think of only a few of the problems raised during the war--civilian bombing, partisan warfare, minors and women drafted into active service, questions as to the limits of shocking revenge. Traditional ethics knew no answer to them. A world of honorable principles failed when constituted authorities ordered the killing of hostages and political commissars. The pledge to the flag came into conflict with conscience.

From an objective point of view, this war was characterized by two striking phenomena. One was the gain in range and in concentration of firepower resulting from the universal adoption of the internal combustion motor. The second was the unrestricted use of "terror" as a psychological weapon and a method of authoritarian rule. Both opened up new possibilities of emotional conflict within the military sector.

The gain in operating power, which increased the number of civilian victims to a frightening extent, follows the course of technical progress. In the future it will still not be in the soldier's power to reduce that number, since he is restricted to purely military considerations and finds the limits of military necessity in his own conscience and the standards of international law. To say this is not to imply, of course, that it may not be possible to set new limits on warfare against civilians by international agreement.

Terror is a different matter. The fact that terror lies outside enlightened control and restriction has renewed the domination of the primitive in the history of war. What happened during the war in the German-occupied countries and in Germany herself was simply a chaotic chain reaction of hatred and revenge, the relapse of Western man into the primitive world of Genghis Khan. There is no military gain in provoking revenge. Yet the war proved that the supposedly firm standards summed up in the phrase "the world of the soldier" were unable to cope with such abominations. A secularized "soldier's honor" which describes obedience, duty, hardihood and readiness for action as unquestioned and absolute concepts abandons the soldier blind and helpless to the whim of criminals and charlatans.

Traditional ways also fail in the face of technical progress in so far as concepts of military authority and soldierly obedience derive from the world of patriarchal feudalism. The range, speed and complication of military operations in the age of motor and radio, and the variety and complexity of weapons and equipment have left their mark on the military social structure. The tactical and technical specialist has taken his place as an equal in importance alongside the tactical leader. Through the interlocking and far-reaching possibilities of air reconnaissance and radio the modern leader controls his unit as completely as the fencer his rapier. But he must realize that mere subordination can accomplish little. Success will depend upon mutual confidence, latitude in orders and delegation of initiative to the lower echelons. The "melting" of the superior into the group (or rather the raising of the subordinates) becomes particularly evident in the airplane, tank or submarine. The superior ranks above his subordinates for purposes of coördination, but since he usually is less well equipped in special knowledge he is restricted to that one special function. In other words, he has to rely on the coöperation of his subordinates in thinking and acting just as much as they rely on him for leadership. These new social conditions in motorized and armored units, in the air arm and in submarines produced attitudes and codes during the war which come far closer to the concept of a free community based on mutual partnership than to the traditional picture of patriarchal authority over "minors."

We are entitled to say, I believe, that the trials and experiences of the Second World War have shaken many traditional military concepts. Questions have been brought up which can be answered only from a new and more general point of view.


For an individual to understand democracy as a way of life rather than as just a more or less useful form of government requires him to take a stand outside the magic circle of modern mass society. With this in mind, I find most significant the picture of present-day German youth as I obtain it from careful studies and personal contacts. This is partly because they will provide the future soldiers and future leaders for our armed forces, but more because their intellectual and emotional attitudes give cause for both worry and hope. They are victims of the German past and of modern mass existence in general; yet they present a steady if silent protest against the mechanization of institutions.

What is striking about these young people is that they fluctuate between sober self-assurance in coping with the surface demands of daily life and insecurity in facing the more profound areas of intellectual and spiritual life. As a result, their attitude toward the community is divided. Under no condition will they allow it to take them in and assimilate them by force. But they nourish secret longings to find a firm footing somewhere among their fellow human beings.

In general they accept the idea of the family even though they regard it less as a spiritual, God-given community than as a small cell of reliable partners who support each other. There is a wide gulf between them and their elders, whose attitudes and actions do not inspire them with much confidence; however, the decline in adult authority keeps the problem of generations from being as obvious as it used to be. Inclining to feel themselves misunderstood, they seek mainly the company of their contemporaries. At the same time they have developed a skeptical attitude toward large groupings, of youth or otherwise, with purposes which they cannot fully fathom. Tradition of any kind does not mean much to them, though they may "join" where it seems advantageous (as, for instance, in the traditional student "corporations"). They are less inhibited in speaking their mind than former generations. They react sensitively against demagogic catchwords which seem to them to lack intellectual or moral content. Though they are eager to keep their personal independence, they are aware of what constitutes proper authority. Their highest ideal is harmony of word and action. At the bottom of their hearts they would like character to be sovereign--in other words, they seek genuine discipline in an age where empty phrases and shallow claims for happiness abound.

Their feeling toward the state is still skeptical, though there are signs of a more favorable attitude. Their knowledge of democracy is limited to the fact that it secures rights for them which they are very anxious to retain. They have a sober feeling of moral obligation toward the community; and for practical reasons they recognize the necessity for taking a place in it. Though they sometimes fail to recognize the limitations on individual freedom of action, they regard freedom as a value. They react to religion with some bewilderment, but respectfully, without mockery; here, too, there seem beginnings of deeper understanding. On the whole, they trust their reason more than their feeling. They wish--and for them this is most important of all--to be "recognized," to be taken seriously.

The soldier's world is alien to them, unpleasant and disturbing. Many of them are nevertheless resigned to the fact that they will have to serve in the army sometime. They feel as skeptical about propaganda against military life as about its dramatic glorification. If there has to be military service, they think, it should be tough yet humane. They would like it to allow them some time off and that if possible what it teaches them should be useful in civilian life afterwards.

They reject Bolshevism instinctively but without any deep knowledge of its nature. In general they respect other nations and feel no hate. Whether it would be worthwhile to die for the life they know they have not as yet decided. One might speak of the "waiting generation."

The picture of our youth thus reflects the lack of direction characteristic of a period of upheaval. Two age groups are recognizable among them. Those who took part in the war as anti-aircraft auxiliaries or as very young soldiers are more skeptical, more tense and more forlorn than the postwar youngsters. The latter are, on the other hand, more naïve, more credulous, more inclined to let themselves be guided. Strict yet sound military service can rouse many young men to their first knowledge of what a system of human values and a community are all about. During their period of service their indifference toward the state will develop into either loyalty or rejection. Here lie the great chance, the great responsibility and the great danger facing our future military leadership.


One thing must by now be evident. When we probe the German situation on the borderlines between yesterday and tomorrow, East and West, dictatorship and democracy, we become aware of requirements in the field of rearmament which go far outside the constitutional framework.

The politician may be tempted under pressure of daily events to give priority to the institutional side of the question, to the obvious need for parliamentary supervision. The soldier who has to rely on himself to find answers to the problems of his world discovers nothing but unstable ground as soon as he asks questions reaching beyond the institutional framework. The dividing lines between many old antitheses--war and peace, friend and foe, fighting army and civilian population, military ethos and criminality, military responsibility and political responsibility, patriotism and treason, international law and criminal law--have lost much of their clarity. If only the standard answers of the past are available we find ourselves in hopeless confusion. But if we take this as an occasion to dismantle and expose the traditional ethics of the soldier down to its healthy roots, we shall be making a real start toward finding new ways. Tradition cannot provide a recipe for every circumstance. We have to choose the right traditional attitude and live it in the way that suits our times.

By using the term "citizen in uniform" the planning department of the German armed forces is trying to indicate what its guiding considerations are and what it thinks should be the future standards of selection and education.

To be able and willing to defend a community a man must have a stake in it, must know that his own existence depends on its continuance. Since this happens only to those who participate actively in the life of the community, it follows that the soldier should retain all the rights of citizenship which he is supposed to defend. Limitations should be permitted only where required in the performance of a special duty.

The more technical the service routine, the more inhuman the battle, the greater the need for a humane spirit and decent manners. The soldier will not give trustful obedience unless he feels that behind the order is a set of moral values which asks only what is fair in a given situation. Naturally, no military system can turn the exceptional case of responsible disobedience into standard practice. Nevertheless, command and obedience in armed forces will always depend on whether or not there are men in the ranks and among the officers who in a conflict of conscience are prepared to risk their lives for a moral principle or to save lives which have been entrusted to their keeping.

The fact that he is a citizen as well as a soldier obliges a man to expand his sphere of life and widen his interests, to participate as largely as possible in intellectual, cultural and social activities --in short, to work to improve himself apart from merely improving his professional skill. Men who carry a responsibility for others must be able to think along general lines. Unless a man has gained knowledge of life at many levels he is not equipped to resist propaganda slogans and he will not be able to follow an opponent into his own world of ideas and win an ideological dispute. Bolshevism acquired strength as a result of the spiritual and social failures of the Western World. It can be overcome only by new spiritual beginnings and creative social actions.

A man's country is of course a natural and essential part of his life and responsibility. "Fatherland," however, must never stand for just power--power which must be increased by any and every means against both external and internal obstacles. Nor can we agree that beside it all moral and human values shrink to secondary importance. The misdeeds of past governments made many people in Germany lose their feeling for the fatherland. It will grow again if we succeed in reviving the old historical obligations in purified form and in making clear the new responsibilities of citizenship.

The citizen accepts war only as a necessary defense of human freedom; he finds aggressive war, therefore, unthinkable. This rules out the necessity of representing the enemy to him as evil incarnate or telling him that as long as that enemy lives there can never be peace. Moreover, since totalitarian methods contradict his picture of a free society he is not tempted to adopt them. If he did adopt them, even to fight totalitarianism, he would lose belief in himself.

The ideal which I am presenting here has often been criticized as unattainable, but the criticism ignores the fact that an essential part of our defenses against totalitarian threats consists of superior moral quality. It also fails to recognize that when you set up an ideal you do not expect it to be realized from one day to the next; you show a goal and indicate a direction. All who still remember the German catastrophe as a cathartic shock --as our youth do today--have a profound longing for clear new standards and clean new ways. Our hope lies with them, not with those who for one reason or another escaped the healthy shock of the war and the collapse.


When the new armed forces begin to be formed the initial steps will have to go in the direction indicated above. To set up a "temporary situation" of another sort would be to relinquish the valuable opportunities offered by a really fresh start; and if once an incorrect temporary situation is accepted, the inertia of custom would tend to prolong it. The same effect would be caused by too quick a pace of development.

The organic military law providing for the integration of the armed forces into the state apparatus will form the chief foundation of the new organization. It must not be created without the coöperation and approval of the opposition parties. The reader will understand that I cannot discuss details of the proposed legislation at the moment, for to do so would usurp the privileges of parliament.

It is permissible to say, however, that the second big undertaking will be the choice and training of the future leaders of the armed forces. The choice of officers down to the rank of colonel will be made by a personnel committee which has the confidence of parliament and the government. It will consist of civilians who are independent of parties and organizations and former officers who are not returning to the service. In 1945 there were about 1,400 German generals; today about 40 will be needed. Since most of the former generals have now passed the age limit, the selection will be made chiefly from among the former colonels. There are enough of these to provide army and division generals who are qualified intellectually, professionally and in character and who are open to democratic ideas.

The training of the future corps of officers and noncommissioned officers will be carried out in a series of courses. Some of the ticklish problems which must be discussed can be indicated by such titles as "The Reichswehr in the Weimar Republic," "The Third Reich," "The 20th of July, 1944," and "Nuremberg." Each officer will be supplied with information and historical facts to help him reach his judgments.

As a rule, future lieutenants and noncommissioned officers will be found among the new volunteers. The training period for officers will be three years from the date of formation of the armed forces. As in the old Wehrmacht, officer candidates will join the army as enlisted men so as to have shared good and bad with those who later serve under them. During the first year of service, the young lieutenant will be assigned for at least six months to the "Academy for All Armed Forces," where civilian instructors will use university methods in giving him an intellectual grounding. Inter-relationships among historical, political, social, technical and educational factors in the development of Germany will be brought out. European history and the discussion of Bolshevist philosophy and practice will be given particular emphasis.

We may now state in summary form some of the essential measures for the inner structure of the future army. The soldier is to have the right to vote and engage freely in political activities in so far as this takes place outside the service routine and off military reservations. In other words, he will keep the basic rights of the citizen in the framework of his military duties. All ranks will choose representatives in a free and secret ballot to speak for their comrades before the commanding officer and help the head of the unit look after its members properly. Superiors will be entitled to exercise the authority of their rank only in fulfillment of their own duties. Off-duty they will not possess such authority except in cases of public emergency such as riots or where the behavior of men in uniform jeopardizes discipline in general. Training for citizenship will not be just one subject among many on the instruction program; it will be considered an indispensable part of the education of all ranks, and all commanders and heads of units will have responsibility for seeing that it is not neglected. Courses in general and current information will equip the soldier to view his country and himself against the larger background of world problems. Other items on the program for the care of the soldier will be: training in civilian professions; maintenance of cultural civilian contacts during the period of military service; guidance in off-duty activities; and encouragement of social activities.


The German armed forces no longer claim to be "the school of the nation." Their duties of instruction are restricted to preparations for performing their own task as a reliable arm of the civilian executive. To do this they need the help of all the forces existing in civilian life--in the home, in schools, in vocational training, in youth organizations--which stimulate young citizens to take their share of responsibility in the community. In turn, the armed forces will do everything possible to make the soldiers trust the community. They will cultivate understanding among them of the value of legal order, readiness to coöperate, respect for the opinions and rights of others, and personal courage.

Armed forces everywhere have now become similar in equipment, armament and organization. They vary widely, however, in their spiritual foundations, in their political aims, in their whole "inner structure"--that is to say, in their all-round moral characteristics, in the manner in which they consider that men should be led.

When two systems are approximately equal in armament, equipment and strength, the one which is superior spiritually will be the readiest for defense and will come out on top. The decentralized order of battle increases the necessity for spiritual readiness of the individual. Without it, the soldier will not withstand the wearing physical and emotional strains of battle. Decisive things may depend on individual actions. It is therefore the supreme task of modern military training to rouse the sense of responsibility in the individual and to increase his confidence in himself and in his comrades. This can be achieved only if every opportunity is taken systematically to assign tasks to individuals or groups which they have to solve according to their own judgment. It is a mistake to ask whether there should be more or less "discipline." The point is to find ways and means to encourage self-discipline and a readiness for coöperation.

The days are over when it was of no concern to the citizen how the soldier conducted a war; but the days are over, too, when the soldier need not concern himself with the daily problems of his people. The state of mind developed in the armed forces will naturally depend on that of the German people as a whole. On the other hand, as things stand today, Germany's armed forces may become a field of energy radiating vital influences through the entire nation. The only justification for the risks and sacrifices of rearmament will be the army's defensive strength. But this is not the sole consideration which requires a climate of freedom within the army; concern for the development of Germany along democratic paths points in the same direction. For we may be sure that the attitude of a great part of the German youth toward the state and the system of life for which it stands will be determined by their experiences in the service and the insights they have gained there. Rearmament thus has very important implications for Germany's domestic political evolution. Whether this will be a healthy one will depend to a large extent on how far Germany's Western partners are able to help the German soldier find his place in the ranks of the free world.

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