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Bundeswehr Restructuring

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  • Perhaps interesting from a historical perspective for similar problems in the USA, for the current treatment of problematic historical names of army bases in Germany:

    The German Navy is renaming bases that had been named for Grand Admiral Tirpitz and Admiral Scheer. As state secretary of naval matters from 1897 to 1916 and commander of the High Seas Fleet 1916-1918 respectively the two are not considered to be in line with current tradition decrees in the Bundeswehr, representing a feudalist regime.

    Affected sites are "Tirpitz Harbour" in Kiel and within it "Tirpitz Quay" and "Scheer Quay".

    In the renaming process the Inspector General of the Navy explicitly picked names that keep a historic context from proposals from sailors stationed in Kiel.

    Tirpitz Harbour will be simply named "Naval Base Kiel-Wik" - for the city district in which it is located. While the Navy highlights that that simple renaming emphasizes its 150 year history in the city, local politicians have pointed out that it also serves to emphasize Kiel - and "the Wik" - in its role in the 1918 democratic revolution which had been initiated by sailors of the High Sea Fleet in the city.

    Tirpitz Quay had several proposals, one of which was naming it for the first submarine constructed in Kiel ("Brandtaucher"), built in 1850 during the war against Denmark. Might have been a bit of a controlversial name too. The chosen new name is "Gorch Fock Quay" - for the sail training ship of the Navy, which has used that quay for 60 years. The name also alludes to the author "Gorch Fock" who the ship is named for - he died in the Skagerrak battle in 1916 "as a simple sailor" (Navy advertising) after having served in the infantry on both East and West Front in 1915. "Gorch Fock" from analysis of his works was explicitly nationalist, but - unlike other nationalist authors of his time - neither racist nor antisemitic.

    Scheer Quay will be renamed "Oskar Kusch Quay". Kusch was a Navy officer from 1937 onwards, served in WW2 as commander of several submarines and was executed in 1944 for insulting Adolf Hitler. He was rehabilitated posthumously in 1996. The street to the former Navy shooting range in Kiel - where he, and over the course of the war several hundred others, was executed - was named for him in 1998.

    The Air Force is also renaming the "Marseille Barracks", home of the Air Force NCO School. This was not named for the French city, but for Hans-Joachim Marseille, the WW2 fighter pilot with the most kills over North Africa, back then also propagandized as the "Star of Africa". The base is being renamed "Jürgen Schumann Barracks". Schumann was a retired Air Force pilot who on his civilian pilot job had his passenger aircraft abducted by a Palestinian group supporting German terrorists to Somalia in 1977 where he was shot by them. Schumann was posthumously awarded the Federal Merit Cross and is honoured as one of four "paragon" pilots in the history of the Bundeswehr.

    The Army is renaming "Rettberg Barracks" to "Oberst Hermann Barracks". Rettberg was a WW1 infantry officer who ordered the destruction of the Belgian town of Löwen in 1914, killing 248 civilians in the process. It should be noted that it took a century for the German side to acknowledge this in the first place. Hermann - the one they refer to, there were dozens of colonels with his last name in his time - was a WW2 cavalry officer who after joining the Bundeswehr became the first commander of the 6th Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion in 1956 which is still stationed at the base.


    • I wonder if there will be any cries of "cancellation!" "erasing our history!" here...:)
      There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov


      • Originally posted by astralis View Post
        I wonder if there will be any cries of "cancellation!" "erasing our history!" here...:)
        Oh, there are of course.

        On the main German defense blog of Thomas Wiegold the comment section for the article was just closed by him after one day with a "since apparently some people feel called upon to form a Friends of War Criminals circle or dunk similar brown morass upon us...".

        And those previous comments literally included stuff like "that's the easy thing about the military - you can just order inconvenient history cancelled".

        However, the Bundeswehr only rarely renames barracks for "lack of values" as stated reason - 14 times since reunification in 1990. Part of the reason for that is that conservative politicians usually resist these with heavy lobbying. The first of those renamings back in the early 90s was about four-star general Eduard Dietl, variably called the "Hero of Narvik" or the "Butcher of Murmansk". That one brought up murder threats against people calling for the renaming. Against their families too. And physical attacks on journalists reporting on it. In comparison to that it's pretty relaxed nowadays.


        • Originally posted by kato View Post
          Wildflecken will become the new central training area for German "Home Defense Regiments". Three other training areas, yet to be decided, will provide regional training.

          Under that moniker the Bundeswehr is currently planning to build up reserve territorial infantry forces again.
          Deutsche Welle spins that into the government-approved version:

          Germany launches new voluntary military service program

          The German military has started a voluntary year-out program for young people. The volunteers will be trained to provide support during the next natural disaster or health crisis.