German soldiers receive first post-war bravery medals

15th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Chancellor Angela Merkel awarded the medal -- in the form of a small golden cross -- to four soldiers who took care of wounded colleagues following a suicide attack in Afghanistan at a ceremony at her office in Berlin.

Berlin -- For the first time since the end of World War II, soldiers from the German army received the "cross of honour" medal for bravery last week.

Chancellor Angela Merkel awarded the medal -- in the form of a small golden cross -- to four soldiers who took care of wounded colleagues following a suicide attack in Afghanistan at a ceremony at her office in Berlin.

"Our soldiers should have more recognition for their actions," Merkel said, following the award ceremony, also attended by Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung. "In Germany, we speak too little of what is expected of our troops and their families.”

Some have criticised the new medal for its similarity to the Iron Cross, which evokes memories of the country's militaristic past under Adolf Hitler.

The far-left Linke party said the introduction of the bravery medal was "barking up the wrong tree."

But most commentators have welcomed the awards, despite the unpopularity of Germany's mission in Afghanistan, where the country has roughly 3,700 soldiers serving as part of the international peace-keeping force.

Reinhold Robbe, a member of parliament responsible for supervision of the army, said the award of the medal was a symbol of "positive patriotism."

"Several have fallen for our country. Many others are scarred for life by their severe injuries," Robbe said in an interview with business daily Handelsblatt.

He dismissed criticism that the award brings back the ghosts of Nazism. "To make any such analogy is completely missing the point," he said on German radio.

Nevertheless, sensitivity over the country's militarist past has meant the German army is the last in NATO to introduce such a medal for bravery.

Although the Iron Cross is associated in recent memory with Hitler and Nazism, it was first awarded in 1813.

AFP/Expatica

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