Modern German army marks 50th anniversary
27 October 2005, BERLIN - Soldiers held a torch-lit parade late Wednesday outside the Reichstag parliament building to mark the modern German military's 50th birthday, accompanied by protests with anti-war activists shouting "Soldiers are murderers".
27 October 2005
BERLIN - Soldiers held a torch-lit parade late Wednesday outside the Reichstag parliament building to mark the modern German military's 50th birthday, accompanied by protests with anti-war activists shouting "Soldiers are murderers".
Holding the parade, known as the Grand Tattoo, for the first time at the history-steeped parliament building in central Berlin was meant to signal how far Germany and its armed forces have come since the Nazi era.
About 2,000 police officers protected the festive event at the Reichstag, where NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer congratulated Germany on the conduct of its mainly conscript army and urged the country to take on more foreign missions.
"Either we tackle the problems out there where they arise, or they'll come to us," he said.
At the end of his speech before German lawmakers, de Hoop Scheffer declared, "Chapeau".
West Germany's first soldiers swore their oaths on November 12, 1955, a decade after Germany's military was dissolved after the Nazi regime's defeat in World War II.
About 5,000 guests attended the parade, which comes from a Prussian tradition and features massed drummers, brass bands, flaming torches and formation marching in dress uniform. German anti-war protesters have repeatedly disrupted such ceremonies in the past.
Police said that 1,200 protesters turned out for the event. Some scuffled with police and threw stones, but no major violence was reported.
German Defence Minister Peter Struck stressed on ZDF national television that the tattoo had nothing to do with the Nazis, but had been invented in the Prussian military centuries earlier.
The tattoo was the modern armed forces' first-ever to be held on the lawn outside the parliament. Some 600 military police and 1,300 civilian police cordoned off streets near the Reichstag.
Today's German army, navy and air force have more than 250,000 uniformed personnel and 125,000 civilian employees. Germans make up the main contingent of the peacekeeping force in Afghanistan and play a leading role in Balkans peacekeeping.
Germany refused to join the U.S.-led war in Iraq but is helping train the new Iraqi army and police at sites outside Iraq.
Tattoos derive from a European tradition of sending minstrels to round up soldiers from taverns after nightfall. The officer in charge of the minstrels would order beer taps shut off. The English term tattoo and its German equivalent literally mean "tap closed".
In the 19th century, tattoos became elaborate, formalized ceremonies performed before kings and presidents.
Subject: German news