By Justin Huggler, Berlin
14 MAY 2017
Germany’s defence minister has called for the names of Nazi-era figures to be removed from military barracks.
“The armed forces have to make it clear, both internally and to the outside world, that they are not a continuation of the Nazi Wehrmacht,” Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday.
Historians welcomed the initiative, but called for an exception to be made in the case of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the “Desert Fox”, because of his part in an assassination plot against Hitler.
While there are no modern German barracks named after major Nazi war criminals such as Hitler or Hermann Göring, several are still named after military figures from the Third Reich.
The Marseille air force barracks in Appen is named after Capt Hans-Joachim Marseille, the “Star of Africa”, a fighter pilot who took part in the Battle of Britain and North Africa campaign, and shot down 158 Allied aircraft, more than any other Luftwaffe ace.
The Lent army barracks in Rotenburg is named after Col Helmut Lent, a “night-fighter” pilot who shot down 110 Allied aircaft, 102 of them at night.
The Schulz-Lutz army barracks in Munster is named after Maj-Gen Adelbert Schulz, commander of the 7th Panzer Division, who served in the invasion of Belgium and died on the eastern front.
“The Bundeswehr should focus more confidently on its own 60-year history. Why not in barracks names?” Ms von der Leyen told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
The minister’s initiative comes after a far-Right terror cell was uncovered within the German army. Two soldiers have been arrested on suspicion of planning to carry out a “false flag” terror attack and blame it on refugees, including an officer who led a double life posing as a Syrian asylum-seeker.
The case has reopened debate over the role of the military. The Bundeswehr was founded in West Germany in 1955 as a completely new military force, officially eschews any link to the Nazi Wehrmacht. But Nazi memorabilia was found on display in the officer’s mess at a barracks where the two arrested men were based.
“Officers like Schulz, Lent and Marseille fought in Hitler’s war and were part of Nazi propaganda.”
The barracks should be renamed after soldiers who resisted the Nazi regime, he said. “Those who fought for human rights and the rule of law cannot be commemorated enough.”
But he called for an exception to be made in the case of two barracks named after Field Marshal Rommel because of his part in the von Stauffenberg plot to assassinate Hitler.
While it has never been fully clear exactly what role Rommel played, he was forced to commit suicide by Hitler loyalists over his support for the failed plot. – The Telegraph