Sending Young Men to the Barracks: West Germany’s Struggle over the Establishment of New Armed Forces in the 1950s

TitleSending Young Men to the Barracks: West Germany’s Struggle over the Establishment of New Armed Forces in the 1950s
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsBrühöfener, Friederike
EditorHagemann, Karen, and Sonya Michel
Book TitleGender and the Long Postwar: The United States and the Two Germanys, 1945-1989
Pagination145-164
PublisherJohns Hopkins University Press ; Woodrow Wilson Center Press
CityBaltimore; Washington, DC
Abstract

The chapter analyzes the public debate about West Germany’s rearmament, arguing that one important aspect of this national controversy was the military service of those young men who would be drafted into the Bundeswehr when coming of age. Politicians of all parties, military representatives, concerned citizens and the media quarreled over the positive, as well as negative, effects life in barracks could have on West Germany’s male population. On the one hand, the majority believed in the military’s educational value – despite all fears about the perils of drill. They argued that young men could be turned into proper male citizens (Staatsbürger) while going through their basic training. On the other hand, many citizens were concerned that life in barracks with men only would deprave the young draftees’ morals and their conduct towards women. As a result, the early debates about the military service of young men were not simply social and political struggles over military necessities. Rather, within this process West Germans sought to establish acceptable gender roles for men in military uniforms that would fit the social expectation and beliefs of the 1950s and early 1960s, while simultaneously enabling a break from the national socialist past.

URLhttps://www.wilsoncenter.org/book/gender-and-the-long-postwar-the-united-states-and-the-two-germanys-1945-1989
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