Articles and analysis

Penny Bochum 1Re-introducing compulsory military service, 'restoring' Germany's military capabilities, toughening up 'soft' soldiers, setting up a German border police force and deleting the UN's 'Enemy States' clause: these are all policies from Germany's fastest growing party, the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is celebrating its fifth birthday this month, writes Penny Bochum.

Formed in response to the Eurozone crisis, the party was officially established in April 2013 at an inauguration meeting in Berlin.The AFD's short life has been dramatic. It is a party riven with internal contradictions, in-fighting and factionalism. Nevertheless, it has achieved stunning electoral success. It only just came under the "5% hurdle" political parties have to jump in order to win seats in the Bundestag in the same year as it was formed, won 7.1% in the 2014 European Parliament elections and then gained seats in ten states in regional elections in subsequent years.

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The Holocaust was the moral death of Europe, one with which it has since struggled to cope, writes Professor Jeremy Black to mark Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day on 12th April 2018 (and the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising).

A continent whose leaders saw themselves as at the cutting-edge of history, and as destined to rule over much of the world, was horribly compromised for it was not only Germany (very much including Austria) that was responsible but also the many that actively co-operated. This row of infamy spanned Europe, from the authorities to France to the government of Romania. Just as many brave and worthy individuals risked much trying to thwart the Holocaust, so all too many were culpable, whether directly involved or by not doing what they could and should have done to oppose, limit or condemn the process. The excuses were to be many, as the Catholic hierarchy exemplified, but the reality as passing along on the other side of the road, if not, in some cases, crossing it to co-operate.

"Broken helicopters, Panzer tanks without parts, and submarines which lie on the land like dead whales."

Penny Bochum 1That was the Frankfurter Allgemeine's blistering comment on the state of German military equipment, following the annual report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces in February. The report found that there is 'equipment misery' in every part of the armed force, writes Penny Bochum.

This report, and the reaction to it in the German press, illustrates a conflict at the heart of German defence policy. There is an acceptance in government that Germany's status as a leading European power means that it has to take a more prominent role on the world stage, especially against the backdrop of changing world security needs highlighted by Trump, Brexit and Putin. However, greater military involvement and an increase in defence spending is not accepted either by the German public or by many members of the German parliament.

This conflict is seen in the agreement made by Angela Merkel's new coalition government with the SPD. Following the election in September 2017, Merkel's CDU and the SPD both lost seats. However, Merkel's failure to negotiate a 'traffic light' coalition with the FDP and Greens meant that she had to go back to the SPD, which, despite a historically low vote, now has major influence as part of the new coalition government.

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