chapter  11
12 Pages

Unions and the German Armed Forces: The Citizen in Uniform


During the Cold War years following the second World War, the main mission of the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, was to repel – along with its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) – any Warsaw Pact attack on German territory. More specifically, the German Constitution, also known as the Grundgesetz or Basic Law, stated that the Bundeswehr’s mission was limited to warding off an attack on Germany or one of her NATO allies. Use of the Bundeswehr for any purpose other than national defence required an explicit constitutional authorisation (Klein and Kuhlmann 2001: 194). During the Cold War, the German Bundeswehr was also authorised – in case of tension or war – to protect civilian installations within Germany and perform traffic control operations. They were also permitted at any time to assist in natural disasters or in serious accidents, where the Bundeswehr’s aid was needed to effectively manage the emergency (Klein and Kuhlmann 2001).