Military cogitators, masterminds, contrarians for the establishment of West-German armed forces (part 1)

Wulf-W. Lapins


This essay attempts at offering an overview of different defence-political conceptions in (West-) German after 1945, which have often been presented in the form of memoirs, thus representing a thematically limited descriptive individual analysis. New sources found in the course of this work amplify and complement the previous states of knowledge and are thus supposed to render an easier access to a military-historically and security-politically relevant chapter of the case history of the Bundeswehr possible. The analysis presented here is limited to those high-ranking German officers of the former Wehrmacht who had delivered expert opinions on defence-political problems of that time, sporadically in the pre-phase of the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany, but mostly afterwards, at the instigation of different political agencies and politicians, and in some cases even unsolicetedly. At the same time they had thus tried to free the then new pacifistically convinced political class in West Germany from their putative perceptive location and conjectured cluelessness about the “danger from the East”, which they, as soldiers, had perceived evidently minatory. The author’s focus is on the discussion of selected memoranda. Despite all military-strategic-conceptual mistakes and blind alleys, these memoranda represent expertises and military workshops which complement or compete each other as a rule, written by authors mostly forgotten today, important preliminary stages for the comprehension of West-German military-political necessities, from which the beginning of a West-German security-policy developed. This is to be described here. The essay at hand only involves a rough overview which does not meet the requirements of completeness of all ever submitted military-political and -strategic concepts. With it, the majority of all those officers and generals are to be honoured who had been willing to change their views caused by their critical reflection of the action horizon of military responsibility for NS-violence and extermination policy. The West-German rearmament of 1955 was the end of this process. The Federal Republic obtained its sovereignty, limited by allied reservations, in the Paris Treaties of the 5th May of the same year, and after the European Defence Community had failed, was factored into the transatlantic security system increasingly supported by NATO. From the vantage point of the present, the time of the establishment of an army in former West Germany must look like a story from antiquity, from ancient history, for people who volunteer for the service in the Bundeswehr. Often one follows ex post determinism when looking from present: The political-military attachment to the West of the old Federal Republic was bound to be as it happened. Although path dependencies play a certain role in politics, they are not so deterministic that political processes are not basically open to front.