- "Staatsbürger in Uniform"?Looking back at the Bundeswehr in Jochen Missfeldt's Gespiegelter Himmel and Sven Regener's Neue Vahr Süd
The "Staatsbürger in Uniform" is the most familiar concept associated with the debate about military reform that accompanied the establishment of the Bundeswehr in 1955. Its author was General Wolf von Baudissin, a veteran of the Wehrmacht and a key figure in the "Amt Blank," the precursor office to the Defence Ministry in the early Federal Republic. For Baudissin, the concept of the "citizen in uniform" remained central to the task of bringing the military into line with West Germany's fledgling Grundgesetz even after the foundation of the Bundeswehr in the context of strategic integration into the West and in the face of widespread antimilitarist sentiment. The success of military reform after 1945 would ultimately depend on the establishment of a new type of soldier attuned to democratic values. Baudissin wrote in 1962:
Als "Staatsbürger in Uniform" soll der Soldat [...] grundsätzlich alle staatsbürgerlichen Rechte behalten, die nach außen zu schützen Aufgabe der Bundeswehr ist. Erst die Erfahrung von Freiheit, Recht und Menschenwürde [...] fördert Überzeugungstreue, staatsbürgerliche Gesinnung, mitdenkenden Gehorsam, verläßliche Verantwortung, tragfähige Kameradschaft. In betontem Gegensatz zur bisherigen Auffassung (Moltke: "Die Disziplin ist die ganze Seele der Armee") ist soldatischer Gehorsam nicht mehr letzter Wert, dem Menschenwürde und Rechtssicherheit fraglos nachgeordnet werden dürfen[,] [...] [sondern] gründet sich auf Verantwortung gegenüber der politischen Ordnung.(Baudissin 195)
Two lines of thought are visible here. First, the extension to the soldier of rights guaranteed to all citizens would formally abolish, Baudissin believed, the fateful autonomy of the military as a sphere sui generis within society that had obtained since Prussian times. Indeed, by the 1960s the legal status of the soldier had been extensively codified under a "Soldatengesetz" that outlined the soldier's rights in all matters from conscription onwards, including matters of conscience. The second, more elusive, aspect concerns the cultivation of an active responsibility towards democratic values on the part of the soldier. Here Baudissin developed the concept of "Innere Führung" (195–96). This, the other key term linked to reform, meant the bundle of measures through which the requisite commitment to democracy might be achieved, from the [End Page 163] construction of new lines of tradition (to the resistance of July 1944, for example) to the inclusion of ethical considerations alongside purely military training.
In this article the concept of the "Staatsbürger in Uniform" forms the point of departure for an examination of two recent novels about the armed forces of the Federal Republic: Jochen Missfeldt's Gespiegelter Himmel (2001) and Sven Regener's Neue Vahr Süd (2004). The novels are easily summarized. The work of an author who had himself formerly served as a fighter pilot, Gespiegelter Himmel features a squadron of West German pilots stationed at the fictional Sollsbüll airbase in North Germany between the 1950s and 1970s. The novel follows them from the Federal Republic to the United States and back as they learn to fly the US Starfighter jet, an aircraft beloved of pilots for its handling, but notorious for its tendency to crash (Mangold). The plot centres on the relationship between the protagonist Gustav Hasse and his rival Hermann Zürndorfer, whom Hasse injures in a collision in training over the Arizona desert. While the accident brings Zürndorfer's flying career to an abrupt end, Hasse goes on to fly reconnaissance missions along the inner German border. The novel closes with Hasse's retirement following a fall in Zürndorfer's garden. Curiously named after a suburb of Bremen, Neue Vahr Süd is concerned with the land forces in the 1980s. The novel was the follow-up to Regener's Herr Lehmann (2001), the farewell to West Berlin's solipsistic Kreuzberg scene, which first introduced the protagonist with a talent for talking himself into trouble. Neue Vahr Süd features Frank Lehmann in the early 1980s immediately prior to his move to Berlin. Its focus is the double life that Lehmann leads after he has failed to apply on...