French and German soldiers in their respective gala uniforms. Notice the difference?
Heinrich sometimes feels more than a little embarrassed when watching German soldiers parading in full dress, be it in moving ceremonies for fallen comrades or at parades like a Zapfenstreich, or as in the picture above, at a joint promotion ceremony.
These grey coats always remind me of a perverts attire, walking through a park in search of young girls he can terrify by flapping open his mantle and showing his naked wiener. Heinrich, being classified as “mostly harmles”, never served in any armed forces, but if he had, would that be a uniform he would wear proudly? Rather not.
A short excursion into the dark times of German history seems necessary at this point. After the horrors of World War II the mere concept of a German army was highly unpopular, within Germany as well as with our neighboring countries. So when the cold war approached and new armed forces (named Bundeswehr) where founded, they had to be as low key as possible. The soldiers profession, that for centuries had been highly respected, was now considered as a necessary evil, at best. For nearly 50 years not much had changed, when after reunification our allies grew more and more impatient and demanded some kind of burden sharing in international conflicts. Heinrich still remembered the strange feeling he had when he watched German IFOR tanks crossing the border into former Yugoslavia in the mid 1990s. For a cold war kid this seemed nearly uncomprehensible. The Bundeswehr (and the German people) had to learn again what it meant to have a real, fighting army, and they had to learn it fast. More than 50 soldiers did not come home alive from Afghanistan, so, yes, the soldier’s profession has changed profoundly since 1990, when you basically only needed to avoid death of boredom when you joined the Bundeswehr.
Now some young officers no longer want to feel ashamed standing next to french, american or british soldiers in their gala uniforms, and, yes, even pacifistic Heinrich can relate to that. They even created a prototype which does look absolutely unsuspicious to me, it is inspired by uniforms worn by the Lützow Free Corps at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, ca. 1813.
Of course the official Bundeswehr is not happy with this proposal and I am pretty sure it will get buried with one of the usual excuses (“more urgent things on our mind now”, “no money for gimmicks” and so on). But times have changed and since the end of the draft new means of attracting young people are necessary, and it’s not always only about the money, honey.
If in 10 years time (after having bailed out half of Europe) we still can afford to have a standing army, it will probably have proper gala uniforms. Mark my words.