Germany Keeps Participation in WWI Centenary to a Minimum

Speculation is rising as to the amount of regard Germany has for its fallen soldiers as the centenary of WWI is underway in other nations. Even the Red Baron, a pilot renowned even in the nations who opposed Germany in the war for his astounding skills in the cockpit, has only a small memento marking his grave. It is unfortunately not so surprising, given what seems to be a lack of respect for the dead war hero, that the centenary of a war which held great costs for their country has been somewhat overlooked.

Germany is known for its silence on the two World Wars, which given their part in them seems reasonable to some; however, many citizens are now calling that practice into question. Whether or not they were on the “right” side of the conflicts does not change the fact that many soldiers were willing to give their lives for their country, and the centenary is being used by other nations involved in WWI as a chance to honor those fallen in battle, the Times Of Malta reports.

It is more, according to some, than a simple denial of the past. Currently, Germany does not stand in favor of any military conflict. This is largely due to the state of the nation during WWII and their current awareness that too much patriotism can lead to an alteration of fact in the mind of the patriot. Chancellor Angela Merkel believes that the centenary is not so much something to be celebrated as it is a reminder that many nations still hold the same dangerous ambitions that led to the First World War to begin with, as evidenced by the Crimean invasion by Russia.

Germany has demonstrated its ability to ignore the history of WWI years before the centenary became a current topic of discussion. Erich Kaestner, their last-surviving WWI veteran, passed away in 2008 when he was 107 years old, garnering very little acknowledgement from their media. At least, it is suspected that he was their last-surviving WWI veteran. It cannot be said for certain, as Germany does not stay updated on such records regarding their veteran soldiers.

Some believe that Germany should hold at least one event as tribute to the centenary, involving other nations such as Russia, France, and Britain, but there are currently no plans to do so. Many citizens and scholars have taken the position that commemoration of the dead, even for a war that was lost, is not only patriotic but also morally sound. It seems plausible that, if enough citizens speak out, Germany may hold at least one celebration of the centenary to honor the nation’s dead. As of now, however, most Germans assume that the anniversary of the Great War will remain largely unobserved.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE