Tradition appreciation in the light of the tradition decrees of the Bundesheer and the Bundeswehr

Manuela R. Krueger

Armies need traditions – but does a lively and modern cultivation of traditions not first need to be understood? In the following, the time and again arising debates on tradition appreciation are compared taking place both in the Bundesheer and the Bundeswehr. To begin with, we will take a look on the current mission statement concerning the cultivation of traditions in the department of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Defence and Sports, consisting of one page in DIN A4 format, from 2017, where the term tradition appreciation has been pontificated. in the current tradition decree of the Austrian Armed Forces from 16th July 2010, the term tradition appreciation turns up no sooner than in Chapter C “Scope of Application”. The title of the previous tradition decree of the Bundeswehr from 20th September 1982, however, is “Guidelines for Tradition Appreciation and Cultivation of Traditions in the Bundeswehr”. These two terms used here apparently are key concepts in the tradition debates. Focus of this essay, however, is to be tradition appreciation, from which cultivation of traditions can be deduced. Firstly, debates on tradition appreciation are introduced, definition of particular concepts and questions about tradition worthiness of the Wehrmacht are investigated, and finally its further development in the thoughts and decrees concerning tradition appreciation in the Austrian Armed Forces (ÖBH) and the German Armed Forces (DBW) are discussed. In Austria and Germany, tradition appreciation and cultivation of traditions in the armed forces are enacted in decrees of the management (ministers of defence). How they are implemented in the armed forces can only be inferred from conversations with many female and male soldiers as well as from investigations in the armed forces, in staffs, schools and ministries. The dealing with tradition, its officially enacted and its real practised form seem to be not intermeshed sufficiently, and I was animated to consider this in the course of a preparative conversation with the former GTI, General (ret.) Horst Pleiner. In both countries, Austria and Germany, so far obviously both the emotional and the physical aspects of tradition appreciation have missed out. The perpetual debates and the new German tradition decree demonstrate, however, that this aspect ought not to be omitted and will be taken into account in the course of its imminent implementation. In this implementation process both German and Austrian military history will be able to make valuable contributions. In multi-nationally interweaved armed forces, tradition appreciation must not have any limitations in operations. Only if traditions are accepted by female and male soldiers and are filled with life will the regulations of the tradition decrees not remain just theories. For the troops, such a kind of cultivation of traditions sharpens the contours of military cultures in both armies, in the vicissitudes of history, their traditionable heritage, so to speak, on which they draw do manifoldly. At the moment we do not have any idea to what extent the European perspective, for instance the possible deployment of a Europe Army, will in the long run influence the armed forces and their tradition appreciation.