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German military enlists rabbis for the first time in nearly 100 years

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, left, and Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews
German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, left, and Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews Copyright APMichael Sohn
Copyright AP
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Germany's military will provide religious counselling for its Jewish soldiers for the first time since the 1930s.


The German government has announced it would reintroduce rabbis into its military for the first time in almost a century.

German defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced the government had backed a proposal by the Central Council of Jews to restore religious counseling for Jews in the armed forces.

Kramp-Karrenbauer tweeted that they had “set an important example for Jewish soldiers” and says the move shows their commitment to Jewish life in Germany.

The German army does not document the religious affiliations of its members. But according to estimates about 300 Jews, 1,400 Muslims and 94,000 Christians are in the Bundeswehr armed forces, German media reported.

Read more: Like many European Jews living under threat, I am forced to conceal my Jewish heritage

Currently the German army only provides Catholic and Lutheran chaplains but there are also plans to introduce Muslim imams in futures as well.

During the First World War, many Jewish people fought for Germany. Rabbis were relatively common in the military until the Nazi party came to power in 1933 and excluded Jews from all spheres of public life.

It comes a few weeks after the army, known as the Bundeswehr, apologised for posting an image of a Nazi-era Wehrmacht army uniform in a museum in Dresden with a caption saying "elements of military style still belong to haute couture" and the hashtags "fashion" and "retro".

It said the picture had been posted as part of a wider piece about the military's influence on fashion and said: "Extremism in all its forms is absolutely banned from the Bundeswehr."

But last year then-Defence minsiter Ursula von der Leyen rebuked an army barracks after it was found to have Nazi-era memoriabilia such as helmets.

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