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An Elementary Building Block of Education on the Thorny Path to Peace. What Is “Lebens­kund­licher Unterricht”, Actually?

At the end of the Enlightenment: peace education and the “citizen in uniform”

Only human dignity, law and justice can pave the thorny path to peace, and it is peace education1 which, as generations pass, contributes effectively, step by step, to draining forever the swamp of violence in humankind. This fundamental insight took root at the beginning of the 20th century, before blossoming for the first time in a dense undergrowth of mistrust, propaganda and violence after the First World War. At the end of the Weimar period, it was not without reason that National Socialism hastily appropriated the young (reforming) educational movement, only to trample on the delicately flowering seedlings of “peace education” through its subsequent fatal abuse of that movement.

After these shattering experiences of the Second World War, the thoroughly vital pedagogical rootstock sprouted again in the course of the democratization process. As a strengthened peace pedagogy, it exerted a lasting influence on the continued socialization of Germany. Despite great internal resistance, peace pedagogical thinking even found its way into the everyday practice of soldiers serving in the then newly formed Bundeswehr. Over the years, it ultimately led to a completely new soldierly self-image, which persists to this day.

Turning our attention to the thorny transformation of German society, let us first look at Kant’s promise, written in the spirit of the Enlightenment: “Thus when nature has unwrapped, from under this hard shell, the seed for which she cares most tenderly, namely the propensity and calling to think freely, the latter gradually works back upon the mentality of the people (which thereby gradually becomes capable of freedom in acting) and eventually even upon the principles of government, which finds it profitable to itself to treat the human being, who is now more than a machine, in keeping with his dignity.”2

In accordance with the requirements of Innere Führung (“leadership development and civic education”) in the Bundeswehr, the citizen in uniform was no longer to be regarded merely as a “cog in a [war] machine” of his government – as had still been the case in the Wehrmacht. Instead, from now on, man as soldier is to be treated “in keeping with his dignity”!3 From the beginning, this intention was a foundation of Innere Führung, which was also conceived for the purpose of “helping the individual to escape the fatal feeling of ‘being only an object’”4. Initially there was still great internal resistance to Baudissin’s ideas in the new West German defense army, and even today Innere Führung is “venerated, laughed at, praised to the skies, rejected” (Lieutenant General Jürgen Weigt; translated from German). Even so, a kind of peace education practice has found its way into the Bundeswehr to this day, and over time it has also had an impact. This is reflected for example in the new “guidelines for understanding and cultivating tradition” issued in 2018: “The basis and standard for the Bundeswehr’s understanding of tradition and for its cultivation of tradition are [...] above all the values and norms of the Grundgesetz (Basic Law). These include, in particular, respect for human dignity, the rule of law and international law, the exclusion of all forms of tyranny and arbitrary rule, and the commitment to freedom and peace. Members of the German armed forces also have an obligation of humanity, even under stress and in combat.”5

Of course the soixante-huitard movement and peace demonstrations of the 1980s also had a lasting impact on the concept of the “citizen in uniform”. In the main, however, it has been German reunification, the transformation of the armed forces into a volunteer and professional army, and the suspension of compulsory military service that are likely to have had a significant impact on the self-image of today’s soldiers. The change from a “peace service” to a robust mandate for overseas deployments, painful experiences with wounded and fallen fellow soldiers, and on top of that the new technological challenges of digitization have done the rest in terms of contributing to the current self-image. Aware of the guiding principle “We. Serve. Germany.” (Wir. Dienen. Deutschland.), Bundeswehr soldiers now see themselves primarily as protectors, saviors and fighters – even in the Hindu Kush or in Mali. Though it may not easily be proved, it can be assumed – and the new “tradition guidelines” (see above) confirm this impression to some extent – that the decades of practicing ethical education in the German armed forces, especially as a cross-sectional task, have successively helped to cultivate and develop the Bundes­wehr soldier’s deeper self-image from that time to present day. In practice, the “fields of influence of Innere Führung” shaped the concept of the “citizen in uniform” in this way. In other words, over the course of decades, mainly leadership, political education as well as law and military order,6 but also historical or intercultural education and, in a very special way, Lebenskundlicher Unterricht (LKU) – or “character guidance training” – likely made a not-to-be-underestimated peace pedagogical contribution to overall developments. From the perspective of a peace pedagogy for society as a whole, the new soldierly self-image becomes plausible for our century, especially in light of a Christian Weltanschauung. This is reflected very aptly and hopefully in the words of the Second Vatican Council, which are addressed to all ­people of good will worldwide – especially also those who are currently serving their countries as soldiers: “Those too who devote themselves to the military service of their country should regard themselves as the agents of security and freedom of peoples. As long as they fulfill this role properly, they are making a genuine contribution to the establishment of peace.”7

Lebenskundlicher Unterricht as a peace education program of elementary importance

The Bundeswehr attaches great importance to upbringing, education and training. Even though in practice there are signs of changes in educational expectations at the present time – education threatens to break down into skills-based training – ethical education is currently still regarded as fundamentally important, alongside military training. This is always a question of leadership, and ultimately it is about the soldier’s overall education. Putting the overall educational expectation to one side for a moment, if we now examine the terms used for the fields of influence – “Politische Bildung” (political education), “Historische Bildung” (historical education), “Interkulturelle Bildung” (intercultural education) and in the future probably also “Ethische Bildung” (ethical education) – then there is something odd about the choice of words in “Lebenskundlicher Unterricht”. Why didn’t the spiritual fathers of the Bundeswehr continue the naming logic of “Politische Bildung” and simply call it “Lebenskundliche Bildung” or just simply “Ethische Bildung”? Did they mean this to express a conscious distancing from the extremely questionable “Lebenskunde” (life skills) taught under National Socialism?

The term “Ethische Bildung” (ethical education) did not fit because it would have only partially covered the actual educational intention. Moreover, in terms of its content, ethical education was understood to be primarily a cross-sectional task, i.e. it was always seen in the context of the soldier’s overall education. Given this comprehensive expectation of education, “Politische Bildung” (political education) was ultimately seen as a vehicle or medium for ethical education under special circumstances. This idea of implicit ethical education as a cross-sectional task in the context of a soldier’s overall education also seems to have played a role in the naming of Lebenskundlicher Unterricht. Apparently a personality-forming measure was envisaged whose ultimate focus was on “morality”, and where the real challenge for teachers consisted in the direct interplay of “ethics” and “morals”. The term “Moralunterricht” (moral instruction), as it had once emerged from the ideas of the Enlightenment, would probably have most suited the actual project.8 Did they suspect acceptance problems among the troops, or did they simply not want to teach “non-religious morality” at that time because of the foregoing experiences under National Socialism?9

A look at the first Joint Service Regulation (Zentrale Dienstvorschrift) 66/2 from 1959 sheds some light on the question of the original intention of Lebenskundlicher Unterricht (LKU): “It [LKU] is based on the foundations of the Christian faith and is given by military chaplains.” The primary goal of this educational program was to “give soldiers means of assistance for their daily lives” and thus “to help promote moral, intellectual and spiritual capacities”. The individual soldier had to be “made aware of his responsibility for the conduct of his life”, it was important “to teach him to recognize the need for self-discipline and moderation”, “to strengthen his sense of duty [...] to show to the individual the sources that give meaning to life, and lead to systems of order through which the community becomes worth living in and hence worth defending”. The political and military leadership of that time expected a lot from Lebens­kundlicher Unterricht, and considered it to be equally important as the purely subject-specific areas of education, inasmuch as the “moral, intellectual and spiritual capacities [...] determine the soldier’s value even more than technical ability”. Up until that time, training or instruction of this kind had not existed in Germany, neither in the history of military education nor in military pastoral care. “For the first time, the military relinquished sole responsibility for the contents of one part of military education. In this area, it granted the military chaplaincy scope for involvement that remained beyond complete military control and sole determination.”10 ... And now, after almost 70 years, it seems that it is exactly this “scope for involvement” – thoroughly considered at that time and a deeply democratic conception – which the German Ministry of Defense suddenly perceives to be a supposed “regulatory gap”. Hence they are attempting – perhaps somewhat rashly – to close this gap by means of a Joint Service Regulation on “Ethical Education”. But the planned Joint Service Regulation on “Persönlichkeitsbildung” (personality development) has shown – if it wasn’t already apparent – just how flawed the thinking in the current educational concept really is: How is such an expectation of comprehensive control over the Bundeswehr compatible with Article 2 of our Basic Law?11 Is this not rather the first step towards the “state within the state”?

With the aim of further tracing the development of the term “Lebenskundlicher Unterricht”, and in view of the above goal definition regarding the teaching of “morality”, it is important first of all to properly classify the word “Unterricht” (instruction or training) in the name. In the armed forces, as everyone knows, discipline is essential. Therefore, in this context discipline does not stand in contradiction to true education in the Bundeswehr. Education itself is strictly speaking a process of increasingly disciplining the intellect and character. In Latin, disciplina first means “teaching” and “instruction”, and not only discipline in the sense of self-control. In terms of democratic education, i.e. equal participation on equal terms, this is really about having a mental teaching space in which it must be guaranteed from the outset that soldiers may express an opinion that differs from the teacher’s opinion, without having to fear negative consequences in their everyday lives as soldiers. The possibility of open, trusting conversation among fellow soldiers is quite simply the fundamental condition for Lebenskundlicher Unterricht. On the other hand, however, in an enlightened democracy it must also be assumed of the participants that despite different interests and views, they at least share a basic and voluntary orientation toward education, insight and truth. Seen in these terms, Lebenskundlicher Unterricht – formally speaking – is the democratic freedom for self-discipline of the intellect and character.

The content expectations of such broad “Unterrichtung” (instruction) are actually contained within the term “Lebenskunde” (life skills). The arc spanning self-determination and life-determination, self-management and conduct of life, indicates the existential content with which the Lebenskundlicher Unterricht teaching space is to be filled for the participants and with them themselves for the purpose of soldiers’ overall education. Ultimately, this is all about leadership – i.e. leading oneself and others on one’s own responsibility in the face of professional and private challenges. Since the very beginning of the Bundeswehr, expectations of ethical education – understood as a cross-sectional task in terms of its content – have welded the primary field of influence of “leadership” with that of “Lebenskundlicher Unterricht” to form an inseparable moral unit. This is no accident, since leadership and everyday life as a soldier must not in principle contradict the ethical standards for which Lebenskundlicher Unterricht stands. From this perspective, superiors in particular should also in their basic moral attitude feel a moral obligation toward the values and content taught in Lebenskundlicher Unterricht. Seen in this light, the moral unit of “leadership” and “Lebenskundlicher Unterricht” is peace pedagogical practice pure and simple in the everyday professional life of Bundeswehr soldiers – and hence it should also be regarded without qualification as the “heart” of ethical education in the Bundeswehr.

Excursus: The Nestors of peace education in the Bundeswehr

In the wider context of peace education for society at large, Lebenskundlicher Unterricht thus appears as an elementary building block of education on the path to peace. It is a building block whose scope and significance for society have not been taken into account until now, or hardly at all. On closer examination of the development of ethical education in the Bundeswehr, it is precisely in this interplay between leadership and LKU extending across generations of soldiers that highly effective outlines of a peace pedagogy as briefly sketched above begin to emerge. Two educationalists should be mentioned in this context. The first is Franz Pöggeler (1926–2009), who as a “military educationalist” for two decades was instrumental in developing Baudissin’s concept of Innere Führung very much in the spirit of a peace pedagogy. Of particular note here is his prudent and extraordinarily durable moulding of the central field of influence of “leadership” in the Bundeswehr in peace education terms. The second – the true Nestor – is Pöggeler’s teacher, the ethicist and peace educationalist Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster (1869–1966). Foerster, a “Michelangelo of pedagogy” (Hans Swann), not only coined the term “Le­benskunde”12 but was also the first educationalist to use the term “peace pedagogy”.13 In his time, he established and propagated the necessary (federal) basic principle of “fair play” in society, politics and between peoples.14 Two quotations from ­Foerster are provided here to outline briefly the basic idea of peace education and the perspective that derives from it. Thinking in peace education terms – very much in keeping with Innere Führung and the principles of the modern constitutional state – ultimately always leads to the deep insight that one learns to fight for what is right and not just for one’s own right:

“The real essence and foundation of the state, the binding agent of its cohesion, is almost the opposite of power, namely law, order, a moral community amid opposing interests. And all lasting external strength of a state rests on the depth and solidity of these internal ties. Power can at most be recognized as a means to serve the legal purposes of the state, but never as the state’s ultimate purpose. For this reason, the first precept in the life of the state is not, say, to maintain and increase its power, but to strengthen the inner unity of its members and to promote the supremacy of conscience and a sense of right and wrong over ruthless selfishness.”15

Starting from this understanding of the state, in a chapter entitled “Peace Education”, Foerster expressly points out that military training must be in the right proportion to the other goals of education. This is entirely in line with the peace education spirit of “si vis pacem, para pacem”16, and evinces remarkable clarity at a time still imbued with violence and war. He says that for this to happen consistently, it is necessary “to bring the idea of military national defense itself into a healthy relationship with all the other methods of making the country secure: a country, after all, is defended not only by weapons, but also by ideas, which have an attractive effect on the world around one, and stop hostile moods from growing into a power that overwhelms all other interests and feelings, whereas a too one-sided concentration on military methods of protection could have the effect of summoning up the evil that one wants to prevent.”17

From character to values

“It all depends on character” (“Auf den Charakter kommt es an”): This was the theme of a booklet that was handed out to soldiers by Catholic military chaplains in the early years toward the end of each Lebenskundlicher Unterricht class. While LKU was also denominationally separated, the cross-denominational model of the U.S. Army’s “Character Guidance Program” probably still had a significant influence on its content. Years of preparation and negotiations had preceded the first classes. Georg Werthmann (1898–1980), who became the first Catholic Military General Vicar, once summarized the opinion of the German bishops in this early phase of the Bundeswehr’s development as follows: “It is a delicate matter, but we cannot say no” (translated from German). During the first talks between church and state in the context of the question of how the civic-democratic and ethical education of soldiers should be guaranteed as a unit by church and state in partnership, the Americans were still interested in introducing a general course of instruction called the Character Guidance Program. Parts of this program would be taught by the chaplain as an expert in morality and education, and as an employee of the commander. The churches, on the other hand, wanted to set up a pastoral care system through this partnership, which was to be organized by the churches in their own way; they were prepared to guarantee such a system, but in accordance with the principles of the ecclesiastical understanding that had developed in Germany – i.e. under the responsibility of the church and rejecting a totalitarian state. With regard to Innere Führung, at that time in church circles one did not think in peace education categories; moral instruction tended instead to be more pastoral and was mainly intended to promote Christian character formation. How “delicate” the matter of the planned Lebenskundlicher Unterricht may have been for both military chaplaincies in the beginning is also reflected in the fact that this training is not mentioned in the contracts concluded between the churches and the young Federal Republic of Germany.

In 1956, LKU was trialed in close partnership between the newly formed Bundeswehr and the two military chaplaincies. From 1959, a Joint Service Regulation (ZDv) 66/2 regulated how the training was to be provided, thus making LKU a “trademark” of the military chaplaincy both inside and outside the German armed forces. Classes were to be held during service hours and on a denominational basis. From then on, LKU would be offered on behalf of the state, and carried out by military chaplains. It was possible to deregister from classes, but in that case, soldiers were asked to work on the LKU topics independently. The goal of Lebenskundlicher Unterricht according to the later 1976 version of ZDv 66/2 was “to deal with moral issues which are central to how we conduct our lives, to our relationship with the world around us, and to an ordered coexistence in any community” (translated from German). Against the background of developments in society as a whole, the close ­dialectic between “leadership” and “Lebens­kundlicher Unterricht” then led to a gradual transition in focus from moral character to ethical values. In the context of Innere Führung, this expanded the peace education approach to produce an ever broader understanding of ethical education as a cross-sectional task.

In this respect there was a turning point in 2009, when LKU became compulsory for all soldiers, and without denominational ties. After a three-year trial phase, the new ZDv 10/4, subtitled “Taking responsibility for your own life – being able to take responsibility for others” (translated from German) finally came into force in 2011. It was this regulation that brought LKU onto the home stretch of an actually comprehensive peace education in the Bundeswehr. This direction was then unerringly maintained, as in the course of restructuring ZDv 10/4 first became Central Regulation (Zentralrichtlinie) A2-2530/0-0-1, before finally being replaced on February 2, 2018 by ZDv A-2620/3. Since LKU is mandatory, explicit reference is also made to what LKU is (or is not) and who can give lessons. Thus LKU is not religious education or a form of religious practice. Rather, it is a professional ethics skills development program and constitutes an essential and indispensable complement to achieving the principles and goals of Innere Führung.

Thus the expectation that LKU should provide peace education has been evident at least since ZDv 10/4, and runs through all offered subject areas of the curriculum. LKU is “conceptually a place of freedom in the barracks” (Angelika Dörfler-­Dierken; translated from German) and its ethical and moral content guides self-management and the conduct of life both in military service and in the private sphere. Based on the inviolability of human dignity, carried out and led by a qualified teacher, in open conversation with fellow soldiers, ethical value awareness is formed, personal conscience is sharpened, and the ability to make moral judgments is strengthened. In this way, military personnel form a sense of responsibility, reflect on their inner moral attitude, and thus, in accordance with ZDv A-2600/1 entitled “Innere Führung”, make a decisive contribution to their own independent personality development.

Incidentally, another event is highly significant in this overall development of LKU as peace education. In 2009, when “the matter” became “delicate” again for the military chaplaincy due to mandatory participation, the Catholic Military Bishop established zebis, the present-day Center for Ethical Education in the Armed Forces, in Hamburg. The main objective of the new institution was to set up an online teaching portal to provide professional support to all military chaplains in the face of increasing challenges. Against this background, zebis can also be regarded as the very first “Peace Education Institute” for an army anywhere in the world, and thus as a further elementary building block on the thorny path to peace!

Looking back in summary at how Lebenskundlicher Unterricht has developed dynamically over the last six decades, its importance as an elementary building block for peace education in society as a whole becomes ever clearer. It is essential for soldiers’ personality development, and it makes a significant contribution to the cross-sectional task of ethical education in the Bundeswehr. For this reason, LKU to this day is “the service desired by the state and provided by the church” and the German bishops continue to stand by it – then as now – precisely for the sake of the peace that is hoped for: “We will continue to provide human and spiritual support to members of the armed forces in the future and promote an ethically reflected soldierly self-image, including through Lebenskundlicher Unterricht. The culture of Innere Führung is one of the essential prerequisites for our involvement in the armed forces.”18

From mandatory personality development to the definition of LKU in the context of ­pluralistic Weltanschauungen19

Political leaders and Bundeswehr officials currently emphasize both the specific qualifications and the commitment of military personnel. This includes their willingness to “risk life and limb”. A wider educational mandate with comprehensive peace education in mind therefore suggests itself, and conforms to the educational expectations of members of the Bundeswehr as well as the self-image of the German people formulated in the preamble to the Basic Law. In view of the service regulation on ethical education in the Bundes­wehr that is now planned, it is important to explain plausibly to everyone involved, but also to interested outsiders, that LKU forms as it were the “heart” of ethical education in the Bundeswehr, and continues to be an indispensable personality-building measure.

As mentioned earlier, general ethical education stands in contradistinction to political or historical education with their respective implied ethical issues. As a cross-sectional task, particularly in the interplay of “leadership” and “Lebenskundlicher Unterricht” as a moral unit, it also applies to the general conduct of life, and, in a very special way, to questions of one’s personal Weltanschau–ung. It is not only in order to distinguish “good and evil” that LKU aims to promote the ability to form moral judgements. Questions can arise here that go well beyond the scope of science (or the humanities), and into the realm of true “contemplation” (“Anschauung”) of human experience, of life and the world – such as has generally been the domain of the millennia-old world religions. The human being as a whole, in his dignity, his unique existence, indeed in his whole meaningfulness can be the subject of LKU.

Thus the three subject areas of the curriculum – “The individual and society”, “Personal lifestyle and military service”, and “Moral and psychological challenges of military service” – can raise fundamental questions about space, time, death, life, existence, humanity, meaning, love … and about “reconnection” (in the sense of religion) and also about “God”. But to live up to this expectation requires teaching personnel who are selected without any doubt, who have appropriate training and qualifications, and whose own background in terms of Weltanschauung must in all cases be transparent, and if necessary can also be documented and clearly identified. This ethical and moral necessity exists since ultimately it has to be clear to LKU students in which Weltanschauung their teachers are rooted.20 Therefore it is competence in science and in Weltanschauung in the same manner that qualifies someone to teach LKU. It is particularly in the case of very far-reaching ethical issues (e.g. at the beginning or end of life) that the extremely complex educational context deserves most attention, as behind ethical positions – even scientifically founded ones – there are always positions of Weltanschauung. There is no ethics free of background assumptions (of whatever kind). Anyone who does not recognize the corresponding need for clarification will not do justice to the formulated self-expectation of freedom of education and the formation of personality in accordance with our Basic Law.

This is also the reason why so far it has mainly been military chaplains who teach LKU classes. Their Weltanschauung can be clearly identified – usually it is the Christian one – and thus through their person they represent the competence of their respective church with regard to Weltanschau­ung. This is also easily recognizable for the “ideologically neutral state” at all times. In the same way, in the future it will also be possible to assign Jewish military chaplains and, after a phase of clarification, probably also representatives of Islam to a competence with regard to Weltanschauung. Only with this preliminary clarification can it be guaranteed that LKU as sensitive training in terms of Weltanschauung continues to make “an indispensable complement and an essential contribution”21 to the development of professional ethical competence. In the protected space of LKU as a personality-building measure, the personal Weltanschauung of every soldier should be heard and above all taken seriously, so that a teacher can guide students responsibly through the “ethical and moral dimension” of the topic at hand. In this way, through self-reflection and conversation among fellow soldiers, ethical awareness can be fostered, the “conscience” trained, and the ability to form moral judgments strengthened in a sensitive way with regard to Weltanschauung. In terms of peace education, this is about developing not only “ethical competence”, but also a “responsible character”.

For soldiers to develop their own personality requires freedoms which are open-minded with regard to Weltanschauung. For this reason, LKU includes fundamental aspects of the conscientious personality and of individual life conduct, as well as questions of identity. It also addresses the whole of human existence, beyond professional ethics contexts. This is why since its inception the Bundeswehr had sought partners who were outside the military system and at the same time had the necessary qualifications and, above all, an educational background which is sensitive with regard to Weltanschauung, to reflect on the concrete challenges of military service and life as a soldier.

In view of the development outlined above, LKU should not only be a “study of ethical values”, but also a form of sensitive training with regard to Weltanschauung more in the spirit of a general peace education. Through character development and by fostering personal life conduct skills, using the given ethical and moral content and ultimately for the independent development of personality, LKU should help military personnel to proceed with “grit”22 on the thorny path to peace.23

With the expectation of these peace education outcomes as part of the overall leadership and education of military personnel, “Lebenskundlicher Unterricht” can be defined as follows:

LKU is a compulsory personality-building measure. Within the framework of Innere Führung in the Bundeswehr, it is a form of sensitive training with regard to Weltanschauung with ethical and moral content. With good justification, it is provided primarily by military chaplains, in the expectation that it will form part of a wider peace education process.

1 Peace education or “peace pedagogy” is here understood to mean mainly adult education (“andragogy”). This is based on the ideas of Klaus Prange, Die vielen Erziehungswissenschaften und die eine Pädagogik – zum Verhältnis von Erwachsenenbildung und Allgemeiner Pädagogik (; accessed November 22, 2019). Furthermore, pedagogy (“Pädagogik”) is seen here as an auxiliary science that is particularly significant for all areas of life in society that are related to upbringing, leadership, education and training.

2 (English translation taken from, accessed October 8, 2019). Kant, Immanuel (1907 [1784]), WA, AA08, 41.32-42.2. Final sentence in the essay “Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?” (“Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist Aufklärung?”).

3 Ibid.

4 (Translated from German). Baudissin, Wolf Graf von (2014): “Diskussionsbeitrag bei der ‘Soldatentagung’ an der Evangelischen Akademie Herrmannsburg.” In: by the same author: Grundwert: Frieden in Politik – Strategie – Führung von Streitkräften. Berlin, pp. 43–47, here p. 45.

5 Bundesministerium der Verteidigung (2018): Die Tradition der Bundeswehr. Richtlinien zum Traditionsverständnis und zur Traditionspflege. Berlin, pp. 4 f.

6 Cf. on the fields of influence Joint Service Regulation (Zentrale Dienstvorschrift, ZDv) A-2600/1: Innere Führung,
no. 504.

7 Cf. pastoral constitution “Gaudium et Spes”, no. 79.

8 Cf. on this point Enders, Susanne (2002): Moralunterricht und Lebenskunde. Bad Heilbrunn/Obb., pp. 29 f.

9 On the fundamental political self-image at that time, which certainly especially in the early days of the Bundeswehr still had a decisive influence on its expectations of education and development, here is a word by Carlo Schmid: “[We are convinced] that there is no Christian politics as such, but only politics in and of itself done by Christian or non-Christian people.” And with social democracy in mind, he explains just prior to this that: “We have learned that man carries in his breast an insatiable urge for religious experience, and that for us in Europe, for the majority of people, this need is satisfied in the Christian churches. [...] The Social Democratic Party is not an anti-Christian party; on the contrary, we bow in awe before all those who take Christianity seriously, and we are perfectly willing to give the concerns of Christianity the importance they rightly deserve in public life; because we know how much everything in the world of which we approve, is only the way that it is, and we would have it no other way, because our culture is determined by Christianity.  [...] An anti-Christian, or anti-church attitude as a political principle has no place among our members.” (Translated from German). Schmid, Carlo (1973): “Weg und Ziel der Sozialdemokratie.” In: by the same author: Politik als geistige Aufgabe. [Gesammelte Werke I.] Bern, pp. 24 f. (emphasis in original).

10 Cf. Kruse, Herbert (1983): Kirche und militärische Erziehung. Der lebenskundliche Unterricht in der Bundeswehr im Zusammenhang mit der Gesamterziehung des Soldaten. Hannover, p. 16.

11 “Every person shall have the right to free development
of his personality [...]” (“Jeder hat das Recht auf die freie Entfaltung seiner Persönlichkeit …”) (, accessed October 8, 2019).

12 Cf. Enders, p. 180.

13 Cf. Nipkow, Karl Ernst (2007): Der schwere Weg zum Frieden. Geschichte und Theorie der Friedenspädagogik von Erasmus bis zur Gegenwart. Gütersloh, p. 240.

14 Cf. ibid., pp. 244 ff.

15 (Translated from German). Foerster, Friedrich Wilhelm (1918): Politische Ethik und politische Pädagogik. Dritte stark erweiterte Auflage der “Staatsbürgerlichen Erziehung”. Munich, p. 194 (emphasis in original).

16 (“If you want peace, prepare for peace”). Foerster, Friedrich Wilhelm (1916): “Die psychologische Vorbedingung des Weltfriedens.” In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, vol. 137, no. 682 (April 30, 1916), p. 1; reprinted in: Hipler, Bruno (ed.) (1988): Foerster, Friedrich Wilhelm. Manifest für den Frieden – eine Auswahl aus seinen Schriften (1893–1933). Paderborn, here p. 112.

17 (Translated from German). Foerster (1918), chapter 9 “Friedenspädagogik”, pp. 460 ff. (emphasis added).

18 (Translated from German). Die deutschen Bischöfe (2005): Soldaten als Diener des Friedens. Erklärung zur Stellung und Aufgabe der Bundeswehr. No. 82, Sekretariat der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz (ed.). Bonn, p. 18.

19 Weltanschauung is often translated as “world-view” or “ideology”. In our view, both are not apt to reflect the meaning of the term. “Ideology” in particular is linked to exclusion and totalitarianism and would exclude sensitivity and open-mindedness which are, as we explain below, essential for “Lebenskundlicher Unterricht”. We have therefore decided to keep the German word. On the social mega-theme of the relationship between Weltanschauung and “ethics”, cf. Hauser, Linus (2004–2016): Kritik der neomythischen Vernunft. Vol. 3. Paderborn.

20 This is illustrated by the question frequently asked by soldiers in LKU: “And what is your personal view on that, Father?”

21 Cf. ZDv A-2620/3, nos. 106 and 503.

22 In other words, strength of character, courage, stamina, guts, punch, or “enthusiastic resolve”.

23 Thus together with the virtuous character we find e.g. competences of legal understanding and legal education; competences of intercultural understanding; competences of independent critical discernment in religions and secular world-views; competences to dismantle masculine ideologies and behaviors in the face of everyday violence; concepts that overcome thinking in terms of a dualistic concept of the enemy and open up a mediating and reconciling third perspective; communicative competences that treat other people respectfully and enable human closeness with its risks and opportunities; a willingness to develop and maintain a culture of remembrance for common victims – but first and foremost: to promote “confidence-building measures”, i.e. to practice the peace-pedagogical wisdom hidden behind the so-called “Golden Rule” throughout one’s life, and to shape life together on this basis!



Franz J. Eisend studierte Theologie an der Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg. Bis 2002 war er in der Erzdiözese Bamberg als Pastoralreferent in der Gemeindeseelsorge tätig und anschließend bis 2016 als Militärseelsorger in Homberg/Efze, Erfurt und Delitzsch unterwegs. Seitdem ist er als Wissenschaftlicher Referent im Katholischen Militärbischofsamt im Referat II unter anderem für den Bereich „Lebenskundlicher Unterricht“ zuständig. (Photo: KS/Doreen Bierdel)



Thomas R. Elßner studierte Philosophie und Theologie in  Erfurt und Frankfurt/Main und promovierte 1997 im Fachbereich Altes Testament. Von 2000 bis 2005 war er Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Institut für Theologie und Frieden (Hamburg), von 2005 bis 2016 Dozent für Ethik und Militärseelsorger am Zentrum Innere Führung (Koblenz). 2008 erfolgte die Habilitation im Fachbereich Altes Testament. Seit 2009 ist er Professor für Theologie und Exegese des Alten Testaments an der PTHV (Vallendar), seit 2017 Referatsleiter für Grundsatzfragen im KMBA (Berlin). (Photo: KS/Doreen Bierdel)