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Innere Führung – Normative Basis of Personality Development in the German Armed Forces

By Angelika Dörfler-Dierken & Markus Thurau

The publication of a new Joint Service Regulation on ethical education in the Bundeswehr provides an opportunity to examine how personality development for soldiers in the Bundeswehr has been structured until now. The starting point is “Innere Führung”, a reformist concept in the federal German armed forces that ties the military to the values and norms of the Basic Law. So far these values and norms have been taught in the armed forces in the form of historical and political education and in “Lebenskundlicher Unterricht”. The ethos of the Basic Law thus becomes the ethos of the soldier. The basic right to freedom of conscience demands that a high priority be given to the development of conscience in the context of military service. Knowledge of the norms of international humanitarian law and military law is often not enough. Innere Führung has always revolved around the idea that obedience is owed to the “highest and final authority”. Ethical education which aims at conscientious obedience therefore also forms part of the core of Innere Führung. With the Lebenskundlicher Unterricht format, the Bundeswehr has a professional ethics skills development program that offers a “window into the civilian realm” because it is detached from the military hierarchy. It contributes “in a special way to character formation and personality development among military personnel”. Any freely developing personality – which is one element of the ideal “citizen in uniform” – requires a space away from judgmental superiors and career-relevant exams for its development. This is precisely what LKU guarantees. Therefore, the authors conclude, ethical education should not be considered without Lebenskundlicher Unterricht.

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