Germany considers return of conscription for civil defence

GERMANY may reintroduce a form of national service for civilians to help the army deal with a future disaster.
The role of civilians is part of a new civil defence strategy to be discussed by the government on Wednesday.
Since the strategy was leaked to the media there has been intense debate about stockpiling food and water.
BBC revealed that in a crisis civilians might be obliged to help direct traffic or provide fuel and accommodation for the military, German news agency DPA reported.
Germans appeared generally unfazed by what some MPs have called government “scaremongering” but the word “Wehrpflicht” (conscription) was trending on social media on Tuesday.
The topic of civil defence also boosted the popularity of hamsters on social media, as Germans, with more than a hint of irony, adopted the hashtag “Hamsterkaeufe”, which means panic-buying or hoarding like a hamster.
Germany’s Die Tageszeitung daily sported a big picture of a hamster on its front page, with the headline “The End is Nigh” – which was widely tweeted.
A satirical article in Die Welt (in German) joked that “Hamsters are sold out in Germany”. It said the lack of hamsters presented the nation with “an unprecedented humanitarian disaster”.
The article was bylined, in English: “Jean Gnatzig, Head of Silly Content”.
The government said a national disaster was “unlikely” but preparations were needed in case of a future terror attack or “hybrid” conflict involving cyber warfare, which could damage key infrastructure.
Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine in 2014 – the clandestine seizure of Crimea and support for separatist rebels – has been widely described as “hybrid warfare”.
Germany scrapped compulsory national service in 2011, but provision for it remains in the constitution, so it could easily be reinstated, DPA says.
During the Cold War, national service meant that West Germany could mobilise 495,000 soldiers and boost the numbers to about 1.2million if necessary by calling up reservists.
School leavers had the option of doing 18 months’ civilian service – for example in a hospital – instead of nine months in the military.
But at the height of the Cold War – in the 1960s and 1980s – conscripts had to spend 18 months in the military. Women were exempt from conscription.