Speech by State Secretary Christian Schmidt

Ministry of Defence, Berlin, Bendlerblock, 08.09.2008

Dear Mister General von Kirchbach, Mister Batuz, the Governing Mayor, ladies and gentlemen. Distinguished Attachés, interested parties and members of the society „Helmets for Peace“, it is my pleasure to welcome you in the Federal Ministry of Defence here in Berlin. I received the invitation to this event informally, not in my position, which is common regarding such an illustre event as an important expression of the things we deal with. The federal ministry of defence welcomes the organizations and eminent persons, our warmest greetings go to you, I would also gladly like to tell you this in behalf of minister Dr. Franz Josef Jung.

I think we could not have chosen a more symbolically charged place for this event. We do not intend to take some kind of position from the city of Chemnitz with its commited people, no. I just want to remind you, that here we are standing in a place, where the connection between ethical and moral responsibility, obligation, compliance of orders, also in opposition to the order, if it does not fulfill the principles of our cultural and value based traditions, is given. Here in the Bendlerblock in Berlin, where we all have in mind the moving pictures from August 13th 1961, when suddenly a wall was built through Berlin and divided the country.

We remember how armed members of the GDR border patrol digged up the roads, built barricades and spanned barb wire. A wall was built as a visible sign of the separation of Germany and as a symbol for the cold war, the symbol of the cold war. But not only were parts of Germany and streets ripped apart, a nation, people were separated from each other. Families were separated from each other.

Today, 47 years later, this separation has been overcome, the cold war is forgotten. Well, at least not as if we would still remember it. It is better to not forget it, in order to keep in mind what should not happen again. Therefore it is so important that this society and the German Bundeswehr, which understands itself as part of this society, should be committed to projects that want to overcome borders in a peaceful manner. By means of this catalog I informed myself beforehand, although i was not able to review it yet, about one or the other thing that you, Mister Batuz, have implemented at the rivers Oder and Neiße, the rivers forming the border between Germany and Poland. An idea, that especially in the 90s, when the coming together of Polish and German neighbors was relevant, set an example. And then you assembled these helmets in an artistic synthesis in Chemnitz in 2007, if I may call it that.

Mister General, you support the society „Helmets for Peace“ and have done so in the past, and it is also thanks to your initiative, that you are visiting us here in the Bendlerblock and the continuation of the project therefore has some kind of political home. This thought is very much rooted in Chemnitz in Saxony, an initiative and artistic expression if nothing else, and therefore I would like to welcome our honorable member Mister Weigel, our associate from Saxony, if I can put it like that, a member of the defence commitee of the German Bundestag.

I am very impressed with what has evolved here out of private initiative, associations, community initiative and from artistic and militarian initiative in the broader sense. We feel comfortable with that, we the people of the Bundeswehr and the federal ministry of defence, because this is exactly what we are fighting for. Not only by force, but we also fight for the belief, that exchange, agreement and communication are essential parts of peacemaking. Currently we can see how different it is in the field, how difficult it can be to keep up communication between those who are willing to communicate and comply and those who deliberately try to interfere destructively. A whole range of nations is represented here and as far as those are troop providers, we have to realize that it is difficult to undertake the task of keeping the destructive forces from destroying the constructive ones. Violated safety policy has become a lip service not only for us, but also for the German Bundeswehr.

And you Mister Batuz with your helmets project, helmets seen from a different angle, with an artistic approach here in Chemnitz, will give a sort of home and crystallization point of these perspectives to us. With this in mind I would like to welcome you again here in the federal ministry of defence and I am delighted that you bestow us the honor of your visit. I will gladly support your ideas in terms of my accompaniment and I wish for this, not state but civil society initiative, to flourish further on good and fertile soil. All the best for you and thank you very much.