German army parades to the sound of jeers

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The Independent Online
A RARE outing in Berlin by the German army was drowned in jeers and washed out by the rain yesterday as the city braced itself for a night of rioting.

For only the second time since the Second World War, the Bundeswehr attempted to perform a public swearing-in ceremony in the symbolic heart of German militarism.

Huge areas of Berlin became no-go zones, as police struggled to keep about a thousand protesters at bay.

Cordons were erected by 2,500 policemen to protect 332 conscripts who were armed to the teeth. But shouts of "murderers" still soared above the national anthem and several protesters were detained after trying to storm the barriers.

In streets away from the area, where demonstrationswere allowed, protesters shouted: "Bundeswehr - army of murderers". For 40 years, no German soldier was admitted to West Berlin. Eight years after reunification, the spectacle of remains controversial.

Critics of the ceremony, which is scheduled to be repeated on the main squares of 180 towns this year, complain of the militarisation of public life. They also point out the influence such spectacles might have on Nazi-inclined minds.

Military traditions have been gradually revived in recent years. But Volker Ruhe, the defence minister, denied that the ceremony was a "militaristic relic". The event, he said, had become a "firm component of the culture of democratic Germany".