Original letter to Minister of Defence Jung, January 2009

Original letter to Minister of Defence Jung, January 2009

Dear Minister Jung (and subsequently Minister Guttenberg),

I write to you as part of research for my new book. The subject

of this work will be the violation of young men’s right to

dignity in the Federal Republic of Germany with particular

stress on the forced military examinations of genitals and anuses,

which most young people consider extremely humiliating.

For some months by now I have been collecting background

information and have conducted interviews with affected

people. Unfortunately, by doing so I have realised that the

problem seem to be much worse and much more serious than

I had ever anticipated. The numerous stories of serious abuse

which have come to my knowledge have convinced me even

more about the importance of this project. I have come to

realise that something urgently must be undertaken to protect

young people in your country against further ill-treatment. This

is extremely important as many of the people I have talked to

in the process of researching this book have suffered for

years as a result of what they have been exposed to during

military medicals.

Horrors around humiliating military medicals are nothing new.

Horrible stories have been told from the eras of the Emperor

(i.e. Victorian time) and the Nazis, but, in fact, they have never

stopped coming in. Yes, during all the modern military history

nakedness and humiliation have been walking hand in

hand with the military establishment in the process of training

new recruits. There must be a reason for that, and for sure

there is. Forced nakedness is a very effective weapon in the

process of creating submissive, obedient soldiers. It is the first

simple but very effective step in a long line established to

break down resistance. This way young men are changed into

subservient, obedient soldiers, soldiers who do what they are

told – including rape.

We cannot change the past, but, and this is important, we can

try and prevent horror from repeating itself in the future. There

are very good reasons for that. First, the world has changed.

As minister of defence I am sure you do not want that kind of

soldiers in your troops any longer. They don’t belong in modern

defence forces. Second, young people in your country,

no matter if conscripted or enlisted, must have the same

constitutional rights to be treated with respect and dignity as

all other people in society. Today, all these years after the

end of the Nazi rule and the disappearance of the Communist

East German dictatorship, nobody should be allowed to be

humiliated by the state.

Of course, this should be obvious, but still, in your country it

seems not to be. This is indeed remarkable. After all, when it

comes to these abusive military-related medicals the victims

are to be counted in millions…. In fact, we talk about the ongoing

abuse of half of the growing-up population. So how can

it be allowed to go on like that? This is probably the answer:

embarrassment stops people from speaking out. And, young

people quite frankly do not have the courage to defend themselves

against this blatant abuse. Of course, it doesn’t make it

easier for them that their obvious lack of knowledge regarding

their basic human rights often is shamefully used against

them in order to mislead them into accepting things which

other people never would go along with. Many young people

thereafter spend years trying to (re)establish confidence and

trust in the medical profession.

Not only is this medical abuse of young people allowed to be

continued as usual, it has in the last decades got much worse.

Nowadays, as a rule, completely naked young men are

examined and evaluated for war service by women – and this

in front of at least one more of the opposite gender, a secretary.

This situation is by most young people seen as extremely

humiliating and discriminating – not least because these

people themselves are not liable for the same duties and because

women who volunteer for the army are treated in a

completely different and respectful way.

It might be that such a treatment as these young men are exposed

to would have been a ‘valuable’ preparation for somebody

joining a military dictatorship’s armed forces, and it was

most likely an excellent exercise before becoming a fully trained

SS officer or Wehrmacht soldier. But, I am not that sure

about its relevance when the individual is to serve a peaceful

twenty-first century European country. After all, we must

today realise that we live in another time; we live in a united

Europe, a modern age. We do not need violent rapists and

torturers any longer (as if we ever did). In fact, they are not

wanted. They are not wanted in the civilian society, and, important,

they are not wanted by the military either.

No matter how one looks at this matter, it is nothing but a disgraceful

scandal. Systematically to humiliate young people is

a shame for the government of the Federal Republic of Germany

and it is a shame for the entire German people. We are

dealing with a very serious problem: how many young people

have this far already killed themselves because the memories

of the embarrassing treatment were too big a burden for them

to bear? We don’t know. However, one thing we do know is

this: the social group in society with the by far highest rate of

suicides is young males. In how many of all these cases have

the German armed forces had a part to play? In how many of

these cases have the ‘play doctor games’ played a part? We

don’t know, but it might be worth thinking about, especially if

one is the minister ultimately responsible….

Testicular cancer can be fatal. Therefore it is important that

young people are encouraged to check themselves regularly

in order to detect any sign that could indicate problems. They

should be taught how to do so by somebody competent – that

is if they want to. That would be good for young men and their

health, as this disease can occur at any time. Yes, as we all

know, it is not so that a one-off forced examination at age 17-

21 would solve the problem for ever. Much more likely is that

nothing will be found. But, what about a month or a year

later? If cancer now grows and remains undetected due to

bad experiences from the musterung examinations, who will

then be ultimately responsible? Who will be responsible for

this person to miss out on life saving treatment?

It is indeed possible that young men would not even examine

themselves because of the risk of detecting anything that

could lead to a visit at the doctor’s surgery. This way the forced

examinations are not only to be seen as abuse of the

privacy of young people, they can also lead to non-detection

of serious disease. In the worst scenario they can lead to premature


  • Is the state aware of its responsibility for this? Are

you aware of your personal responsibility?

One could easily imagine the following situation: by a young

man, who is being examined completely naked in the presence

of two or three women, a lump is found in one of his testicles.

Cancer? While standing there like that, he will then be

told about this terrifying possibility. I find it absolutely shocking

that this combination of total humiliation and being told of possible

cancer can be allowed to happen….

  • How can you allow this to take place? How would a

young person ever come to terms with such an experience?

I am very interested in hearing your opinion also to the following


  • What has young men’s foreskin to do with the defence

of Germany? I cannot understand why the Defence

Forces are showing such an interest in the free

movement of foreskins. Any reason? Please advise.

  • Please explain, if the Ministry of Defence out of sheer

kindness and concern wants to offer help in this area,

why do its doctors not first ask the individual person

whether or not he is interested in the offer?

  • Could you please advise how these abusive examinations

can be in line with Article 1 of the German

Constitution (in which the state is obliged to protect its

citizen’s dignity at all time)? Note, there are no exceptions

to this constitutional right of protection. Please

explain the discrepancy between that fundamental

law and the general practice within your department.

  • Why do young men have to strip completely during

the military examinations and why do these checks of

their private parts have to take place in front of female

assistants? Please explain.

  • Why are these examinations very often repeated not

just once but several times, also when the reason for

a renewed induction examination has nothing to do

with the private parts? Seems like harassment to me.

  • Why is the whole process repeated at the start of the

service – including testicles, foreskin and anus – not

only by the Bundeswehr but also by the civilian authorities?

Can this be seen as anything but abuse?

Please, be aware of the following: haemorrhoids in young

males are rare. Also, somebody who suffers from them would

be very likely to look for a doctor of his own choice, one he

would feel comfortable with. I can hardly believe that the very

rare cases of piles by eighteen-year-old men in any way can

defend forced examinations of the anus not only by the military

induction examination but also at the beginning and end of the service

and sometimes also in between.

If the Defence Forces really are that concerned about young

people’s anal health, why do they not just ask the individual

whether or not he has a problem, and, if so, if he wants help

with it? And, why are they not ‘concerned’ about women’s

health in the same area? Precisely, why do they not also examine

female volunteer applicants and staff for the same? After

all, haemorrhoids by females are statistically much more

frequent. A remarkable neglect of their health….. isn’t it? Or

should we just accept that the reason for these checks is

something totally different? This is indeed a very important issue.

Therefore, please answer following questions:

  • On what medical evidence does the state base these

forced controls of young men’s back sides? ‘Bend

forward, spread the buttocks, have a look’…. In what

medical literature can I find the evidence for the correctness

of such an examination method? What are

your people actually looking for? Allow me to say: this

is indeed a very ‘unusual’ method of medical examination,

one never seen in any medical text book.

Today all interventions that a clinician undertakes – examinations

and/or treatments – must be evidence-based. Consequently,

a clinician must be able to demonstrate that he/she

bases his/her actions on current scientific evidence.

  • Is there any medical evidence saying that soldiers

with piles can put the defence of Germany in danger?

  • What is the real reason behind inspections of this part

of the body? I can only see abuse. Do you have another

opinion about this question?

I am confident that I am right when stating that the German

defence forces have widely distanced themselves from

methods used during the time of the Emperor and the Nazis.

And, I am sure the armed forces today are not training their

soldiers to become rapists. I am equally convinced that the

ambition is to have morally secure and responsible soldiers to

serve the country, people who are trained for modern times

and modern needs. But, on that background it is for me

impossible to understand that humiliating ‘training’ methods

which originate in a dictatorial past are still allowed.

No question, hardly anybody who finds himself standing there

stark naked in front of people whose orders he has to follow

will have the confidence and strength to refuse to do what he

is then told. If one is only seventeen it would be so much more

obvious how difficult such a situation would be. But, to

refuse having one’s private parts exposed and examined like

this should not even be necessary. After all, ‘play doctor games’

belong to childhood or to consenting adults. Under no

circumstances should it be allowed to be a part of state employed

medical staff’s daily work. Nobody should have to

take part in ‘play doctor games’ by the doctor….

Many people – my research has clearly demonstrated – cannot

come to terms with the memories of the military (and conscientious-

objector related) examinations and the extreme humiliation

which was part of it all. They continue to suffer mentally.

Remember, at the time all this happens to a young man

he is right in the middle of a very sensitive time of his development,

also sexually.

Let me also remind you: as the minister ultimately responsible

for what the armed forces and their medical services undertake

in the name of the German nation you are under duty to

act in order to protect the young generation as according to

Article 1 of the Constitution. As Germany is a signatory of the

European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits degrading

treatment (Article 3), you, as responsible minister, is

also under obligation to see that your state employees comply

with the most fundamental principles of decent human behaviour.

If failing to do so you will be taking upon yourself a very

big responsibility. Remember sexual abuse of defenceless,

vulnerable young people is a criminal offence.

I am looking forward to your answer.

Yours Sincerely

Lars G Petersson