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
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,
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.
Lars G Petersson