Baudissin's Legacy, Peace Research and the Bundeswehr

Prof. Frank Reininghaus

(c) AFP

Baudissin: the name still resonates when considering the IFSH’s founding and its first dozen years. Who was Wolf Graf von Baudissin, or rather – to use his full title – who was retired Lieutenant General Prof. Wolf Stefan Traugott Graf von Baudissin? He is described in an obituary as “concentrated and conciliatory, eager for discussion and practical without any theoretical obduracy”. He was a man with many facets: farmer and officer, aristocrat and democrat, general and peace researcher. Wolf Graf von Baudissin will go down in military history as a great reformer. His name is mentioned in the same breath as Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, officers who were also instrumental in basing the Bundeswehr on democratic values.  

After a short period of military service as an ensign and re-entry into active military service in 1930, von Baudissin was transferred to the General Staff of the Afrika Korps in 1941, the third year of the war, at the request of Field Marshal Rommel. He was taken prisoner of war there and was released in 1947; four years later he took on an assignment in the Blank Office, later in the Ministry of Defence. In 1956, Baudissin was joined the Bundeswehr as a colonel, and as head of the Innere Führung department his name became associated with the new concept of the so-called “citizen in uniform”.

In 1961, Baudissin became Deputy Chief of the General Staff Europe-Centre of NATO, and then Head of the NATO Defence College in Paris. He spent the last two years before his retirement (1965-1967) as a three-star general at NATO Supreme Command Europe.

A few years after his retirement, Baudissin encouraged a group of eight officers from the Army Officers' School II to publish theses they had prepared in March 1970. In their theses, they called for a type of officer “freed from traditionalist shackles”. At the time, this was considered a radical push to make the Bundeswehr more liberal. The group went down in the history of the Bundeswehr as “Leutnante 70”.

Today's version of the Bundeswehr's Central Service Regulations emerged and developed from the momentum generated by Baudissin, the Leutnante 70 group and many other unnamed soldiers. The Regulations make clear that the values and norms of the German Grundgesetz (Basic Law) are to be implemented in the Bundeswehr through Innere Führung. "[T]he principles of freedom, democracy and the rule of law", the service regulations continue, are thus reflected in the armed forces. On the other hand, the military's performance is balanced by “a maximum of freedom and rights” for the soldiers within the framework of the free, democratic order. The principles of Innere Führung thus rest on particular ethical, legal, political and social foundations.

The concept of Innere Führung thus emphasises the inherent limitations of fundamental individual rights in the soldier's profession, but at the same time also stresses the limits of command and obedience. If executing an order would constitute a criminal offence or violate human dignity, the order does not have to be carried out. This stands in contrast to oft-cited “cadaver obedience” during the Wilhelminian Empire and the Third Reich in particular. The concept of Innere Führung is intended to continue to strengthen cohesion among comrades. Nonetheless, the goal was and is to achieve “obedience out of understanding” of the command at hand.

The principle of the “citizen in uniform” is still emphasised today in the training of all soldiers, especially officers, in order to avoid the emergence of a “state within the state” such as the one that existed in the Third Reich and the Weimar Republic.   
So, what is the relationship between the Innere Führung concept as introduced by Baudissin and the concept of the “citizen in uniform”, 2020 peace research, and the Bundeswehr?
It should be noted that Germany's armed forces have changed fundamentally since 1955 and are much more open to peace research now than they were in the first two and a half decades of their existence, which were still marked by the Cold War and by confrontation between the East and the West. Peace research is now an integral part of the Bundeswehr, and the spectrum of the soldier's profession has broadened many times over. Today, the men and women of the Bundeswehr no longer focus only on defending alliances and the nation, as was still the case in 1955 when the Bundeswehr was founded and the Federal Republic joined NATO. Today, they make a valuable contribution to the stabilisation of crisis regions all over the world at various levels in so-called peacekeeping, peacebuilding, peace enforcement and post-conflict reconstruction/nation-building missions (e.g., in Mali, Afghanistan and the Mediterranean).