"No one may be forced into armed service against their conscience." Article 4, Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law regulates this in no uncertain terms. And despite compulsory military service, which has been suspended since 2011, Germans continue to exercise their right to conscientious objection year after year. In 2022 there were 951 in total, an increase of more than 700 compared to the previous year. Among the conscientious objectors recognized last year are hundreds of members of the Bundeswehr (the star reported).
The reason for the increasing number is assumed to be Russia's war in Ukraine - many may be reassessing the danger of a military conflict and relying on their conscience not to be able to take part.
But what about the other way around? Are there conscientious objectors whose conscience has changed and who, in view of the war in Europe, can now imagine armed service?
They can declare their "voluntary waiver of recognition as a conscientious objector" to the Federal Office for Family and Civil Society Tasks (BAFzA). This means that they can – at least theoretically – be able to serve in the armed forces again.
Last year, a total of 487 people took advantage of the opportunity, 462 of them since Russia invaded its neighboring country at the end of February 2022 - more than in the two previous years, but also fewer than in the years 2014 to 2019 BAFzA that are available to the star.
On average, 532 citizens renounced their recognition as conscientious objectors every year between 2014 and 2022 - the war against Ukraine obviously has no effect on the number. But that could not be determined anyway. "It is not necessary to state reasons in the waiver," explains BAFzA spokesman Sinan Bürryü to the star.
In any case, the number of those who revoke their recognition as conscientious objectors is negligible. Since the introduction of conscription in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1957, millions of people have refused military service with arms for reasons of conscience and have done civilian service instead.
Anyone who would like to do this in 2023 despite the suspension of compulsory military service must submit their application for conscientious objection to the Bundeswehr Career Center (formerly the district military replacement office). From there it is forwarded to the BAFzA. The application must contain a complete tabular curriculum vitae and a detailed personal justification for the conscientious decision. In case of doubt, there can also be an oral hearing.
The voluntary waiver of recognition as a conscientious objector is less complex. "The declaration of waiver can be submitted by post or as an email document, provided that the personal signature is inserted," explains BAFzA spokesman Bürryü. It must also contain personal information such as address, place and date of birth and, if applicable, the personal identification number from civil service. And: "It must be clear from the application that the person renounces recognition as a conscientious objector because there are no reasons of conscience for military service with weapons."
Sources: Information BAFzA, BAFzA on conscientious objection, Basic Law