German Women Said No


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Discussion about women in the military

After female officers had been admitted to the medical corps in 1975 a debate about military conscription for women had started. The proposals initiated much debate in the peace and the women’s movements. The feminists were divided — on one side Alice Schwarzer, the editor of the radical, German feminist magazine Emma, fronting the debate. In 1978 she argued that the military represented a too important power to be monopolised by men. Therefore she demanded the opening of the military, including all combat positions, for women, though she herself personally would apply for CO status if she were subject to military conscription. On the other side were women in the peace movement objecting in principle to women in the military. In 1979 a group of 87 women made a public statement saying: Women into the Federal Army? — We say NO! One of them was the prominent post-war writer Luise Rinser (1911–2002) whose furious statement is documented below.

Resistance against inclusion of women in war preparations

According to the emergency laws all German citizens are liable to be called up for civilian services in the case of war or any other emergency, with specific provision for health personnel, based on the German Constitution (Art. 12a, 4 and 6) and the emergency provisions of 1968.
In 1968 the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Interior financed equally a four-week course as nursing assistants for women between 18 and 55 years old. This was partly because of shortage of personnel in the military and in the hospitals. The more women work in such positions, the more men are available for military service. However, in the late 1970s people became aware that the training was mainly meant for military planning. After the training the women would sign a paper that they would be available for service in case of war or emergency. In 1982 a law was proposed for further integration of health services in military structures (Gesundheitssicherstellungsgesetz).

All these forms of civilian conscription for women were seen as part of war preparations leading finally to the militarisation of society, as anti-militarist women would say. Both the proposed law and the declaration to be signed in connection with the nursing assistance courses provoked protests. Thus this bill had to be withdrawn, but the integration of civilian institutions in military planning continued and still continues.

At the time, many women in the peace movement felt that they had to make a statement as conscientious objectors. As part of the campaign — which included marches and other public protests — women produced a petition to be signed and sent it to the Federal Office for Civilian Service (Bundessamt für Zivildienst). We present the text of the petition here. We present also Claudia Schneider’s protest letter to the Office for Civil Security and the response she got.
Many of the feminists and leftists — such as Communists and Social Democrats — who protested against the proposals to conscript women for civilian war services in case of war nevertheless at the same time supported the existing military conscription of men and refused to support male total resisters.

Introduction by Ellen Elster
Thanks to Helga Weber Zucht and Gernot Lennert for help with translation and finding information.

Re: Objecting to Conscription of Women

In regard to Article No. 12A, Paragraph 4 and 6 of the Basic Law (constitution), women of the age between 18 and 55 may be conscripted for civilian services should the country be forced to defend itself.
I am declaring herewith, that I do not accept such a possible obligation and that I will not fulfil it at any time. My reasons are as follows:

Such a civilian service will in the end only support war, and the inclusion of helpers in civilian and military areas will support war preparation. These civilian services are therefore to be considered war services and as such I will refuse them.

Especially now in so-called time of peace, I have to defend myself against a possible conscription – as the danger of a war is constantly growing through the politics of armament and deterrence. Wars are being prepared during peace times.

I understand my refusal as a contribution to an active peace policy.
Besides, please be aware that I am totally against any kind of inclusion of women into military services.

Thank you in advance for a statement of confirming your receipt of my letter.


Printed in a leaflet produced by DFG-VK, the German section of War Resisters’ International, in the beginning of the 1980’s.

Regarding liability to national service in case of need to defend the country in case of war

In September 1979 I took part in training for nursing assistance with the Malteser Aid Service in Freiburg. At the end of the training we had to sign a form thereby committing ourselves to render service in case of war (“Ernstfall”), ie medical services in civilian as well as military contexts.

I am declaring herewith that I refuse and will be refusing military service at any time. I am not willing to support violence – and war is always violence – in any shape, not even in the first aid area. Herewith I am informing you as well that I will not follow any call for conscription, as is planned for women in the German Constitution Art. 12a, 4.

My reasons:

I abhor violence and war and will not support in any way. Human beings do not want either of them, yet there are again and again attempts to spread fear and suspicion about imagined enemies. I do not believe that violence will help changing the world. I have no enemies. Our people has no enemies. This conviction enables me to live without the protection of weapons and I am not willing to support violence. This civilian service is serving war after all, and the knowledge about the availability of helpers in the civilian and medical areas facilitates the preparation of wars. Therefore it is important to inform the Government that I am not willing to obey such a service obligation.

Letter by Claudia Schneider to the Office for Civil Security, Karlsruhe, 17th January 1979.

Dear Miss Schneider!

Your ideologically flavoured letter has been forwarded to me by the Office for Civil Security. I am shuddering to hear that you, as a trained nursing assistant, will be refusing to help citizens who might be injured or in need of help in case of a catastrophe or a plague, eg that you are refusing to help and care for women and children, unlike the common law of humanity would think it natural for any decent person. The Swiss civilian Henry Dunant, after whom the street you are living in was named, did not hesitate to help and give first aid to severely injured people in a war he abhorred. He helped transporting them, feeding them and wrote nice letters for those who were dying. It would be really bad for humankind and for humanity, if there were only Claudia Schneiders, who refuse to give aid to their brothers and sisters whose life is in danger. The Office for Civil Security as well as the State Health Office is happy to do without the cooperation of such hard-hearted persons.

Reply by Dr. Pfannkuch, State Medical Director in Office, State Health Office Karlsruhe (Staatliches Gesundheitsamt Karlsruhe), 12th March 1979.

Both letters printed in Graswurzelrevolution, probably at the beginning of the 1980s.

How stupid we women are

I am totally against the concept of “Women in the Army”. The whole women’s movement for emancipation is a farce, if equality means that also women should be allowed to shoot human beings. In addition, this is being dictated by men. The late Erich Fromm called this the “Necrophilia”: Fascination by death and by killing. Oh my god, how stupid we women are: We willingly conform to exactly that senselessness, which we do not want any longer. Hopelessness: Woman.
Instead of getting men to stop killing, women are aiming now, to do what he should not do any longer. That’s foolishness. Really. Women are becoming men. Patriarchy keeps continuing without any shame, because the male soldier-spirit continues to exist. Whether women or men are shooting makes no difference. I am nearly giving up any hope that patriarchy will ever be overcome. ….

Luise Rinser

Published in “Deutsche Volkszeitung”, 15th May 1980.

Published in: Women and Conscientious Objection - An Anthology


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