Insignia of the Bundeswehr
The Bundeswehr (German for "Federal Defence Force"; listen (help·info)) consists of the unified armed forces of Germany and their civil administration and procurement authorities. The States of Germany are not allowed to maintain armed forces of their own, since the German Constitution states that matters of defense fall into the sole responsibility of the federal government.
The Bundeswehr is divided into a military part (armed forces or Streitkräfte) and a civil part with the armed forces administration (Wehrverwaltung), the federal bureau of procurement (Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung) and the federal bureau for information management and information technology of the Bundeswehr (Bundesamt für Informationsmanagement und Informationstechnik der Bundeswehr, sometimes abbreviated as IT-AmtBw). The military part of the federal defense force consists of Army (Heer), Navy (Marine), Air Force (Luftwaffe), Joint Support Service (Streitkräftebasis), and Central Medical Services (Zentraler Sanitätsdienst) branches.
By international agreement, the Bundeswehr may not exceed an active strength of 370,000. The Bundeswehr currently has 247,100 active troops. Of these, 188,112 are professional soldiers, 25,566 18–25-year-old conscripts, who used to serve for at least six months, until conscription was ended in January 2011, and 33,417 volunteer conscripts serving a longer military service. In addition the Bundeswehr has approximately 350,000 reserve personnel.
Women have served in the medical service since 1975. From 1993 to 2000, they were also allowed to serve as enlisted personnel and non-commissioned officers in the medical service and the army bands. In 2000, in a lawsuit brought up by Tanja Kreil, the European Court of Justice issued a ruling allowing women to serve in more roles than previously allowed. Since 2001 they can serve in all functions of service without restriction, but they were not subject to conscription. There are presently around 14,500 women on active duty and a number of female reservists who take part in all duties including peacekeeping missions and other operations. In 1994, Verena von Weymarn became Generalarzt der Luftwaffe ("Surgeon General of the Air Force"), the first woman ever to reach the rank of general in the armed forces of Germany.
Bismarck was the first of two Bismarck-class battleships built for the German Kriegsmarine during World War II. Named after Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the primary force behind the German unification in 1871, the ship was laid down at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg in July 1936 and launched nearly three years later in April 1939. Work was completed in August 1940, when she was commissioned into the German fleet. Along with her sister ship Tirpitz, Bismarck was the largest battleship ever built by Germany, and the heaviest built by any European power.
Bismarck conducted only one offensive operation, codenamed Rheinübung, in May 1941. The ship, along with the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, was to break out into the Atlantic Ocean and raid Allied shipping from North America to Great Britain. The two ships were detected several times off Scandinavia, however, and British naval units were deployed to block their route. At the Battle of Denmark Strait, Bismarck engaged and destroyed the battlecruiser HMS Hood, the pride of the Royal Navy, and forced the battleship HMS Prince of Wales to retreat with heavy damage, although in the end Bismarck herself was hit three times and suffered an oil leak from a ruptured tank following the hits.
The destruction of Hood spurred a relentless pursuit by the Royal Navy with dozens of warships involved. Two days later, while steaming for the relative safety of occupied France, Bismarck was attacked by Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal; one hit was scored that jammed the battleship's steering gear and rendered her unmanoeuvrable. The following morning, Bismarck was destroyed by a pair of British battleships. The cause of her sinking is disputed: some in the Royal Navy claim that torpedoes fired by the cruiser HMS Dorsetshire administered the fatal blow, while German survivors argue that they scuttled the ship. In June 1989, Robert Ballard discovered the location of Bismarck's wreck. Several other expeditions have surveyed the sunken battleship in an effort to document more completely the condition of the ship and to determine the cause of the ship's loss. (Read more)
Albert Speer at the Nuremberg trials, 1946.
Albert Speer, born Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer, (pronounced [ˈʃpeːɐ̯] ( ); March 19, 1905 – September 1, 1981) was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office. As "the Nazi who said sorry", he accepted responsibility at the Nuremberg trials and in his memoirs for crimes of the Nazi regime. His level of involvement in the persecution of the Jews and his level of knowledge of the Holocaust remain matters of dispute.
Speer joined the Nazi Party in 1931, launching him on a political and governmental career which lasted fourteen years. His architectural skills made him increasingly prominent within the Party and he became a member of Hitler's inner circle. Hitler commissioned him to design and construct a number of structures, including the Reich Chancellery and the Zeppelinfeld stadium in Nuremberg where Party rallies were held. Speer also made plans to reconstruct Berlin on a grand scale, with huge buildings, wide boulevards, and a reorganized transportation system.
As Hitler's Minister of Armaments and War Production, Speer was so successful that Germany's war production continued to increase despite massive and devastating Allied bombing. After the war, he was tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the Nazi regime, principally for the use of forced labor. He served his full sentence, most of it at Spandau Prison in West Berlin.
Following his release from Spandau in 1966, Speer published two bestselling autobiographical works, Inside the Third Reich and Spandau: The Secret Diaries, detailing his often close personal relationship with Hitler, and providing readers and historians with a unique perspective on the workings of the Nazi regime. He later wrote a third book, Infiltration, about the SS. Speer died of natural causes in 1981 while on a visit to London, England. (Read more)