The German Army has been accused of unethical recruitment practices, after it placed ads in a teen magazine promising “crazy water battles” and flights “in a real army plane” at its “Adventure Camps” that encourage youngsters to join the army.
The colorful adverts, showing smiling young teens, were published online and in the printed edition of Bravo, Germany’s most popular teen magazine. Under the slogan “Action, Adrenaline Adventure!” the German army, known as the Bundeswehr, is offering paid-for trips to Sardinia and the Alps for underage teens, where they are told about a possible career in the army once they come of age
The reaction has been swift
“This misleading advertisement in youth media violates the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the particular duty a government has to protect children," said Ralf Willinger, a children's rights consultant at Terre des Hommes.
"The armed forces should be limited to recruiting adults, so that they do not attract young people who are easily influenced and can hardly appreciate what an obligation military service and the related foreign missions can entail."
Legally, the Bundeswehr cannot recruit people under the age of 18.
Politicians on the left also lashed out at the campaign, with Agnieszka Brugger of the Green Party, calling it “unacceptable” and lla Jelpke for the Left Party urging Bravo “to concentrate on informing its readers about the horrors of war."
Defending the ads, Ulrich Karsch, director of army recruitment in east Germany, told the Telegraph that as well as “war games”, organizers staged long talks with veteran soldiers, who described their wartime experiences.
"We try to present a realistic picture of the Bundeswehr," insisted Karsch.
The German military has had to resort to heavy advertising following a drop in applicants since conscription was abandoned last year. Previously, most German males had to serve in the army for six months.
Meanwhile, Bravo’s publisher, Bauer, also says it has no plans to pull the ads.
"The army is a part of our democratic society – why shouldn't they be allowed to advertise in Bravo?" asked company spokeswoman Katrin Hienzsch. She went on to add that the army is "an interesting employer that offers training in diverse career fields."