Suspended in 2011 by a parliamentary decision. It remains in the constitution and it can be reintroduced at any time.

  Conscientious objection:


First recognised in principle in the Grundgesetz “Basic Law” of the Federal Republic of Germany, Art. 4. The first provisions in the German Democratic Republic dated from 1964.









Minimum age




No conscription

Voluntary enlistment:


Under 18: 17

More including the reply of the Federal Ministry of Defense Citizens' Dialogue Team to the Questionnaire about EBCO’s Annual Report 2021 (e-mail on 17/12/2021).

According to the reply of the Federal Ministry of Defence of Germany to the Questionnaire about EBCO’s Annual Report 2020 (e-mail on 11/01/2021):

The legal obligation to perform basic military service outside of a state of tension or defence was suspended on 1 July 2011. This is laid down in Section 2 of the Compulsory Military Service Act (Wehrpflichtgesetz).

Section 27 of the Legal Status of Military Personnel Act (Soldatengesetz) in conjunction with Sections 8 (1) no. 1, 11 (1) no. 1, 15 (1) no. 1 and 23 (1) no. 1 of the Military Career Regulation (Soldatenlaufbahnverordnung) provides that the minimum age for entering the armed forces is 17. In a state of tension or defence, all men who have reached the age of 18 can be conscripted in line with Article 12a of the German constitution (Grundgesetz). Conscripts willing to start military service earlier can do so upon request in accordance with Section 5 (2), second sentence of the Compulsory Military Service Act, provided they have reached the age of 17.

The German army is still recruiting 17-year-old voluntary soldiers. The campaign „Never under 18” started in 2019. It’s a large alliance, for the moment a 3-year project.[1]

In 2019 1.706 17-year-old recruits enrolled in the army, the ratio of underage soldiers represented 8,5 % of the total number of commencements of duties (compared to 8,4 % in 2018).[2] Strikingly there has always been a significant number of underage recruits who quit the army during their 6 months long probationary period (usually at their own request).[3]

A graphic novel about CO has been published recently:

Conscientious objectors who are recognized during their contract period of serving as professional soldier regularly meet particular financial problems.

After leaving the army, recruits have to pay back their training costs, in so far as these are useful in civilian life. The army can insist that this is done as a lump sum, rather than in staged payments. In this context a judgement has been pronounced in September 2019 by the administrative court of Halle/Saale [4]: The court ruled that the army had been overstating the repayments legally due. The maximum repayment required is the amount fixed by the federal law concerning the promotion of education and training, that students, pupils and trainees can apply for (in 2019: 853€ per month). There is more legal certainty now for conscientious objectors and those who are thinking about objecting while being a professional soldier.

In 2019 126 requests for discharge on grounds of conscience were put forward. Only 25 were approved in first instance, some are still in process. In 2019, 27 recognized conscientious objectors have been dismissed officially from the army. It has to be considered that the process of CO takes a lot of time, sometimes even years. [5]

No new developments have been reported regarding serving members of armed forces who develop conscientious objections. Following the advisory opinion of the European Court of Justice delivered in February 2015, the asylum case of former US Servicemen André Shepherd is still pending before the German Appeals Court.


[2] Annual Report 2019 of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces p. 32

[3] Concerning the last published figures see Bundestag paper 19/3965 of 24/08/2018

[4] Verwaltungsgericht Halle/Saale: Judgement 5 A 621/17 HA of 24/09/2019