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Germany

Berlin Rejects Military's Request for Outdoor Ceremony

The city of Berlin has stymied plans by the German armed forces to commemorate a brave but unsuccessful 1944 attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The city said the ceremony would detract from the public space.

Teenager does a cartwheel on the grass in front of the German parliament building

Berlin has the final say on the use of its green areas

The Defense Ministry said that it was "greatly upset" at the rebuff.

Each year, the Defense Ministry honors the bomb plot by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg as a exemplary initiative by an army officer. As part of the annual remembrance, the armed forces had planned to swear in hundreds of recruits by torchlight on the lawn in front of the Reichstag parliament building on July 20.

But as it happens, the lawn does not belong to parliament but to the municipality of Berlin.

Friction between city and military

Co-existence between the military and the city's leftists and pacifists is often uncomfortable. Military parades on the streets are rare, and protesters even disrupt swearing-in parades on army land.

The city is ruled by a coalition of Social Democrats and the Left Party.

In a letter dated June 18 but made public on Monday, July 8, the streets and parks department refused a permit for the forces to march on the lawn, where tourists and residents often picnic and Euro 2008 crowds recently cheered football games on big screens.

Not an "events space"

The bureaucrats said they could only permit assemblies on the lawn if they were of "overwhelming public interest," adding that the swearing-in was of "general public interest" but did not necessarily have to take place there.

They added that letting anybody use the lawn would turn it into an "events space" and detract from its meaning for "German democracy."

The application to use the lawn had been explicitly supported by the speaker of the parliament, Norbert Lammert.

"We're greatly upset that a parks department takes it upon itself to decide on the dignity of this space," said an army spokesman.

The July 20, 1944 assassination plot is the subject of a film starring Tom Cruise which was shot last year but has not yet been released.

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