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Germany

German Recruits Sworn in on Anniversary of Bid to Kill Hitler

Some 500 recruits were inducted into the German armed forces on Sunday at a swearing-in ceremony held on the 64th anniversary of a failed attempt to kill Adolf Hitler.

German soldiers arrive at the Reichstag to take part in an oath-taking of 500 soldiers of the German Bundeswehr in front of the Reichstag in Berlin on July 20, 2008, commemorating the 64th anniversary of the failed assault on Nazi leader Adolf Hitler from July 20, 1944.

The event had been overshadowed by controversy

With some 1,800 police keeping anti-war protesters at bay, the Bundeswehr soldiers affirmed their loyalty to the German constitution in front of the Reichstag parliament building in the center of Berlin.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier were among those present at the evening ceremony, the first of its kind to take place at the Reichstag.

Previous induction ceremonies were held in the courtyard of the defense ministry, where the Hitler plotters led by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg were executed by firing squad.

In his address to the recruits, Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung praised the courage of the men who took part in the assassination attempt on July 20, 1944.

"July 20, 1944 was a rebellion of conscience and an act of liberation," Jung said, calling Sunday's ceremony "a historic day."

Earlier, German politicians placed wreaths at the spot where von Stauffenberg and three of his co-conspirators were executed as descendents of the dead men and senior military officers looked on.

The plotters placed a bomb near Hitler's knees at the Nazi dictator's Wolf's Lair headquarters in what is now Poland. Hitler survived the blast with cuts.

Protest

A movie about the assassination, called "Valkyrie" and starring Tom Cruise as von Stauffenberg, has just been completed and is due in cinemas early 2009.

Around 200 pacifists unfurled banners and shouted anti-war slogans as the recruits swore their oaths, but were kept out of sight of the ceremony and did not cause any disruption.

Some protesters criticized the swearing-in and the large police presence surrounding it as an indication of "the creeping militarization of society."

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