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Germany

Unemployed Soon to Train with Military?

The German minister of defense has floated the idea of putting the jobless to work as extras in military exercises. The conservative opposition has criticized the plan; no word yet what real out-of-work actors think.

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Lie down, stay low, roll in pain: extras during military training

Military re-enactments are definitely en vogue these days. The British celebrated the Battle of Trafalgar bicentennial with a spectacular mock sea-battle involving 17 historic ships from five countries and illuminated by thousands of firework explosions.

It was a recreation worthy of any Hollywood studio. Now the German military also wants to get in on the act, or at least the acting, in a way.

Soldiers are bad actors

Porträt, Peter Struck Bundesverteidigungsminister

German Minister of Defence, Peter Struck brings innovative ideas to the German army

During a recent visit to a military training camp, German defense minister Peter Struck came up with a novel way to fight Germany's high unemployment.

After he found out that the person performing the role of a Kosovo truck driver during the training was, in fact, a German soldier, the minister suggested that in future exercises, the acting jobs should be given to the unemployed.

A spokesperson for the German Ministry of Defense said there were several benefits to be had. The plan would both save the army some cash and it would do some good for the German labor market.

Even when they simply pose as the enemy, soldiers remain soldiers and need to be paid accordingly, which is more than the unemployed would have to be paid. Having a whole battalion hide in the bushes or run around pretending to be panicking villagers is apparently a rather expensive performance.

All of a sudden, the phrase theater of war is beginning to make sense.

The audience? Not amused

Although some may view this project as cost saving, socially engaged and artistically ambitious, it hasn't been enthusiastically received outside of army circles. The Unemployed Union of the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania, for instance, rejected the proposal as discriminatory.

"I hope that the minister didn't want to make fun of the unemployed," said Urlich Adam, member of the German parliament from the opposition Christian Democrats, who are now asking for a clarification.

Soldaten, Stiefel, Marschieren, Bundeswehr, Rekrut

Military boots are not only for soldiers

It is still unclear how many of the almost five million unemployed that Germany has could be hired by the German army, but mass scenes during a single training exercise require up to 400 people.

"The job market for acting demonstrator is quite limited," said Horst Schmitt, a spokesperson for the German Employment Agency. "We want to turn the unemployed into qualified workers."

And the Oscar goes to...

Yet with the country's high unemployment rate, German army casting could potentially become extremely competitive. One wonders if the employment agencies would then have to introduce acting classes or special workshops for those wishing to pursue an acting career in the military. Perhaps master classes in how to pass for a wounded Bosnian refugee, or how to imitate a Chechen rebel?

There is no business like show business.

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