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Rocks off

March 10, 2011

Pomp and ceremony accompanied Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg's military farewell from office. The former defense minister resigned last week amid accusations that he plagiarized his doctoral thesis.

Former defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (center), Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere (left), Major General Werner Freers (right)
Guttenberg said resigning was the most difficult decision of his lifeImage: dapd

Outgoing German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg officially left his post on Thursday with a grand military tattoo in Berlin. Guttenberg chose the song 'Smoke on the Water' by Deep Purple as the theme for his formal send-off by Germany's military brass band.

"It's a painful farewell," Guttenberg said shortly before the ceremony, ending his speech with: "God bless the Bundeswehr, I'm signing off."

The military tattoo is the traditional farewell ceremony for German presidents, chancellors and defense ministers.

Departing German leaders are allowed to select the music for the ceremony to send them off - 'Time to Say Goodbye' is a favorite, while former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder chose Frank Sinatra's 'My Way.'

Guttenberg resigned from office on March 1 amid allegations he plagiarized his doctoral thesis.

The 39-year-old, a Bavarian baron, has created headlines since rocketing onto Berlin's political scene as economics minister in 2009. He remains one of Germany's most-liked politicians.

Pomp and ceremony

Guttenberg's tattoo was broadcast live on national TV and was attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has supported him through the plagiarism scandal.

"Guttenberg opened the door to the greatest reform of the Bundeswehr in history," Merkel said, referring to the indefinite suspension of compulsory military service he introduced.

"What you achieved in office will outlast the most recent impression," said Thomas de Maiziere, who takes over the Defense Ministry and stood at Guttenberg's right side throughout the ceremony.

"We shouldn't act as though we're faultless ourselves," de Maiziere added.

soldiers holding flaming torches
The ceremony was broadcast live on German TVImage: dapd

In a ceremony that is almost 200 years old, uniformed soldiers marched to Beethoven's March for Military Band No. 1 in F major, holding flickering torches.

The former defense minister looked saddened, but his face momentarily lit up with a smile when the band played his song request, 'Smoke on the Water'.

He left in a cavalcade to the applause of the 400 invited members of the audience.

After almost eight years in politics, Guttenberg says he intends to write his memoirs.

"It's my own thoughts that I'll be writing down," he said.

Author: Natalia Dannenberg (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Rob Turner