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Germany debates ending the draft

Germans worry about a depletion in public services if military conscription ends.

“We are assuming that will happen,” a spokeswoman for the German Red Cross said.

And when it does, she said, the humanitarian organization could lose 9,000 volunteers. That’s how many would-be soldiers worked for the Red Cross last year.

Hartmann said he hopes that if the required service program ends, the German government will replace it with something else to encourage young people to volunteer.

“This is not just about getting rid of the draft,” Janes said. “It’s about restoring and strengthening the appeal of public service. A lot of these kids sincerely want to do something they think is worthwhile, but it has to be made popular.”

An all-volunteer civil service could attract just as many workers as the current program does, Janes said. Young men who claim a moral objection to the service for fear of getting entangled in the military, might willingly agree to spend a few months volunteering were the threat of a uniform and a gun no longer part of the picture.

Schahin Saket, 19, was eager for a shot at a spot with the European Union, where he could have worked in a mail room or even traveled abroad to work on a foreign development project (it is possible to apply for such a position through Germany’s civil service program). But he wanted to make sure he didn’t wind up in the military. When he went in for medical exam that would determine his fitness for military service, he told the doctor that he suffered from epilepsy as a child. He hasn’t had a seizure in years.

“But I can’t for sure say it won’t ever happen again,” he said. “I didn’t lie.”

The admission did more than get Saket out of military service; it excused him from any obligation to serve his country. Saket escaped not only the military, but also an opportunity to lend a hand to those in need.

“Now I regret my decision,” he said. “I really wish I had done something.”