I've read that Germany's conscription policy must've been gotten rid of as of 2011, but was it? If someone, born before 2011 in Germany, left the country before their age of conscription, when they attempted to return to the country would they be held to those whatever amount of months they had avoided serving before?

I'd rather not have to deal with the process if there is still one in place for those of German birth having to serve, if that's the case I'd avoid the country, I just grew up being told I couldn't return without serving by my relatives and I thought I'd ask if there was any actual meaning behind their words. And I would love to return to my place of birth, but not at the price of leaving my friends and family to serve for a country that I've avoided my entire life.

I'd really like to return to Germany. Hopefully this whole returning to conscription ordeal is false.

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    What year did you leave and how hold where you at the time ?
    – Hilmar
    Nov 6, 2020 at 21:35
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    I'd rather not disclose to much information. I left around the early 70's. And I was only maybe 5 at the time. I could possibly ask a sibling of mine and hope to get the specifics. Sadly I can't quite confer with my parents about the specifics, they've all passed. There's definitely record somewhere though. Do these variables change the fact. It's not like I was a fully grown deserter, if that's even the case.
    – OsTeNg24
    Nov 6, 2020 at 21:39
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    Has anything like this ever happened in Germany? Didn't people back in the 70s people move to West Berlin to avoid their service? No issue, at all. Nov 7, 2020 at 0:23
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    @BernhardDöbler the OP, being that much fearful of conscription, is quite probably from East Germany. Not sure about DDR in particular, but in other USSR-influenced countries - yes, quite unpleasant things happened for those who avoided conscription. And, it was rather hard to get in West Berlin from the East.
    – fraxinus
    Nov 7, 2020 at 0:52
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    Even though I'm quite certain that Hilmars answer is correct as they've also not conscripted my Dad who ditched the first two rounds with University here and then was simply ignored, I would simply write the German embassy in your country an email to confirm that you will not be drafted. More for your own peace of mind probably, but it costs 0 to ask them
    – Hobbamok
    Nov 8, 2020 at 16:18

4 Answers 4


I found this snippet from 2005: https://www.yumpu.com/de/document/read/32644844/wer-ist-wehrpflichtig-sind-auch-deutsche-im-ausland-vereinbiz

This states that the draft is "suspended" if you live permanently abroad (and you or your parents make all their money abroad). According to this document, you have done nothing illegal since you weren't subject to the draft. The draft would resume when you return to Germany, but since it's been discontinued that's a moot point.

In any case you are way to old to serve (no offense). Retirement age for non-officers is 55. If you want to make sure you can just contact your local consulate or embassy. They are often quite helpful.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not a lawyer and don't pretend to be one. If in doubt, get real legal advice from a certified professional.

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    Ah yes that is what I figured. I decided I'd ask somewhere before contacting anyone and starting any trouble. So it's safe to assume those "don't return to Germany unless you plan to serve" warnings I'd received must've been right then. I won't lie, I figured I'd be past the serving age anyway, I'm not that old, but I feared more for my children if I intended on bringing them with me. Though I am quite excited to get back there anyway. Just a little paranoia plaguing my mind is all. +1
    – OsTeNg24
    Nov 6, 2020 at 21:52
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    Since you were not a resident of Germany between the age of 17 to 28, you were never eligible to be registered for the draft (Wehrerfassung). You could have visited Germany at any time during this period. Had you moved back (permanent resident) to Germany between the ages of 17 to 28, then you would have become eligible for registration with the possibility of actually being conscripted. Nov 7, 2020 at 6:12

While the other answers raise some interesting points, most of them are more of a historical or theoretical relevance. The thing that really matters in your situation is rather more simple:

Germany has abolished conscription in 2011 for all intents and purposes that might matter to you.

It's true that the constitution still has the language in there, but reinstating the actual practice would be a major political decision taking at least weeks to months, not something that could suddenly happen next Tuesday. This applies regardless of your past situation: There just isn't any infrastructure for drafting people; even the law regulating the details of conscription now states that it isn't in effect unless Germany is under attack.

I also wouldn't worry much about any kinds of fines for dodging conscription; Germany has statutes of limitations even for almost all crimes (short of murder) that would long have expired since the 70s. In case you were actually already sentenced or asked to pay any large fine back then you might want to speak to a lawyer though.

(I'm not a lawyer and none of this constitutes legal advice)

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    More importantly, and the reason why it was abolished in the first place: it doesn't make sense. Today's wars are fought by highly-specialized units that require years of training. We don't send 1 million untrained foot soldiers into battle, we send 100 that have 10000 hours of training. Even if the Bundeswehr wanted to draft the OP, they would have no idea what to do with him. The fundamental idea behind a conscript "army of the people for the people" is great, but it doesn't work with the reality of modern networked 6-domain warfare anymore. Nov 8, 2020 at 17:35
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    @JörgWMittag: There are of course many countries in the world that feel differently about that, including for instance Germany's neighbors Austria, Denmark and Switzerland. And conscripts could serve many valuable non-combat roles that require less training. Nov 8, 2020 at 20:36
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    @JörgWMittag: And another neighbor (The Netherlands) just sent draft letters to a large group of 18 year old women. Like Germany, that's just a paper exercise now, but the law is definitely still there in many countries.
    – MSalters
    Nov 9, 2020 at 12:53

To add to Hilmar's answer:

  • In the 1970s there were two Germanies, the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany. I'll assume that you left the FRG since leaving the communist GDR was a tad difficult. I'm not a lawyer, but I cannot imagine that anyone would try to apply or enforce GDR laws retroactively, the GDR is gone.
  • You won't be drafted, period. The draft being suspended in the FRG means that it won't take a constitutional change to reintroduce it; the constitution still states that men can be drafted, but the laws and regulations to actually do that are no longer in effect.
  • If you had been 17 years old when you left the FRG, you would have had to arrange for the suspension of your duty or you might have been denied the permission to emigrate. If you had come back aged twenty or so, your duty would have been reinstated. (That's a different thing from suspending the entire draft system, which is the situation today.)
  • Living permanently abroad means that your duty to serve would have been suspended as above.
  • Serving in a foreign army might have fulfilled your draft duty if you were drafted. If you volunteered, it might have voided your citizenship.
  • 1
    From the question and comment I get the impression OP left the GDR, as those who left the FDR had no problems visiting after leaving and there was less reason to be afraid to come back to the country.
    – Willeke
    Nov 7, 2020 at 10:49
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    @Willeke, he might also have gotten information on other countries (Turkey and IIRC South Korea) mixed up.
    – o.m.
    Nov 7, 2020 at 10:58

I'm a german citizen since birth, even though I was born abroad and only came to germany for the first time when I was 20 years old in 2012. I've stayed, studied and worked in germany since then. My country of birth has numeral citizens of german origin, so this topic has and had quite some relevance for me. So I can tell you from personal experience that you have nothing to worry about. Neither I nor any of those I know in a similar situation who came to germany after me in the subsequent years (after the 2011 abolishment of consription) were ever summoned to a military medical inspection.

  • Not sure what you meant "numeral" ? would "many" be a better word ? Or "multiple" ?
    – Criggie
    Nov 9, 2020 at 20:40

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