Military tattoo held to bid farewell to President Gauck

Berlin, 17 March 2017

A military tattoo was held in the park of Schloss Bellevue on Friday evening to mark President Joachim Gauck’s departure from office.

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The ceremony took place in the presence of Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, Bundeswehr Chief of Defence General Volker Wieker, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, Governing Mayor of Berlin Michael Müller and former German President Horst Köhler. Chancellor Merkel, who had intended to take part in the event, could not attend due to her trip to Washington.

Around 600 guests were there, including various representatives of Germany’s constitutional bodies and the diplomatic corps as well as friends and family of the outgoing President. As requested by Gauck personally, 300 representatives of the voluntary sector had also been invited. The assembled guests sent off Gauck and his partner, Daniela Schadt, with thunderous applause.

The highest form of military honours

In holding this military tattoo for the outgoing Federal President, Germany accorded him its highest form of military honours. The President’s limousine was accompanied by an escort of seven Military Police motorcycles, the largest formation allowed for in ceremonial protocol. In front of the imposing backdrop of Schloss Bellevue, the Bundeswehr band and the Federal Ministry of Defence Guard Battalion performed the tattoo by the light of burning torches.

Gauck had personally selected three tunes for the programme. The band played the traditional German ode to freedom, “Freiheit, die ich meine”, the rock ballad “Über sieben Brücken musst du geh’n” by Karat and the hymn “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” with words by Martin Luther – tying in with the ongoing commemorative Luther Year.

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Steinmeier takes the reins

Gauck has a close bond with the Bundeswehr. He visited various parts of it numerous times during his tenure, including the Command and Staff College in Hamburg, the German-Netherlands Corps in Münster and the Grove of Remembrance near Potsdam. He also visited soldiers on missions abroad, such as in Afghanistan, Mali and Turkey.

Joachim Gauck’s presidency ends at precisely midnight on Saturday, 18 March. One minute later, on Sunday, 19 March, his elected successor to the office of Federal President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, will take the reins.

A moving moment for the soldiers too

The military tattoo held for Joachim Gauck was a moving moment, not only for the President himself but also for the servicemen and -women of the Bundeswehr.

The Bundeswehr press unit spoke before the ceremony to members of the Military Police, the Bundeswehr band and the Federal Ministry of Defence Guard Battalion who were on duty during the military tattoo.

They remembered the words Gauck had said to them recently, during his final visit to the Julius Leber barracks in Berlin: “You have my respect and my gratitude. I am proud of you.”

This is the translation of an article by Jörg Fleischer published on