The “Forest of Remembrance” memorial near Potsdam is intended to commemorate deceased Bundeswehr soldiers – and could be a good place for civilians and soldiers to get closer. But the exchange is complicated.

At the edge of a quiet forest in Brandenburg, on a metal stand, lies a black leather guest book. Sergeant Stephan Gorn put it there after he stepped out of the officers’ lounge, pulled his beret over his forehead, and trudged over the grass and daisies in heavy boots. Now he is standing in front of a covered stone corridor, the inner walls are hung with display boards. The sun tickles, the birds sing, and Gorn greets the guests to show who has died again today.

The guests are: a lieutenant colonel in gray dress uniform with 16 men and one woman. All from the Bundeswehr.