In a vote that could put German troops in combat for the first time since World War II, Parliament voted Friday to send fighter jets to fly cover in Bosnia.
The decision, a significant shift in foreign policy, grew out of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's conviction that Germany cannot keep using its Nazi past as a pretext for not helping its allies.
"Our friends and allies must know that the federal government does not give mere lip service to Germany's larger responsibilities since reunification," Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel told Parliament.
Lawmakers voted 386-258 to send eight ECR-Tornado jets and 1,000 troops and support staff to Italy, and 500 medics to Croatia to set up a field hospital. They should be in place by August.
Although specific tasks for the Tornado jets have not been made clear, they would be suited to finding anti-aircraft positions and knocking them out.
Social Democrat Rudolf Scharping, leader of the main opposition party, accused Kohl of breaking a promise that, because of still-vivid memories of Nazi atrocities in the Balkans, German soldiers would not be sent there.
"The German past still lives in the heads of Bosnian Serb soldiers," Scharping said. "We should do nothing that would give a boost to Serb propaganda."
Although small numbers of German troops have helped support multinational peacekeeping operations over the past four years, Germany _ and West Germany before it _ had maintained a scrupulously non-interventionist foreign policy for half a century.
Memorial criticized: Germany's planned Holocaust memorial is too big, a government spokesman said Friday.
A panel appointed by Berlin officials picked a design of a sloping, charcoal-colored slab of concrete _ the size of of three football fields _ bearing the names of 4.2-million slaughtered Jews.
A government spokesman said that "various Jewish groups have expressed their doubts, saying it's too gigantic, too big, and the government shares these doubts."
He said the government was not withdrawing funding, "but there must be more discussions with a view to achieving a broad consensus."