COLOGNE — IT'S hard to say why," says Bjorn Preusser, talking about the reason he chose civil service over military service. Part of it, he says, was personal. "I wanted to stay close to home and not get sent off somewhere far away."
Part of it was the way he was brought up. "Ever since I was a kid, I heard my mother say, 'I didn't bring children into this world to have them used as cannon fodder.' "
Since October, Mr. Preusser, has spent most of his time at the side of Emil-Peter Muller in Mr. Muller's wheelchair-adapted apartment in Cologne.
Despite Muller's inability to use his arms or legs, he still leads a professional work life as a political analyst - thanks to the help of people like Preusser.
Preusser's day usually begins with getting Muller out of bed, helping him wash up, brewing the morning coffee, and wheeling him over to his big desk to start work.
The two get along well. Muller likes the fact that Preusser is not a highly efficient professional who shies away from meaningful, hearty conversation.
Preusser likes helping Muller with his work and is glad he doesn't have to entertain him.
Not all of the 22-year-old's jobs during his civil service have been as good as this one, says Preusser, who wears a wispy pony tail part way down his back.
One job he disliked was aiding a handicapped person 24-hours a day, three days a week.
"When I first started my service, I felt like a real helper ... until later I found that some people used me like a slave."
Many colleagues, says Preusser, share this feeling.
Preusser says he could have taken one of the easier jobs available to civil servants.
"Everyone," he says, knows which nonprofit groups offer the 20-hour-a-week jobs.
But he opted for one of the more demanding ones.
"I wanted to help handicapped people lead a normal life."