Pflicht means duty, obligation, liability, responsibility. Pflicht in Germany is a serious matter. Germans have a high level of Pflichtbewußtsein, literally duty-consciousness. Once they have made a commitment Germans feel obligated to meet it 100%. A Pflicht is like a contract.
Eigentum verpflichtet. With property come obligations. Adel verpflichtet. With nobility (gentry, wealth) come obligations. Wehrpflicht. Duty to serve in the armed forces. Rechte und Pflichten. Rights and obligations. Sich aus der Pflicht stehlen. To steal yourself out of responsibility. Jemanden in die Pflicht nehmen. To obligate someone. Pflichtfächer in Schule und Studium. Required courses in high school and university. Seine Pflicht verletzen. To breach your responsibility.
To be obligated. Rechte (rights) are things which are permitted. Pflichten (duties, obligations) are things which must be done. A German chancellor has not only Richtlinienkompetenz, literally guiding rules of authority or policy direction, she is also responsible for executing those policies.
German companies are not only obligated to pay their taxes. The automobile and chemical industries, for example, feel obligated to abide by voluntary environmental standards.
Employees obligate themselves legally to perform their work duties. Pupils and students obligate themselves to complete required courses and be tested in them.
Those professions which are viewed as important role models, such as medical physicians, civil servants and educators, have even a higher level of duty consciousness. Breaking their obligations is a sign not only of professional failure. It would damage their reputation.
For once you have obligated yourself, you cannot go back. Pflichtbewußtsein – duty consciousness – is the only way out.