Ernst Junger

Ernst Junger

Ernst Jünger, the son of a wealthy chemist, was born in Heidelburg, Germany, on 29th March, 1895. At the age of seventeen he ran away from home to join the Foreign Legion. His father brought him back but he returned to military service when he joined the German Army on the outbreak of the First World War.

Jünger fought on the Western Front and was wounded at Les Epares in 1915. He recovered and in November he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. After the Battle of the Somme Jünger was awarded the Iron Cross and is transferred to Divisional Intelligence as a reconnaissance officer.

In 1917 Jünger fought at Cambrai and later that year is wounded while leading an attack on French trenches. After recovering from his injuries he took part in the Spring Offensive. After leading another attack, for which he won the Pour le Merite, he was seriously wounded, he spent the rest of the war in a military hospital.

In 1920 Jünger published his first book, The Storm of Steel. Its glorification of war made it a popular with Germany's young people who dreamed of gaining revenge after the country's disastrous defeat in 1918.

Jünger studied zoology, geology and botany before becoming a full-time writer. His books included Das Abenteurliche Herz (1929) and Der Arbeiter (1932).

His work was very popular with members of the Nazi Party and after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 he was offered a seat in the Reichstag. Although he supported the party he refused the offer and concentrated on his writing. His later books included and Blatter und Steine (1934) and On the Marble Cliffs (1939).

Jünger joined the German Army on the outbreak of the Second World War and served on the staff of the military command in occupied France where he was involved in the planning of Operation Sealion. In 1942 was transferred to the Soviet Union.

Jünger became increasingly critical of the atrocities committed by the Schutz Staffeinel (SS) in occupied Europe and was dismissed from the army after the July Plot. His son, who was also in the army, was arrested for organizing subversive discussions in his unit. After being found guilty he was sent to a punishment battalion and was killed in Carrara in Italy in November, 1944.

His criticisms of Adolf Hitler and his totalitarian system, appeared in his book The Peace (1948). His war diaries, Strahlungen (1949) were also critical of Nazi Germany. Jünger also published the novels Heliopolis (1949), Die Eberjagd (1952), Besuch auf Goldenholm (1952), Zie Zwille (1973) and Eumeswil (1977). Ernst Jünger died on 17th February, 1998.

Primary Sources

(1) Ernst Jünger, The Storm of Steel (1919)

Left of us was the great railway embankment in the line Ecoust-Croisilles, which we had to cross, rose out of the mist. From loopholes and dugout windows built into the side of it rifles and machine-guns were rattling merrily. I strode on in a fury over the black and torn-up ground, from which rose the suffocating gas of our shells. I was entirely alone.

Then I caught sight of the first of the enemy. A figure crouched, wounded apparently, three metres in front of me in the middle of the pounded hollow of the road. I saw him start at the sight of me and stare at me with wide-open eyes as I walked slowly up to him holding out my revolver in front of me. A drama without an audience was ready. To me the mere sight of an enemy in tangible form was a release. Grinding my teeth, I pressed the muzzle to the temple of this wretch, whom terror had now crippled, and with my other hand gripped hold of my tunic. With a beseeching cry he snatched a photograph from his pocket and held it before my eyes... himself, surrounded by a numerous family. I forced down my mad rage and walked past.

(2) Ernst Jünger, The Storm of Steel (1919)

Now I looked back: four years of development in the midst of a generation predestined to death, spent in caves, smoke-filled trenches, and shell-illuminated wastes; years enlivened only by the pleasures of mercenary, and nights of guard after guard in an endless perspective; in short, a monotonous calendar full of hardships and privation, divided by the red-letter days of battles.

Hardened as scarcely another generation ever was in fire and flame, we could go into life as though from the anvil; into friendship, love, politics, professions, into all that destiny had in store. It is not every generation that is so favoured.