Portland State University. Department of World Languages and Literatures
Term of Graduation
Date of Publication
Master of Arts (M.A.) in German
World Languages and Literatures
Ernst Jünger (1895-1998), World War (1914-1918) -- Fiction -- History and criticism
1 online resource (3, 117 leaves, 28 cm.)
In this thesis an attempt is made to show the impression World War I made on the mind of a young German author. I have tried to interpret his outlook on war and to show how he could arrive at such a seemingly sordid statement as "living is killing". In 1920 a relatively unknown member of the Reichswehr published an account of World War I that soon became a bestseller. The book was In Stahlgewittern, its author Ernst Jünger. It was followed two years later by Der Kampf als inneres Erlebnis. Their common subject was war. The success of the two novels served to catapult Ernst Jünger from being a highly decorated officer of the war, but otherwise widely unknown, into the limelight of fame. It opened the doors for him to the intellectual and literary circles of Germany and later on of Europe. Although the subject of both works specifically pertains to World War I, almost the whole length of which the author had seen on the western front, their scope is much wider. Jünger attempts to show how he sees war in general. To make this clear he deals lengthily with the word of Heraklit of war as the father of all things. At the time that Jünger published these books which show war as a positive experience, the general literary feeling in Europe was still strongly anti-war. Nevertheless he managed not only to voice his opinion, but also to use these works especially as the starting point of an immensely successful and prolific literary career. Even though Ernst Jünger does not deny the horrors and atrocities of war, his books are an apotheosis of the subject. Paradoxically, war to him is the one thing that will serve to perpetuate the human race. This is achieved in a way that is vaguely reminiscent of Darwin's theory of the survival of the fittest. In war a new elite or new "race" is born. Just as war has fathered it, it in turn will be responsible for the following generations. Race, in Jünger's sense, is not a biological term, rather a philosophical experience. To survive, and to create the new man, the soldier has again to be made aware of his past. Only by linking his prehistoric existence with modern man and modern man's accomplishments, will he be able to form this new race. Blood, i.e. instinct rather than reasoning, originality rather than the stifling process of learning, is modern man's only means for survival. Especially with this theory Jünger came dangerously close to the world of ideas of National-Socialism. Even though Jünger was opposed to the crude ideology of the Nazis, he did little to defend his works against their use and exploitation. This, as well as his own ideas about war, has made him one of the most controversial German writers of the twentieth century.
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Schroeder-Sherwin, Sabine, "Leben heisst Töten; die Kriegsdeutung Ernst Jüngers dargestellt an In Stahlgewittern und Der Kampf als inneres Erlebnis" (1972). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 951.