Jünger, Ernst, born 29-03-1895 in beautiful Heidelberg as the eldest of six children of the successful chemical engineer Ernst Georg Jünger (1868–1943) and of Karoline Lampl (1873–1950). Two of his siblings died as infants. His father acquired some wealth in potash mining. He went to school in Hannover from 1901 to 1905, and during 1905 to 1907 to boarding schools in Hanover and Brunswick. He rejoined his family in 1907, in Rehburg, and went to school in Wunstorf with his siblings from 1907 to 1912. During this time, he developed his passion for adventure novels and for entomology. He spent some time as an exchange student in Buironfosse, Saint-Quentin, France, in September 1909. With his younger brother Friedrich Georg Jünger (1898–1977) he joined the Wandervogel movement in 1911. His first poem was published with the Gaublatt für Hannoverland in November 1911. By this time, Jünger had a reputation as a budding bohemian poet.
In 1913, Jünger was a student at the Hamelin gymnasium. In November, he travelled to Verdun and enlisted in the French Foreign Legion for five years. Stationed in a training camp at Sidi Bel Abbès, Algeria, he deserted and travelled to Morocco, but was captured and returned to camp. Six weeks later, he was dismissed from the Legion due to the intervention of the German Foreign Office, at the request of his father, on the grounds of being a minor. Jünger was now sent to a boarding school in Hanover, where he was seated next to the future communist leader Werner Scholem (1895–1940).
On 01-08-1914, shortly after the start of World War I, Jünger volunteered with the 73rd Infantry Regiment Albrecht von Preussen of the Hannoverian 19th Division and after training was transported to the Champagne front in December. He was wounded for the first time in April 1915. During convalescence, he decided to enlist as an officer aspirant (Fahnenjunker), and he was promoted to Leutenant on 27-11-1915. As platoon leader, he gained a reputation for his combat exploits and initiative in offensive patrolling and reconnaissance
Near the obliterated remains of the village of Guillemont his platoon took up a front line position in a defile that had been shelled until it consisted of little more than a dip strewn with the rotting corpses of predecessors. He wrote:
As the storm raged around us, I walked up and down my sector. The men had fixed bayonets. They stood stony and motionless, rifle in hand, on the front edge of the dip, gazing into the field. Now and then, by the light of a flare, I saw steel helmet by steel helmet, blade by glinting blade, and I was overcome by a feeling of invulnerability. We might be crushed, but surely we could not be conquered.The platoon was relieved but Jünger was wounded by shrapnel in the rest area of Combles and hospitalized; his platoon reoccupied the position on the eve of the Battle of Guillemont and was obliterated in a British offensive. He was wounded for the third time in November 1916, and awarded the Iron Cross First Class in January 1917.
In the spring of 1917, he was promoted to command of 7th company and stationed at Cambrai. Transferred to Langemarck in July, Jünger’s actions against the advancing British included forcing retreating soldiers to join his resistance line at gunpoint. He arranged the evacuation of his brother Friedrich Georg, who had been wounded. In the Battle of Cambrai (1917) Jünger sustained two wounds, by a bullet passing through his helmet at the back of the head, and another by a shell fragment on the forehead.
He was awarded the House Order of Hohenzollern. While advancing to take up positions just before Ludendorff’s Operation Michael on 19-03-1918, Jünger
was forced to call a halt after the guides lost their way, and while bunched together half of his company were lost to a direct hit from artillery. Jünger himself survived, and led the survivors as part of a successful advance but was wounded twice towards the end of the action, being shot in the chest and less seriously across the head. After convalescing, he returned to his regiment in June, sharing a widespread feeling that the tide had now turned against Germany and victory was impossible.
On 25 August, he was wounded for the seventh and final time near Favreuil, being shot through the chest while leading his company in an advance that was quickly overwhelmed by a British counter-attack. Becoming aware the position he was lying in was falling, Jünger rose, and as his lung drained of the blood spurting through the wound, recovered enough to escape in the confused situation. He made his way to a machine-gun post that was holding out, where a doctor told him to lie down immediately. Carried to the rear in a tarpaulin, he and the bearers came under fire, and the doctor was killed. A soldier who tried to carry Jünger on his shoulders was killed after a few yards, but another took his place.
Jünger received the Wound Badge 1st Class. While he was treated in a Hanover hospital, on 22 September he received notice of being awarded the Pour le Mérite on the recommendation of division commander Johannes von Busse. Pour le Mérite, the highest military decoration of the German Empire, was awarded some 700 times during the war, but almost exclusively to high-ranking officers (and seventy times to combat pilots); Jünger was one of only eleven infantry company leaders receiving the order.
Throughout the war, Jünger kept a diary, which would become the basis of his 1920 Storm of Steel. He spent his free time reading the works of Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Ariosto and Kubin, besides entomological journals he was sent from home. During 1917, he was collecting beetles in the trenches and while on patrol, 149 specimens between 2 January and 27 July, which he listed under the title of “Coleopterological fauna of the Douchy region”.
Jünger served as a ieutnant in the army of the Weimar Republic until his demobilisation in 1923. He studied marine biology, zoology, botany, and philosophy, and became a well-known entomologist. In Germany, an important entomological prize is named after him: the Ernst-Jünger-Preis für Entomologie. He married Gretha von Jeinsen (1906–60) in 1925. They had two children, Ernst Jr. (1926–44) and Alexander (1934–93).
As a famous war hero and prominent nationalist critic of the Weimar Republic, the ascendant Nazi Party (NSDAP) courted Jünger as a natural ally, but Jünger rejected such advances. When Jünger moved to Berlin in 1927, he rejected an offer of a seat in the Reichstag for the NSDAP. In 1930, he openly denounced Hitler’s suppression of the Rural People’s Movement. In the 22-10-1932 edition of Völkischer Beobachter , the article “Das endlose dialektische Gespräch” (“the never-ending dialectical debate”) attacked Jünger for his rejection of the “blood and soil” doctrine, accusing him of being an “intellectualist” and a liberal. Jünger again refused a seat offered to him in the Reichstag following the Nazi Party’s ascension to power in January 1933, and he refused the invitation to head the German Academy of Literature.
On 14–06-1934, Jünger wrote a “letter of rejection” to the Völkischer Beobachter, the official Nazi newspaper, in which he requested that none of his writings be published in it. Jünger also refused to speak on Joseph Goebbels‘s radio. He was one of the few “nationalist” authors whose names were never found on the frequent declarations of loyalty to Hitler. He and his brother Friedrich Georg quit the “Traditionsverein der 73er” (veteran’s organization of the Hanoverian regiment they had served during World War I) when its Jewish members were expelled.
When Jünger left Berlin in 1933, his house was searched several times by the Gestapo. On the Marble Cliffs (1939, German title: Auf den Marmorklippen), a short novel in the form of a parable, uses metaphor to describe Jünger’s negative perceptions of the situation in Hitler’s Germany.
He served in World War II as an army Hauptmann. Assigned to an administrative position in Paris, he socialized (often at Maxim’s) with prominent artists of the day such as Picasso and Jean Cocteau. His early time in France is described in his diary 1942, Gardens and Streets). He was also given the task of executing a German deserter who had beaten the women sheltering him and been turned in. Jünger considered avoiding the assignment but eventually attended to oversee the execution in, as he claimed in his journal, ‘the spirit of higher curiosity’.
Jünger appears on the fringes of the Stauffenberg bomb plot. He was clearly an inspiration to anti-Nazi conservatives in the German Army, and while in Paris he was close to the old, mostly Prussian, officers who carried out the assassination attempt against Hitler. He was only peripherally involved in the events however, and in the aftermath suffered only dismissal from the army in the summer of 1944 rather than execution.
His elder son Ernst Jr., then a naval (Kriegsmarine) cadet, was imprisoned that year for engaging in “subversive discussions” in his Wilhelmshaven Naval Academy. Transferred to Penal Unit 999, he was killed near Carrara in occupied Italy on 29-11-1943.
After the war, Jünger was initially under some suspicion for his nationalist past, and he was banned from publishing in Germany for four years by the British occupying forces because he refused to submit to the denazification procedures. His work The Peace written in 1943 and published abroad in 1947, marked the end of his involvement in politics. When German Communists threatened his safety in 1945, Bertolt Brecht instructed them to “Leave Jünger alone.” His public image rehabilitated by the 1950s, he went on to be regarded as a towering figure of West German literature.
West German publisher Klett put out a ten-volume collected Works in 1965, extended to 18 volumes 1978–1983. This made Jünger one of just four German authors to see two subsequent editions of their collected works published during their lifetime, alongside Goethe, Klopstock and Wieland.
His diaries from 1939 to 1949 were published under the title Strahlungen (1948, Reflections). In the 1950s and 1960s, Jünger travelled extensively. His first wife, Gretha, died in 1960, and in 1962 he married Liselotte Lohrer. He continued writing prodigiously for his entire life, publishing more than 50 books.
Ernst Jünger House in Wilflingen. Jünger was a friend of Martin Heidegger an Influential German philosopher.
Throughout his life he had experimented with drugs such as ether, cocaine, and hashish; and later in life he used mescaline and LSD. These experiments were recorded comprehensively in Annäherungen (1970). The novel Besuch auf Godenholm (1952) is clearly influenced by his early experiments with mescaline and LSD. He met with LSD inventor Albert Hofmann and they took LSD together several times. Hofmann’s memoir LSD, My Problem Child describes some of these meetings.
In 1981, Jünger was awarded the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca. Jünger was immensely popular in France, where at one time 48 of his translated books were in print. In 1984, he spoke at the Verdun memorial, alongside his admirers, French president François Mitterrand and the German chancellor, where he called the “ideology of war” in Germany before and after World War I “a calamitous mistake”.
Although he had been cleared of the accusation of any fascist or Nazi sympathies since the 1950s, and he never showed any sympathy to the political style of “blood and soil” popular in the Third Reich, Jünger’s national conservatism and his ongoing role as conservative philosopher and icon made him a controversial figure in the eyes of the German Marxist Left, and Huyssen (1993) argued that nevertheless “his conservative literature made Nazism highly attractive”, and that “the ontology of war depicted in Storm of Steel could be interpreted as a model for a new, hierarchically ordered society beyond democracy, beyond the security of bourgeois society and ennui”. Marxist writer and critic Walter Benjamin wrote “Theories of German Fascism” (1930) as a review of War and Warrior, a collection of essays edited by Jünger. Despite the ongoing political criticism of his work, Jünger said he never regretted anything he wrote, nor would he ever take it back.
His younger son Alexander, a physician, committed suicide in 1993. Jünger’s 100th birthday on 29-03-1995 was met with praise from many quarters, including the socialist French president François Mitterrand.
Death and burial ground of Jünger, Ernst.
Jünger came from an atheist family and did not have any belief in God before his conversion to Roman Catholicism. A year before his death, Jünger was received into the Catholic Church and began to receive the Sacraments. He died on 17-02-1998 in Riedlingen, Upper Swabia in his 103rd year. He was the last living bearer of the military version of the order of the Pour le Mérite. His body was buried at Wilflingen Cemetery. Jünger’s last home in Wilflingen, Jünger-Haus Wilflingen, is now a museum.