biography - first world war
'Kriegsausbruch 1914', a short piece first published in 1934, provides a highly subjective account of the days after the declaration of war in 1914. Coloured of course by 20 years of experience and 14 years of writing about the War, Jünger describes how he together with a couple of workers, fixing the roof of the family house, the Lower Saxon countryside spread out all around him were informed by the postman that mobilisation had been ordered. It was at that moment that Jünger tells us he decided to volunteer: 'Ich faßte wie Hunderttausende in dieser Stunde den Entschluß, mich als Freiwilliger zu beteiligen' (p. 542). As for so many others, War seemed to present Jünger with an immediate and almost transcendental way out of the stagnation of bourgeois society from which he was increasingly alienated.
A Summary of Ernst Jünger's War Service
Jünger volunteers at the outbreak of the War. He takes a Notabitur and matriculates at Heidelberg University before undertaking basic training from October until December, when his recruit company joins the Regiment (Füsilier Regiment 73) at the Champagne Front.
Jünger's unit remains in position around the area of Bazancourt. February and March are spent on a training course in Recouvrence. In April the Regiment is deployed to Lorraine and Jünger is wounded for the first time at Les Éparges. Jünger recovers and spends the summer at an officers' training course at Döberitz, returning to the regiment as Fähnrich (Ensign). There then follows an extended period of positional warfare around Douchy and Monchy in the Artois region. At the end of November he is promoted to Lieutenant.
Static trench warfare in Artois continues. In April he attends another training course, returning to the front in June, where the regiment comes under increasing pressure in the build-up to the Somme offensive. In heavy fighting around Guillemont Jünger is again wounded and evacuated, whilst his unit suffers almost total casualties. He returns to the front in November and is assigned to Divisional Intelligence as a reconnaissance officer and is wounded again near St. Pierre Vaast. He is awarded the Cross 1st Class. He returns to the regiment and again becomes a reconnaissance officer.
Jünger spends January on a Company Commanders' Course. From now on, Jünger is frequently appointed Commander of various companies within the regiment. In March he commands a patrol covering the German retreat from the Somme. At Fresnoy he commands an observation post. In May the Regiment takes up positions on the Siegfriedstellung (Hindenburg Line). In June a forward standing patrol commanded by Jünger has a violent encounter with British/Indian fighting patrols. The Regiment then moves to Cambrai for training.
Jünger is involved in training the Sturmtruppe. In late July the Regiment moves to Flanders where the German army is defending against the British Ypres Offensive and Jünger takes part in fighting round Langemarck, leading the defence of the Steenbach. In September Jünger leads a fighting patrol against the French trenches, with intensive trench fighting that sees Jünger wounded and awarded the Ritterkreuz des Hausordens von Hohenzollern.
January, February, March are spent in preparation for the Ludendorff offensive. Jünger's company (7th) takes a direct hit from a shell in the last stages of the move forward. Jünger takes part in an attack on a Scottish position by Écoust and is hit twice. He rejoins the regiment in June in an exposed position around Puisieux-le-Mont [Cf. Das Waldchen 125] fighting British advances against the odds. In August, the regiment undertakes a desperate counter-offensive near Cambrai. Jünger is badly wounded, but continues fighting and, despite being surrounded, manages to evade capture, a feat which costs the lives of several of his soldiers and for which he was awarded the Pour le Mérite, the highest German military decoration of the day. The rest of the war is spent in a military hospital.
© John King, 2017. Last updated Thu, 20th May 2010.