Review of “Storm of Steel” by Ernst Jünger

When once it is no longer possible to understand how a man gives his life for his country—and the time will come—then all is over with that faith also, and the idea of the Fatherland is dead; and then, perhaps, we shall be envied, as we envy the saints their inward and irresistible strength.
Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger

The end of the greatness of Western Civilization in one man’s death.

*        *        *

On February 17, 1998, a frail centenarian passed away in Wilflingen, Germany. Born in 1895, Ernst Jünger’s life was far more noteworthy than simply its prodigious length — it was a life that epitomized the gallantry, curiosity, patriotism, intelligence, and culture that made Western Civilization what it became — and from what is has descended. Fused in one man were all the qualities — qualities that are not merely in short supply today but positively lacking. It is not hyperbole to say that an era of sorts and an entire civilization was buried with his remains at Wilflingen Cemetery. We simply do not produce men like him — and have not for a very long time.

To say that Jünger’s life was incredible is selling it short — by a longshot. His life almost perfectly corresponded with the entirety of the twentieth century. The changes he witnessed boggle the mind — from the world he inherited to the world that he left. Born less than twenty-five years after Germany’s unification in 1871, he came into the world during the heady optimism of the German Empire. Successively he would be a participant and witness to: World War I and Germany’s partial dismemberment following its defeat at the hand of the allies; the chaos and political upheavals of the Weimar Republic; the rise of the Third Reich and World War II; the complete destruction and dismemberment of Germany following the war; the eras of West and East Germany; and finally, the reunification of Germany in 1991 following the fall of the Soviet Union. During every phase, from a young man to a very old man, Jünger participated and contributed to Germany. Indeed, he is virtually without parallel in what he means to soul of Germany.

He was a man that lived his entire life wrestling with ideas with a creative mind that seemingly never lost its vigor. An active writer from a young age, his books span multiple generations. He consumed life in an almost inexhaustible way — cogitating over things in a way that was almost superhuman. In that sense, he is close to being the personification of Western Civilization in microcosm. Really, it is that unbelievable.

I could recapitulate his life, but perhaps citing to a then-contemporary obituary to give a flavor for the man is more appropriate. While there were many, I found that The Independent gave as good a voice to the extraordinariness of his life as any other — and I cite it in full because it is worth reading in full:

ERNST JUNGER first beheld Halley’s Comet during its 1910 passage, when he was a boy of 15. In 1987, he made a special journey to Malaysia for a second glimpse. He was one of the very few writers to have seen the comet twice in his lifetime.

All this is described in Zwei Mal Halley (“Halley Twice”, 1988), a book filled with Junger’s characteristic meditations on time and place, on dreams, nature, crystals, stars, mountains, the sea, wild animals and insects, especially butterflies, a passion he shared with Nabokov. Throughout his very considerable body of work, there is an obsession with time, with dates, with temporal coincidences, with the fatidic power of numbers over our birth and death. In a volume of his journals covering the years 1965–70, Siebzig verweht (“Past Seventy”, 1980), he makes this revealing entry at Wilfingen, his home between the Danube and the Black Forest, in sight of the castle of Stauffenberg, on 30 March 1965: “I have now reached the biblical age of three score and ten — a rather strange feeling for a man who, in his youth, had never hoped to see his 30th year. Even after my 23rd birthday in 1918, I would gladly have signed a Faustian pact with the Devil: “Give me just 30 years of life, guaranteed, then let it all be ended.”

A similar expression of his fascinated awe of time and numbers appears in an earlier work, An der Zeitmauer (“At the Wall of Time”, 1959). But one of the most extraordinary examples of this obsession can be found in a journal entry for “‘Monday, 8.8.1988’ — a date with four units. 8 is special (four 8’s, and a fifth one by subtracting the 1 from the 9). Odin rides an 8-legged horse. . . . Dates have often brought me surprises.”

One of his many hobbies was the collection of antique sandglasses, on which he was an authority. He also collected sundial inscriptions. Ernst Junger’s birth at Heidelberg is recorded precisely. It fell on 29 March 1895 on the stroke of noon, under Aries, with Cancer in the ascendant. He was the eldest of seven children, one of whom, his beloved brother Friedrich Georg (who died in 1977), was also a writer, a poet and philosopher.

Junger spent the greater part of his childhood and adolescence in Hanover, where his prosperous parents settled shortly after his birth. They possessed a beautiful villa by a lake, where Ernst made his first entomological investigations. He soon developed a dislike for bourgeois life, and spent a couple of unhappy years in boarding schools, whose reports complain of his dreaminess and lack of interest in the boring curriculum. He was later to write: “I had invented for myself a sort of distancing indifference that allowed me to remain connected to reality only by an invisible thread like a spider’s.”

He spent hours reading unauthorised books, and with his brother lived in an exalted universe of their own. They would go wandering round the countryside, and Ernst struck up happy friendships with tramps and gypsies. He was already the Waldganger (wild man of the woods), the anarchist hero of his 1977 novel Eumeswil. It was the beginning of an unending passion for travel and exotic lands. He took the first big step in 1913 by running away from home to join the Foreign Legion, in which he saw service in Oran and Sidi-Bel-Abbes. After five weeks, his father bought him out. Ernst was to write about this escapade in Kinderspielen (“Children’s Games”, 1936). His father promised that if he passed his Abitur (school-leaving examination) he would be allowed to join an expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro. So Junger swotted away at the Gildermeister Institut, whose grim atmosphere is evoked in Die Steinschleuder (“The Catapult“, 1973), a novel in the great tradition of German school stories.

Junger passed his exam in August 1914 and at once volunteered for the army, in which he fought on the French front with exceptional courage all through the First World War. Wounded four times, he received the highest German military honour, the Order of Merit created by Friedrich II: he outlived all those who also received it. Out of his wartime experiences was born Stahlgewittern (“Storm of Steel”, 1920), which he had to publish at his own expense. This story of the horrors of modern warfare was drawn from his wartime notebooks, often written in the heat of battle on the Western Front. It remains one of the greatest works about the First World War, along with those by Erich Maria Remarque, Henri Barbusse, e.e. cummings, David Jones and Lucien Descaves.

Junger stayed in the army until 1923, when he left and began studying zoology at the University of Leipzig and at Naples. He married Gretha von Jeinsen and his son Ernst was born in 1926. In 1927 they moved to Berlin, where he became a member of the national revolutionary group led by Niekisch (arrested by Hitler in 1937 and kept in a concentration camp until the end of the Second World War). He also got to know Ernst von Salomon, Bertolt Brecht, Ernst Toller and Alfred Kubin, as well as the publisher Rowohlt. He began travelling widely, to Sicily, Rhodes, the Dalmatian coast, Norway, Brazil and the Canaries, and made the acquaintance of Andre Gide in Paris. These travels had a great influence on all his writings, most noticeable in his superb novel Heliopolis (1949) – the most elegantly learned, eloquently written and hauntingly convincing science- fiction story ever written.

Goebbels tried in vain to draw him into the ranks of the Nazi hierarchy in 1931, and he refused to be elected to the German Academy of Letters because it was dominated by national socialist timeservers. In 1932 Junger produced a very significant book, Der Arbeiter (“The Worker”), which is nevertheless one of his least-known works. It was long out of print until Martin Heidegger, himself besmirched with Nazi collaboration, persuaded him to risk letting it be reissued in 1963. It presents the mythical figure of standardised modern man as “The Worker” whose pragmatism and nihilism destroy the old traditional categories of peasant, soldier and priest, foretelling an unprecedented reversal of temporal power in our collapsing cultures where an intellectual and artistic elite has no place.

Related to this theme is a later work, Das Aladdinproblem (1983), in which he asks who will rub the magic lamp of destructive science and dehumanising technology: “With the heavens empty, we live in the Age of Uranium: how can we believe our modern Aladdin’s lamp will not produce some unimaginable monster?” Der Arbeiter is also an important theoretical study of the political history of the Thirties in Germany, and has been considered by critics like Georg Lukacs and Walter Benjamin to have been the ideological matrix of national-socialist ideas. But Junger’s links with national socialism were infinitely complex. He was a serving officer, partisan of the revolutionary right, a sort of conservative anarchist, hostile to the Weimar Republic, yet he refused all honours and promotions.

Unable to bear the rising tide of Hitlerism, he left Berlin for the quiet of the countryside at Kirchhorst, where in February 1939 he began the painful drafting of Auf den Marmorklippen. Its anti-Nazi tone is obvious, but the book was published in September, the month war was declared. On the Marble Cliffs was part of my wartime reading, and I well remember the excitement it caused when the translation was published by John Lehmann just after the war.

With the outbreak of war, Junger was given the rank of captain and took part in the invasion of France, during which he did his utmost to spare civilians and protect public monuments. Posted to Paris, he became a well-known figure in the literary salons of the time like the Thursday reunions of artists and writers at Florence Gould’s. He made good friends of authors like the acid-tongued critic Leautaud and above all Marcel Jouhandeau, whose scholarly ease and wit in writing seemed to Junger exceptional at a time of growing artistic barbarity. Even after their condemnation for collaboration with the Nazis, Junger praised the characters and writings of Chardonne, Celine (whom he did not like), Brasillach and Drieu de la Rochelle, while his admiration for Cocteau, Sasha Guitry and actresses like Arletty was as sincere as that for artists like Braque and Picasso, whose studios he frequented.

His journals of this period are studded with all these famous names. However, he was indirectly implicated in Stauffenberg’s attempt to assassinate Hitler in July 1944, and requested to leave the army and return home to Kirchhorst, where he spent the rest of the war, composing a text on Die Friede (“Peace”). His son Ernst, in prison for opposition to Hitler, was despatched to the Italian front and killed on 29 November in the marble quarries at Carrara by Allied snipers.

After German defeat and capitulation, despite his firm denials of having supported Nazism, Junger encountered the shrill hostility of Marxist and so-called liberal critics who accused him of being its predecessor. They even criticised his scholarly, noble, refined style, calling it frigid, elitist and academic. He writes of his experiments with drugs in Annaherungen (“Approaches”, 1970), influenced by Aldous Huxley’s works on the same subject. He finally settled at Wilfingen in the house of the Master Forester attached to the ancestral home of his executed friend Graf Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, where in 1959 he founded the literary review Antaios with Mircea Eliade. By 1977, his father, mother, brother and wife had all died. He remarried, taking as his wife Liselotte Lohrer, a professional archivist and literary scholar.

All through the Seventies and Eighties Junger travelled widely. In 1979, he visited Verdun and was awarded the town’s Peace Medal. In 1982 he received a final literary consecration with the award of the City of Frankfurt’s Goethe Prize, which aroused violent protest among his detractors. In 1984, he again made a pilgrimage to Verdun, with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and President Francois Mitterrand to pay homage to the victims of two world wars. In 1992, there was extraordinary confirmation of Junger’s anti-Nazi stance with the discovery of a top-secret document proving that his fate was in the balance just before the Third Reich’s capitulation and during the final days Hitler spent in the Wolfs-Schanze, the very headquarters where he was wounded by the Stauffenberg bomb.

The document is dated December 1944. It is addressed by Dr Freisler, president of the Volksgericht (People’s Court) to Martin Bormann, Hitler’s right-hand man. Freisler informs Bormann that the proceedings to be taken against Captain Junger are to be cancelled. Junger had been indicted on account of his novel On the Marble Cliffs and the “defeatist” opinions he had expressed at his old colleague Commandant Stulpnagel’s HQ in Paris, not long before the latter’s suicide. Freisler reveals that on 20 November 1944 the Fuhrer himself had given the order by telephone from the Wolfs- Schanze that the matter was not to be pursued any further. Freisler ends his letter with “Heil Hitler!”, then adds a postscript: “I am sending you three dossiers on the affair. The Fuhrer wishes to have his orders executed immediately.”

In his Journals, Junger notes that the Gestapo had described him at that period in Paris as “an impenetrable, highly suspect individual”. He comments in a 1992 interview: “It was no surprise to me. After all, it conformed to the pattern of my horoscope. Ever since my schooldays I’ve been accustomed to that kind of unpleasantness.” Ernst Junger’s work is all of a piece — highly literary, beautifully sonorous, excitingly visual, intellectually profound and stimulating. It is the life work of an aristocrat of letters, and one of the best tributes to it has been made by another literary patriarch, Julien Gracq: “The hard, smooth enamelling that seems to armour his prose against the touch of too great a familiarity would seem to us perhaps a little frigid if we did not know, and if we never lost consciousness of the fact while reading, that it has been tempered in an ordeal of fire.”

That is a fitting eulogy for one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

Ernst Junger, writer: born Heidelberg, Germany 29 March 1895; married 1925 Gretha von Jeinsen (died 1960; two sons deceased), 1962 Liselotte Lohrer; died Wilflingen, Germany 17 February 1998.

Noticeably absent from this obituary is any mention of religion, which is unfortunate. I find great solace that this man, who retained his wits sharply until his death, converted to Roman Catholicism at the ripe age of 101 and died in the bosom and sacraments of the Catholic Church. While there are similar conversion stories of remarkable men who converted after a long lifetime of exhaustive study and moral exploration, his conversion is particularly meaningful to me. While I am no Ernst Jünger, by both blood and conviction, I am northwestern European and a Teutonophile: that the very best modern German man saw fit to do exactly what I did — that is, make an adult conversion to Rome — gladdens me exceedingly. A man such as him — a Western man in the best sense of the term who had lived life to its maximal fullness in every way — decided after seeing virtually everything a man can see and thinking about over in a lifetime came to the conclusion that the ancient faith of Rome was true is inspiring beyond measure. Truly this was a man who drunk deeply of virtually every idea and experienced virtually every political and social movement — all in the great vacillations of the greatest privations intermixed with periods of abundance. From a human perspective, he was someone that saw hope and despair, in both a people and in his heart, wax and wane repeatedly. Such a man knew the scope of life as few ever have — and after surveying all of it, he cast his lot with the Nazarene and the Catholic Church. It is true that we live in an appalling age of nihilism and apostasy in our time, but I am gratified that Rome continues to attract the very best of men even if loses millions more of mediocre and self-centered. It is a testament to the powerful and enduring attraction that is Christ as mediated through the Church He founded — a Church that uniquely fits the soul of the most virtuous men of the West.

Now, the argument from authority is the weakest of all arguments; that said, hostile and indifferent non-Catholics who nonetheless care about the survival of Western Civilization and bemoan the depths of depravity into which we have sunk ought to take something from his conversion. Even if it does not result in a similar conversion, it ought to communicate to every non-Catholic Westerner who cares about the West that Catholicism is not merely a part of our history but a living force that continues to attract men of the highest quality. That means it ought to never be tarnished or mocked even by those men who stand aloof from her.

*        *        *

Jünger, as it clear from above, wrote a great deal — this review only addresses one of his earliest published works: Storm of Steel, which is a first-person account of his experience as a soldier and officer during the First World War. It is a beautiful — if tragic — account of that senseless killing field. It represents the genre of a “soldier’s story” as well as any that I have read, and while it details the horror of the mechanized monster that is modern war, it is neither the glorification of war nor its condemnation. Somewhere in between, Storm of Steel is an account of a man of honor doing his duty without apologizing for it — indeed, if anything, it is the pronouncement of his good fortune to be among the generation that was able to do it. To the modern reader — no doubt a collection of beta men (or, in Nietzsche’s pithier words, “last men”) — such a sentiment after reading the horrors and carnage that Jünger saw and experienced is virtually inexplicable. But then again men of today use words like duty, honor, and fatherland as punchlines — something to be mocked by men who get pedicures. Such is the distance between us and him and the whole of his generation that passed.

The First World War is a confounding — and depressing — topic for me. I have studied it from different angles and perspectives. I have thought about it for seemingly hundreds of hours. I have lamented it and in particular its senselessness. In its essence, WWI was a collective civilizational suicide pact — the destruction of Europe’s finest and the impoverishment of Europe’s future. On the eve of August 1914, European civilization (late-stage Western Civilization) was ascendent around the globe. The war ended that ascent definitively and decisively. What is more, it is virtually impossible to understand why the leaders of Europe decided — in unison — to kill all their best young men and destroy and impoverish their countries simultaneously. The lack of reason or cause, I suppose, bothers me most. Western Civilization was mortally wounded by November 1918 and its self-inflicted wound was utterly meaningless.

But this is not a story of the war’s meaninglessness — it is a story of one of those best men who happened, unbelievably, to survive and tell the tale. Throughout, Jünger speaks for the millions who died — he gives voice to those we lost and what we lost even if we did not lose Jünger. This is a book that communicates the patriotic enthusiasm that swept over Germany, and, by extension, the whole of Europe at the outset of the war. He writes:

We had come from lecture halls, school desks and factory workbenches, and over the brief weeks of training, we had bonded together into one large and enthusiastic group. Grown up in an age of security, we shared a yearning for danger, for the experience of the extraordinary. We were enraptured by war.

The enthusiasm, which he shared with many of his generation, is seemingly out-of-place considering that carnage and hellfire that they would face. Likewise, the enthusiasm did not reflect a belief in the ideological righteousness of the cause beyond the ardent patriotism in the breasts of the men who fought. Consider his view of the enemy, which is infused with a latent sense of chivalry from a bygone era:

Throughout the war, it was always my endeavour to view my opponent without animus, and to form an opinion of him as a man on the basis of the courage he showed. I would always try and seek him out in combat and kill him, and I expected nothing else from him. But never did I entertain mean thoughts of him. When prisoners fell into my hands, later on, I felt responsible for their safety, and would always do everything in my power for them.

We learn early in this book what kind of man this is — and he displays a remarkable consistency throughout in terms of his character.

Jünger’s account is not about military strategy per se although as an officer and leader of men in various battles, the tactics and strategy are always there for consideration. No, this is an account of the primal nature of war — especially the vicious and unforgiving nature of mechanized trench warfare. While this book is not like Guy Sajer’s Forgotten Soldier in that the literary motif of the fog of war is used in the writing itself, there is a distinct chaos that seems never far from the surface in Storm of Steel. But there is something alive — and dare I say beautiful — in the horror of what he describes. It is the continuous paradox of life — man never feels more alive than when he faces death in a real and meaningful way. And death was everywhere in Jünger’s account.

One could almost say that his literary talents created a battlefield aesthetic in which the war was a visual tableau and spectacle — even in its destruction and mangled reality. He paints an intense picture of the trenches, nighttime patrols, and terrifying infantry and storm trooper attacks. Artillery is everywhere and these men lived under constant bombardment. We get a sense of the drip-drip maddening effect of the barrages coupled with the occasional direct hits, which leave multiple men mangled beyond recognition. But we also get a sense of the indomitable esprit de corps of these men; he writes:

Even if ten out of twelve men had fallen, the two survivors would surely meet over a glass on their first evening off, and drink a silent toast to their comrades, and jestingly talk over their shared experiences. There was in these men a quality that both emphasized the savagery of war and transfigured it at the same time: an objective relish for danger, the chevaleresque urge to prevail in battle.

And there is the constant vagaries and senselessness of who dies and how — death is something always lurking and stealing people away in a completely haphazard way. If there is a hidden metaphor in the book as it relates to the meaningless of the war — at least in a geopolitical sense — it is the caprice of who dies and who does not. That said, Jünger does not strike me as intentionally embedding such devices, but it was nonetheless something that struck me repeatedly.

He does not glorify battle per se but there is an unapologetic quality of the writing that conveys the veiled Germanic warrior of an age lost in the mist of time. The suffering and privations — the cold, damp, and hungry conditions — only add laurels of the might and mane of the men who endured and fought. His mode of writing, which builds on a contemporaneous journal that Jünger kept throughout the war, keeps the action moving in an almost herky-jerky fashion that gives us a sense the vicissitudes of soldiers moving hither and thither without always understanding why. Consider this example of his style:

These moments of nocturnal prowling leave an indelible impression. Eyes and ears are tensed to the maximum, the rustling approach of strange feet in the tall grass in an unutterably menacing thing. Your breath comes in shallow bursts; you have to force yourself to stifle any panting or wheezing. There is a little mechanical click as the safety-catch of your pistol is taken off; the sound cuts straight through your nerves. Your teeth are grinding on the fuse-pin of the hand-grenade. The encounter will be short and murderous. You tremble with two contradictory impulses: the heightened awareness of the huntsmen, and the terror of the quarry. You are a world to yourself, saturated with the appalling aura of the savage landscape.

For those who might have seen it, the recent film 1917 uses the cinematic technique of equating the runtime of the film with the sequence of action presented by the film — i.e., the film is a two-hour film that depicts two hours in 1917; it has some similarities to Storm of Steel, not so much in the passage of time or the length of the book, but the work is action-oriented with little dedicated space for philosophical musings other than what is relevant to the action.

Like other war stories, it is a coming-of-age story — innocence and enthusiasm giving way to death and gravitas. The book details Jünger’s progression of increasing responsibilities and dangers. He is eventually trained as a storm trooper who leads offensive raids towards the end of the war. The experience he and his fellows gain always comes at a cost; he writes, “[i]n war you learn your lessons, and they stay learned, but the tuition fees are high.” The book reaches its crescendo during these accounts of the offensive storm trooper raids including the one in which his final injuries were sustained that effectively put him out of the war for good. Both the glorification and vivification that come from war — especially that war — are recounted by him in an evocative way; for example, he writes of his time as a storm trooper:

Trench fighting is the bloodiest, wildest, most brutal of all. … Of all the war’s exciting moments none is so powerful as the meeting of two storm troop leaders between narrow trench walls. There’s no mercy there, no going back, the blood speaks from a shrill cry of recognition that tears itself from one’s breast like a nightmare.

During his service, Jünger was wounded a dozen or so times, each leading to a brief return home or time in the military hospital for recovery. He writes in detail: “[l]eaving out trifles such as ricochets and grazes, I was hit at least fourteen times, these being five bullets, two shell splinters, one shrapnel ball, four hand-grenade splinters and two bullet splinters, which, with entry and exit wounds, left me an even twenty scars.” Despite the comforts, he yearns for the frontlines — he literally cannot wait to return to the hell of the war. Even in his last — and most serious injury — he is anxiously preparing for the winter offensive of 1919 that never came.

Notably, unlike other stories from the losing side, Jünger’s experiences do not lend themselves to cynicism. While Jünger provides a firsthand account of the brutality of trench warfare and the psychological effects it had on the soldiers, there is no sense of complaining in the slightest even when he gives voice to the various temptations that he had to shirk on occasion. The book may be a gripping and unflinching portrayal of the horrors of war, but it is not a demonization of it or his country on account of it. He simply sees himself as a man who did his duty for fatherland and he never exhibits anything remotely like cynicism of the enterprise even if he complains, from time to time, of the mistakes made by generals far off from the tactical reality that he confronted. In that sense, it is a very different book from All Quiet on the Western Front, notwithstanding the many similarities, which exudes a manifested cynicism.

Jünger begins the war and his memoir with the love of his country:

At the sight of the Neckar [River] slopes wreathed with flowering cherry trees, I had a strong sense of having come home. What a beautiful country it was, and eminently worth our blood and our lives. Never before had I felt its charm so clearly. I had good and serious thoughts, and for the first time I sensed that this war was more than just a great adventure.

After all the destruction and carnage, he ends the book with the same love of his country not only intact but somehow strengthened — even as it is tinged with foreboding of what was to come:

Now these [battles]too are over, and already we see once more in the dim light of the future the tumult of the fresh ones. We—by this I mean those youth of this land who are capable of enthusiasm for an ideal—will not shrink from them. We stand in the memory of the dead who are holy to us, and we believe ourselves entrusted with the true and spiritual welfare of our people. We stand for what will be and for what has been. Though force without and barbarity within conglomerate in sombre clouds, yet so long as the blade of a sword will strike a spark in the night may it be said: Germany lives and Germany shall never go under!

We live today among men, at least in the West, who treat their countries with disdain and ignore that they even belong to a people. Where are the men today who might say that Germany — or England — or France — or Spain — or dare I say America — lives? Where are the men who love their fatherlands and love their kin?

*        *        *

Jünger recounts many men he killed during the war. What stands out to me, however, is the one he did not kill:

A bloody scene with no witnesses was about to happen. It was a relief to me, finally, to have the foe in front of me and within reach. I set the mouth of the pistol at the man’s temple — he was too frightened to move — while my other fist grabbed hold of his tunic, feeling medals and badges of rank. An officer; he must have held some command post in these trenches. With a plaintive sound, he reached into his pocket, not to pull out a weapon, but a photograph which he held up to me. I saw him on it, surrounded by numerous family, all standing on a terrace. It was a plea from another world. Later, I thought it was blind chance that I let him go and plunged onward. That one man of all often appeared in my dreams. I hope that meant he got to see his homeland again.

This was a haunting scene. What a waste that war was — what a waste of men such as these. Hidden in this moment in an otherwise unforgiving war is the recognition of the Western sensibility of humanity. True enough it was his duty to kill, but the hope he articulated for the survival of his enemy is rich in meaning and pregnant with the fraternity that exists — or at least once existed — among European men.

When I took the whole of this book in, what struck me more than anything is that a man of twenty-five could write it. Consider too that four of his twenty-five years were not in graduate school but in muddy and bombed-out trenches. Throughout the book are references to themes of Western Civilization, theology, mythology, and philosophy. By no means is this a book that plumbs any of them deeply but the facility of a twenty-five-year-old with all of them demonstrated a greatness in the German psyche that is simply unrecognizable in virtually any men today regardless of age. True enough, Jünger proved to be a gifted writer after the war, but his talents notwithstanding, the civilization that reared him and existed before World War I was astounding.

Why oh why did we allow them all to be killed?

 *        *        *

Saint Martin of Tours, Pray for us.


16 replies
  1. Tim Folke
    Tim Folke says:

    This excellent essay prompted me to say this: Those of us whose eyes have been opened to the threat against our folk should neither despair nor seek large followings. As a great statesman of the 20th century once said, ‘World history is determined by the minority when that minority embodies the majority of will and courage’.

    • James Clayton
      James Clayton says:

      Kinder gentler reviews of books, ideas, behavior, lives make it easier to share blogs such as Dr. MacDonald’s and others like this by Bernard Smith. If one wants them to get around then some moderation is necessary as many of us are exasperated, impatient, and neither particularly articulate communicators nor incisive thinkers. But I read because I want encouragement and inspiration to share without having to add that views expressed in what I forward are not necessarily my own. Or to worry my wife that my security concerns, preparedness, and willingness are justified simply because I’m promoting standards and common sense that so many find offensive and threatening these days. That’s why I like what’s posted here, this piece, Jünger, Mark Weber and Kevin MacDonald. And why the tenor of much that’s posted by others elsewhere is simply too strong for those we’d like to inspire and introduce, even those who at least style if not actually regard themselves as tough guys.

  2. Hairy Iranian Guy
    Hairy Iranian Guy says:

    As an Atheist of over three decades standing, I’ve studied religions intensely, especially Christianity (more so than Islam). The author’s sentimental-claim-as-proof of the importance of Catholicism has nothing to do with the faith’s veracity. Intelligent people, cultured and larger than life persons, with a deep ability for introspection and depth of reasoning, can and do believe in nonsense.

    Any honest perusal of the Bible, especially the OT, should make an honest man cringe in disgust and disbelief that this work has moved people and civilizations. Well, the Catholic Church has built its risible doctrine on the OT, not its rejection.

    Want something more asinine and of less literary value? Read the Quran and ask yourself how a whole civilization could be built on it. How the heck could any sane man consider it divinely inspired…but many a sage has.

    So love of truth and honesty, in many a case, has nothing to do with it, but how it makes a person/people feel. To be a part of something, tradition (even though it wrecked the previous tradition), culture (music, theatrics, etc.), yeah, I get it. That’s probably why Jünger converted (and not when he was a buck in all his vigor).

    Perhaps I should convert to Zoroastrianism, a religion without any Jewish roots, unlike Catholicism, and a true Indo-European religion. Maybe I’ll end up singing praises to the blue-eyed Zoroaster who brought clarity to the world. But I’m too honest. The world isn’t black and white. What I see doesn’t fit the battle between Good and Evil of Zoroaster’s gospel. And, perhaps most comically enough, I’m disgusted at the fact that Zoroastrian priests cleanse themselves with consecrated bull urine and sip it as part of their initiatory rites, while the lay population only performs the latter rite. This is the bull$hit (er, bullpi$$) that isn’t brought up by devotees.

    And I’m not throwing the baby away with the bath water and painting it all with a poop brush.

    • KT-88
      KT-88 says:

      Anything but a rejection of the Old Testament is pretty much the same as supporting the genocide in Gaza. Evil document.

  3. Rudolf
    Rudolf says:

    The contradiction of arriving at “peace-loving” Catholicism (which has an infinite amount of blood on its own hands) while at the same time rejuvenating the “hero” (who is after all only a murderer in uniform) who is prepared to sacrifice his life (or even that of his sons) for his community is striking. The “absolution” on the deathbed is a grotesque.

    It is true that the white race is both ingenious and pathological. First it exterminates itself by the millions through its technological “achievements”, now it is the exact opposite: incapable of defending its own. We see from this that everything has two sides, with every oh-so-glorious “invention” our ability to eliminate ourselves also increases.

    Only those who are willing, able and capable of leading an autonomous existence as a self-sufficient person and renouncing all the tempting seductions and comforts of unholy consumerism can escape this predicament. But at the latest when illness, weakness, old age and death afflict him, he is forced to return to the bosom of insane modernism.

  4. Rudolf
    Rudolf says:

    If you want to watch the “battlefield movie”
    mentioned in the article, you can do so here.

    Folkteacher aka Volkslehrer a few years ago: “I visit Lichtenberg Castle in the beautiful Palatinate. I meet Herman Wirth, the great folklorist, discoverer of the Ura-Linder chronicles and women’s rights activist. He has been buried at the foot of the castle since 1981. But he is not dead. But see and hear for yourself.”

    That was what Germany always missed, genuine unadulterated feminism or, lived consistently, matriarchy. But Heini Himmler, himself an esoteric nutcase and subject to his own wife, who was 7 years older than him, is said to have rejected Wirth’s moronic idea out of hand.

    Perhaps we will finally find a safe, communal home in the “rainbow family”. After all, rainbow is still supposed to mean something non-gay here. However, according to Indian statutes, drug use is not only disapproved of, but forbidden. Hard to imagine. (LSD advocate Jünger would be very outraged!) In addition, the community has recently been criticized by “native” sides for “cultural appropriation”, a not insignificant accusation these days.

    Then perhaps it is more suitable to return to the place of origin of Germanic heroic legends for contemplative meditation. However, you shouldn’t expect to see anything sensational apart from tourists falling to their deaths, except perhaps a photogenic sunrise or sunset.

    • Rudolf
      Rudolf says:


      In the Teutoburg Forest, the only sights worth visiting are the few puny Externsteine. Things are different in what is known as Saxon Switzerland. There you can try out your climbing skills to your heart’s content. By decree of 1938, the Nazis had the word “Switzerland” removed from the name as “un-German”. They have even “Sweden Holes”. After all, during the 40-year Bolshevik occupation, Sweden was as inaccessible as Hawaii behind a wall and barbed wire.

      “The name Saxon Switzerland originated in the 18th century. The two Swiss artists Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff were appointed to the Dresden Academy of Art in 1766. ‘From their new adopted home, they saw a mountain range to the east, about a day’s walk away. It showed a strangely flattened panorama, without any actual peaks. The landscape reminded them of their homeland, the Swiss Jura, and in their correspondence they referred to ‘Saxon Switzerland’ to distinguish it from their homeland.”

      P.S. There is even a “Holstein Switzerland” and “Mecklenburg Switzerland”. Everything that even remotely resembled a hill was given this name at a time when a trip to Switzerland was prohibitively expensive for most rural inhabitants.

  5. charles frey
    charles frey says:

    @ Bernard:

    01 By all accounts Juenger was a fascinating personality, anyone of us would have enjoyed as a neighbor. Coincidentally, his surname means APOSTLE in English.

    02 Given his lament on the loss of pan-European man, did he ever write of the original, contrived reasons for WW I.
    03 Such as the 1911 conference in North Africa, where it was decided, that Germany must be destroyed, because it commercially outstripped GB with its rapidly increasing exports, which were cheaper and better.

    04 Did he ever mention JUDEA DECLARES WAR ON GERMANY, in March 33, two months after Hitler’s accession, and five years – before – KRISTALLNACHT.

    05 Did Versailles, Yalta, Dresden, Operation Keelhaul ever enter his writings ?

  6. Tom Sunic
    Tom Sunic says:

    Jünger’s last visionary novel Eumeswil, 1977, is passing under the radar. It can no longer be qualified as a portrayal of a utopian city on the hill, but as a master plan for an intellectual trying to best blend in and survive in the ghettoized and balkanized West. The main hero Anarch is a decent, mild, low-key young gentleman, passing under the radar, never rocking the boat of the new post-apocalyptic system. Yet back in the woods he has his hide-out loaded with books and – loaded guns.

  7. Alan
    Alan says:

    The Great German world before the internet still echoing ..resonates in stark startling contrast to what Das Juden have disachieved in 2024.We were many times. all over in and around Germany..austria..osterreich..switzserland..and holland…and..near lichtenstein… shockingly subliminally and subconsciously alive …romantic and ..perhaps…somewhat…pathologically pantheistic. some northern european occult degree……it was prior to the internet.. so many beautiful porcelyn beautiful breasted white skinned blond females. you would encounter them on trains going thru berlin in munich at the englischer gartens in the schwabing..and at the munchen krist kindl markt……
    ..we did not know of this very particular great German military soul ..junger…but knew of others like him.
    Once when we lived in east Berlin ……..before we visited Dresden..,very early in the morning.. not far from a vandalized graveyard. ,..we encountered a very tall strong short haired intensely focused man in a long Grey overcoat, who seemed easily like an SS or gestapo captain…..”duty before pleasure”..we did not know if he was armed……we felt a rush of cold air and a foreboding consciousness.. gave him a wide berth..and grave respect…
    Even the Roman church was quite different back then…but we never subscribed to that either.. we know
    the argentinian. deceiver bergoglio is a satanic jewdevil degenerate Jesuit satanist at best……but the German Volk..the Great German folk back then.. even if they retired to croatia later…had such explosive living intellectual focused powers. that even many liars in the american government at the end of ww2 realized they could not achieve much without subsuming the nasdap leaders that they could conscript. Think Antarctica downstairs…
    .great article…
    .Kristallnacht or secession ? Are you listening..are you able America..? Rearm Now.”

  8. Bobby
    Bobby says:

    Thanks Bernard. Great writing from you as always.

    “Where are the men who love their fatherlands and love their kin?”

    They’re out there. Although there’s not many of them left any longer. Some of us. Some in the military. I think Trump is one of those men, or now trying to be.

    Your review reminds us that we have a lot to be proud of and we need to keep holding our heads high and soldiering on with the truth.

  9. Rudolf
    Rudolf says:

    “Social change” is such a much-used newfangled and euphemistic buzzword these days that no one has any concrete idea what it means. Social change can be seen most clearly in the everyday streetscape of major western cities. Many urban districts already have an unmistakably non-European face. “The world in your pocket” is the name given today to a smartphone that every Negro in Africa already owns. And with it the definitive guide and signpost to white “land of milk and honey”, which beckons with a social hammock in which the oh-so-evil victims of a supposed escape are provided for without any problems.

    “The Internet forgets nothing” is another one of those lies. Everyone knows how forgetful this medium is, where every fool gives his “opinion”. You store all your data on a server that will disappear tomorrow due to bankruptcy. Your computer has to constantly download updates to keep up to date until your computer can no longer process the amount of data because the system is already outdated, too slow and out of date.

    The Germans (but not their irresponsibly wasteful fake “governments”, see also “checkbook diplomacy”) are considered a thrifty people who have a natural distrust of “digital payment”. Money must be tangible. Nothing is bought on credit unless it can be afforded and covered by savings. An old legacy from times of war and crisis. But now they have “outsourced” their entire sovereignty, if it ever even existed in fragments after the war, to the EUSSR technocracy in Brussels.

    Ernst Jünger said that he rejected a connection between the brain and machines, which is why computers did not interest him in the slightest. A nostalgic attitude of a diehard would be interpreted as such today. Nowadays, many supermarkets no longer even have cashiers made of flesh and blood, but rather “stations” where you scan in your purchased goods yourself to pay. Payment is made by bank card or the money is inserted into openings provided for this purpose, where it is automatically sorted. There is practically no customer contact with the sales clerk.

    This process is called “rationalization”. People (and therefore also the human element) have been “rationalized away”. We have created a monster: the anonymous mass society. Ernst Jünger calls it the “Titanic forces”. The Titans are demons cast into the underworld by the gods, but they are not dead but alive and kicking, ready to seize control of the world. Everything that is produced from petroleum, such as fuel or plastic, is therefore an effect and product of titanic heritage.

    The “social change”, which ultimately brings nothing more than dehumanization, can also be illustrated with an example. In the Wilhelminian era, there were so-called colonial goods stores everywhere, where goods imported from the colonies were sold. This gave rise to the retail trade, among other things. Later, after the war and during the economic miracle, the so-called “corner stores” often took over this personal customer service. Today they are practically extinct.

    The corner store eventually became too expensive and unprofitable compared to the large supermarket chains, and its offer of personal customer service was no longer a convincing argument. The gossip that many older residents still sought out there was more or less part of the “service” that justified the higher prices for a while, and the elderly were prepared to pay for it. Everything costs its price, those who are not willing to pay it get what we have finally got, a society in which the individual is just a “consumer”, a binary number, a barcode. You only regret not owning something once you have irrevocably lost it.

  10. Les
    Les says:

    Stauffenberg and the other traitors wanted to continue fighting the USSR but have a separate peace with the UK/US. They were in touch with British and American intelligence who told them in no uncertain terms that it didn’t matter if Hitler was killed or imprisoned they would still have to commit to unconditional surrender. So it didn’t matter who was in charge unconditional surrender was the demand of the Allies. And they still went ahead with the bomb plot !

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