This essay will try to answer the question: should Ernst Junger’s book “Storm of Steel” narrative describing his personal experiences during his service in German Army on Western Front of WW1 be consider anti or pro war? In order to answer this question it is first important to determine the fraises “pro-war” and “anti-war”. The term “pro-war” describes an attitude in which war is desired, necessary or justifiable. The term “anti-war” describes the opposite; war is viewed as immoral and is generally opposed and condemned.
This paper will argue that there are grounds in the book to support both proposition. “Storm of Steel” is a detailed account of events as experienced and observed by the author Ernst Junger. It describes the series of events from the time he volunteered to serve in the German army in 1915 until the summer of 1918, a few months before the capitulation of Germany in November 11, 1918. It covers many major battles on the Western Front during the First World War including the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Cambrai, and the German offensive in the spring of 1918, dubbed “Operation Michael”.
This constituted the last German effort to win the war. Junger’s description of the war lends credence to the view that he may hold both pro- and anti-war sentiments since he depicts the war as simultaneously glorious and terrible. The admiration with which he describes the glory of dying while fighting for your country can easily be indicative of a pro-war outlook. On the other hand Junger also describes the horror of having to ignore the cries for help of a comrade who’s had his leg blown off by artillery fire, hence the case for an anti-war perspective. The book clearly is written by a German patriot who is driven by a sense of duty to his country and as well as his fellow soldiers. On one of first few pages of the book he states “No finer death in all the world than…” 1 and it can be assumed he meant “death in the war for the Germany” as he says that on his way to the frontline.
There are a few important themes that often appear in the book, namely the ideas of duty, honor and self-sacrifice. All these qualities carry a positive emotional meaning and can create the impression that the war has some positive aspects. Junger sees war as the ultimate challenge of a man’s character, where his true nature comes to a light. In the original text of the book translated by Basil Creighton one can find numerous example of this, he writes: “I would willingly have shared the fate of my comrades and stood with them shoulder to shoulder while the iron dice of war rolled over us. Instead of this, I kept the unquenchable fame of these men as my reminder, in the worst moments of the sanguinary conflicts that were yet in store, that I must show myself always worthy to have been their comrade.” 2 On many occasions when Junger refers to the death of a soldier he uses the words “fell” or “fallen” as this is something different from “ dead” or “killed.” For example on page 77 referring to a soldier shot in his forehead and instantly killed he writes “Fusilier Nienhauser suddenly fell from his sentry post”3. The book itself is dedicated ‘For the fallen”4 This narrative implies that there is a difference between a regular death and death on battlefield. A death on the battlefield is a glorious death, the death of a hero. Younger believed in the strength of the German army and he felt fortunate to serve in it. For example he writes “I saw steel helmet by steel helmet, blade by glinting blade, and I was overcome by the feeling of invulnerability. We might be crushed, but surely we could not be conquered.” 5 This clearly shows his fascination with power, unity and glory. It also seems to relay Junger’s inspired belief in the timelessness and immortality of the German spirit. While describing a conversation with a French couple during his stay in their house he writes, “The perennial question came up a lot, of course: Why does mankind has wars?”6 Here it seems to make an assumption, that war is an integral part of the life of nations and that there is no easy answer for it.
The book is also full of descriptions of the immense destruction cause by war, of description of pain and hardships suffered by ordinary soldiers as well as civilian populations. Referring to a French territory Flanders on which most of the war on the western front had taken place Junger says, “May God permit this splendid country, which has so often in history been a battlefield for warring armies, to rise again from this war with its old quality intact” 7 Junger wishes for the territory to return to the way it was before the war. In doing so he acknowledges the immense destruction that war carries and would prefer if this were not the case. For this reason this statement could easily be considered anti-war. In another place he is talking about the impact the war has on individual soldier, “Sad thoughts are apt to sneak up on the warrior in such locale, when he thinks of those who only recently led their lives in tranquility” 8 This also expresses an anti-war sentiment as he admits to the destruction of other people lives and the impact that it has on him as a soldier. There are many more examples in the book that they are definitely expressing anti-war sentiments. “The state, which relives us of our responsibility, cannot take away our remorse; and we must exercise it. Sorrow, regret, pursued me deep into my dreams.” 9 Even when he refers to an enemy, the British, he acknowledges the immorality of the war, “He was a tall fellow, very young, fresh faced, and with fair hair. What a shame to have to shoot at such people!, went through my head as I saw him.” 10 Finally, at the end of the book, he expresses feelings of disillusion and war weariness, At such moments, there crept over me a mood I hadn’t known before. A profound reorientation, a reaction to so much time spent so intensely, on the edge. The seasons followed one another, it was winter and then it was summer again, but it was still war. I felt I had got tired, and used to the aspect of war, but it was from this familiarity that I observed what was in front of me in a new and subdued light. Things were less dazzlingly distinct. And I felt that the purpose with which I had gone out to fight had been used up, and no longer held.
The war posed new, deeper puzzles. It was a strange time altogether 11 The above quotation from the book illustrates the end of the transformation of his stance towards the war. From the idealistic idea of duty, honor, sacrifice and glorification of war to dissolution, doubts, and war weariness, from pro-war to anti-war. This transformation is typical for soldiers and as a matter of fact for the civilian population of many countries that took part in the First World War. At the beginning of the war the populations of the countries involved were incensed by nationalistic propaganda, to feel that their countries are fighting for a righteous cause and they were ready to make great sacrifices. Over the time that changed when cruel reality of total war was experienced. This same process could be seen throughout the book and the narrative of “Storm of Steel” certainly reflects both the pro-war as well the anti-war
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Storm of Steel Paper. (2017, Apr 25). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/storm-of-steel-paper/