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A German Officer in Occupied Paris

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Thank you for the opportunity to read. I love reading about this period of history and the book didn’t let me down.  A riveting and rich read.
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Hardly riveting reading, it has to be admitted, but an important resource for WWII studies and an insight into the mind of this most complex man.
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“Who will stand by us after these spectacles have finished?”

It wasn’t easy to read Ernst Jünger’s A German Officer in Occupied Paris. There’s the entire: “they were the bad side” aspect of things of course, but my difficulties … no my discomfort … from reading this book came from a different source. More of that later.

The lengthy, informative introduction from Elliot Neaman offers a summary of Jünger’s life and views. Ernst Jünger fought in WWI and was wounded 14 times. Following WWI, he wrote Storm of Steel (which I’ve never read and probably wouldn’t like), and was “one of Germany’s foremost authors of the war generation.” When WWII arrived, Jünger, in his mid 40s, joined his old company,  and in 1941, he served as a military censor in Paris. Not only did he read the letters home written by German soldiers, but he read “French newspapers and other publications for signs of insubordination.”  While performing that job, Jünger kept a journal, and it’s a rather peculiar read.  The book contains two journals “from his tour of duty in Paris, his sojourn in the Caucasus, and his visits and then homecoming to the house in Kirchorts.”

A German Officer

As I read the Paris entries, the title of Richard Attenborough’s film “Oh What a Lovely War,” kept coming into my head. Yes I suppose someone had to serve in Paris, the lucky buggers, while others were on the Eastern Front.  Jünger’s office was in the Hotel Majestic and he socialized with “intellectuals and artists across the political spectrum.” Jünger carried on several affairs and waxes on about beauty. We read about his dreams and what he was reading. Where was the war?? It was all a bit horrifying, and yes I read about how he sympathized with various people and knew about the plot to kill Hitler, but honestly, the journal left a bad taste in my mouth. Not that I expected Jünger to bitch about Hitler (mention is made in the intro of how Jünger burned many personal papers), and Jünger seems too intelligent to be caught venting spleen on the pages of his diaries, and yet …. there’s something also repugnant here.

Like a God in France, Jünger operated on the edge of politics in Paris, rather like a butterfly fluttering among the resistors and collaborators. He didn’t trust the generals, who had taken a personal oath to Hitler, to be able to carry out a coup. Jean Cocteau later quipped: “Some people had dirty hands, some had clean hands, but Jünger had no hands.”

More than anything, the diary raised, for me at least, the question of moral culpability. Jünger “saw himself as part of the resistance to Hitler even though he believed that active opposition was pointless.” He refused many official posts under Hitler, and the intro goes into depth regarding Jünger’s involvement/knowledge of plots against Hitler.

I thought about The White Rose. Most of the members of White Rose were very young. Their courageous acts did not have the desired political results, so did they die for nothing? And yet when I read about Jünger, living in luxury, doing well and rubbing elbows with all sorts even as he did not approve of Hitler, well it sort of turned my stomach. At one point, Jünger references “charnel houses” and writes about “the monstrous atrocities perpetrated by the Security Service after entering Kiev. Trains were again mentioned that carried Jews into poison gas tunnels. Those are rumors, and I note them as such but extermination is certainly occurring on a huge scale.” And yet then Jünger immediately moves, bizarrely, into this WTF moment, denying individual mandate and responsibility, mourning how war has lost its  elegance and turned grubby.

I am overcome by a loathing for the uniforms, the epaulettes, the medals, the weapons, all the glamour I have loved so much. Ancient chivalry is dead; wars are waged by technicians. 

A new dark reality, a darker mood that can’t escape the scenes he faces, enters Jünger’s entries as he experiences life in Russia:

The deluge of sludge even penetrates the interiors of the buildings. In the morning, I was in a field hospital that rose from the center of a yellowish-brown morass. As I entered, the casket of a first lieutenant was being carried toward me.

Yesterday he succumbed to his sixth wound of the war. Back in Poland, he had sacrificed an eye.

The journals contain interesting sections, but Jünger’s self-censoring damages the read. If I read an eyewitness account from someone who lived through some horrific/incredible moment in history, I want details. But it’s impossible to tell what Jünger was really thinking, and so perhaps one tantalizing aspect of the book is psychological more than anything else. All this stuff is swirling around his life but we hear about the harmless social fluff for the most part. For example, he notes “In Charleville, I was a witness at a military tribunal. I used the opportunity to buy books, like novels by Gide and various works by Rimbaud.” I wanted to hear about the tribunal, but alas, it vanished into Jünger’s book buying.

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From the foreword, by Elliot Neaman:

"As the Nazis began their final ascent to power after winning 107 seats in the Reichstag in the elections of September 1930, Jünger distanced himself from the party. He simultaneously advocated his own political vision, which in some ways was a more radical version of the nationalist revolution: authoritarian and ruthless, but not racist. Despite Goebbels’s attempt to win him over to the Brown Revolution before and even after 1933, Jünger steadfastly declined any offers to become involved in Nazi politics and forbade the propaganda minister from using any of his works without permission. Although Goebbels transmitted the Führer’s avid wish to meet him, Jünger did not reciprocate. Apart from one unfortunate essay on “Jews and the National Question,” in which he stressed the impossibility of Jews and Germans sharing the same national culture, he resisted the Nazi “Blood and Soil” ideology.

"Jünger operated on the edge of politics in Paris, rather like a butterfly fluttering among both resistors and collaborators. He didn’t trust the generals, who had taken a personal oath to Hitler, to be able to carry out a coup. Jean Cocteau later quipped: “Some people had dirty hands, some had clean hands, but Jünger had no hands.

"Cocteau’s witticism notwithstanding, the accusation was not entirely fair. When Jünger saw an opportunity to help save Jews at an acceptable level of risk, he did act. He passed on information, for example, through intermediaries to the French Resistance about upcoming transports and thus saved Jewish lives. The German playwright and novelist Joseph Breitbach, who lived in Paris from 1931 through the end of the occupation, was one of them. He publicized this fact after the war."

"To his credit, he never attempted to justify or explain away the Holocaust, even though the brutality of the eastern front did not affect Jews alone. But he did place these “wicked crimes” in a cosmic context that deprived individual actors of agency “Ancient chivalry is dead; wars are waged by technicians,” he wrote. Two years to the day after the commencement of Operation Barbarossa, he observed with bitterness that demagogues brought Germany into a war with the Soviets that could have been avoided, leading to atrocities against the Jews, which “enrage the cosmos against us.” At the end of 1942, he made three New Year’s resolutions, the second of which reads, “Always have a care for unfortunate people.”

That's from the foreword. I approached this book with the same level of doubt I had before starting to read Rudolf Höss' "Commandant of Auschwitz", which contained a foreword written by Primo Levi, who warned against lies and shirks.

What I found in this book is a highly nuanced, albeit self-made, picture of a human being in the middle of World War II, who is a devout fascist, yet who apparently seems to care for other human beings, regardless of their so-called social strata or race. Having said that, I found some of the contents repugnant as Jünger, a devout entomologist, easily writes about finding a new insect while fires are burning all around Paris in 1943.

Still, that does not take away from how singular this book is to me. It is clear that Jünger has a sober, massive mind, that stretches far from biology and more into philosophy, moralism, and books.

"Subject for study: the ways propaganda turns into terror. The beginnings in particular contained much that people are going to forget. That is when power walks on cats’ paws, subtle and cunning."

He writes as easily of the contents of his dreams, as he does of carefully constructed mass murder, becoming the Holocaust.

"[...] the firing squad has followed a signal from the first lieutenant and has taken up their positions standing behind the clergyman, who still blocks the condemned man. He now steps back after running his hand down the prisoner’s side once more. The commands follow, and with them I again awaken into consciousness. I want to look away, but I force myself to watch. I catch the moment when the salvo produces five little dark holes in the cardboard, as though drops of dew had landed upon it. Their target is still standing against the tree; his expression shows extraordinary surprise. I see his mouth opening and closing as if he wanted to form vowels and express something with great effort. This situation has something confusing about it, and again time seems attenuated. It also seems that the man is now becoming menacing. Finally, his knees give out. The ropes are loosened and now at last the pallor of death quickly comes over his face, as if a bucket of whitewash had been poured over it. The doctor rushes up and reports, “The man is dead.” One of the two guards unlocks the handcuffs and wipes the glistening metal clean of blood with a cloth. The corpse is placed in the coffin. It looks as if the little fly were playing around him in a beam of sunlight."

"At the table, I joked around with a beautiful three-year-old child I had grown fond of. Thought: that was one of your own children, unbegotten and unborn."

"In addition, a letter from Wolfgang, who—the third of us four brothers— has been called up. As a corporal, he has been put in charge of a prison camp in Züllichau. The prisoners will be in good hands there. He writes this curiosity: “Yesterday I was sent on official business to Sorau in the Lausitz [area], where I had to deliver a prisoner to the field hospital. While there, I also had to pay a visit to the asylum. There I encountered a woman whose only tic consisted of continuously murmuring ‘Heil Hitler.’ At least it’s a fitting, topical form of insanity.”

Sometimes, as with the above quote, it seems that Jünger mocks the Nazi regime, as they are quite simply anti-intellectual at their core.

"Paris, 6 June 1942
During World War I, we confronted the question of whether man was more powerful than machines. In the meantime, things have gotten more complex. We are now concerned with the problem of whether humans or automatons will dominate the earth. The issue brings up further divisions beyond the imprecise ones that partition the world into nations and groups of nations. All around us men stand fully armed at their battle stations. The result is that we never completely agree intellectually with any partner; there is only greater or lesser rapprochement. Above all, we must fight against that tendency within our breast to harden, calcify, ossify. Concerning marionettes and automatons—the decline in that direction is preceded by loss. This hardening is well depicted in the folktale about the glass heart. The vice that has become commonplace leads to automatism, as it did so terribly in the case of the old prostitutes who became pure sex machines. Something similar is emanating from the stingy old men. They have sold their souls to material things and a life of metal. Sometimes a particular decision precedes the transition; man rejects his salvation. A widespread vice must be the basis for the general transition to automatism and its threat to us. It would be the task of the theologians to explain this to us, but they are silent. What an image of a superman, cowering on the tattered cushions in his carriage with a bullet in his spleen and horsehair stanching his wounds. Such news burns through the hell he has created like a lugubrious, celebratory bonfire. Anyone who would assume the role of the despot has to be invulnerable and insensitive to pain, or else he becomes a burden in the hour of his destruction."

Some well-needed and crass humanity springs out at times:

"The unfortunate pharmacist on the corner: his wife has been deported. Such benign individuals would not think of defending themselves, except with reasons. Even when they kill themselves, they are not choosing the lot of the free who have retreated into their last bastions, rather they seek the night as frightened children seek their mothers. It is appalling how blind even young people have become to the sufferings of the vulnerable; they have simply lost any feeling for it. They have become too weak for the chivalrous life. They have even lost the simple decency that prevents us from injuring the weak. The opposite is true: they take pride in it."

Then, there's muck like this:

"Sodomy is probably more prevalent in the countryside than in the city. Incidentally, that which we view as aberrant can definitely be associated with a more profound view of the world. The reason for this is precisely that this view is less subject to the pressure, the veil of our species. This is generally observable among homosexuals, who judge by intellect. They are, therefore, always useful to intellectuals, quite apart from the fact that they are entertaining to have around."

This is a diary, and truly, who are we to judge? We, working for companies that may bring about the destruction of humanity far faster than the Nazis possibly could have.

Still, together with books such as Laurence Rees' "The Holocaust" and Sergey Yarov's "Leningrad 1941-42: Morality in a City Under Siege", we can better ourselves and at the very least try to understand these hurdles and ourselves, and modify our worlds for the better.
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I always find it interesting to see other's perspectives especially during times of war. While I found this book interesting at time i also struggled with it. There were mundane parts where I found myself losing concentration. But I do think any true history buff would enjoy this.
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I saw this book in NetGalley and jumped at it being an avid reader of military history. I expected it to be an interesting account of the Second World War as seen through the eyes of a German Officer. I thought it would have stirring accounts of pitched battles, and stories of intrigue, bravery and sacrifice, although as seen from the perspective of the Germans ( read: Nazis). I could not have been more off the mark. The wrong expectation was because I had, at that time, no idea who Ernst Junger was.

It turns out that he had fought in the First World War with distinction and his book, “Storm of Steel” still remains one of the best accounts of the bloody battles in the trenches from 1914-1918. Later it appears he did not join the Nazis though they appealed to him many times to join their emerging organisation. He remained aloof from the Nazis and it would appear that in later years, he did indeed privately wage war against them although he was on the outer fringes of the plot to assassinate Hitler.

Junger was a man of many talents which is clear from his book, the full title of which is, ” A German Officer in Occupied Paris: The War Journals 1941-1945: (European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism.”

When the Second World War began, Junger was already in his 40s. In 1941, we find him happily living in Paris, for the most part as if there wasn’t a war going on. He continues dining with high ranking military officials, artists, social figures of the day, writers, dramatists and the like, visits the opera and night clubs and come to love the city. It is far away from the death and blood shed all around him. He finds time to write about his explorations in his other passions: for botany and entymology.

Of course, later he is posted to Russia where a worse war is raging against the Communists battling to their last man to save their Motherland from the invading Nazis. Here too, he seems to be cocooned from the worst parts of the fighting. In the third part of the book, he returns to Germany which is fast becoming surrounded by her enemies, racing against each other to conquer Berlin and end the war which has lasted six long years killing millions on both sides. For the first time, he sees how much damage bombing can cause to a country. The peaceful villages he knew are all gone, the cities are fast falling apart.

If you have the patience to wade through masses of words, you might like the book. I did not find it gripping at all. It moved at a snail’s pace, meandering all the time wherever the author’s mind took it.He hardly caused any event. He sat back and watched them happen around him faithfully recording his thoughts and views. It is, one must admit, a very detailed account of Junger’s experiences and more importantly his observations of events that took place around him. He gives his observations of life around him in considerable, perhaps far too much, detail.
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I've always had an interest in World War II mostly because you have to wonder what kind of state did the world have to be in to go into a World War not once but twice in the period of 50 years. Also, I wonder, what kind of state of mind did cultures have that permitted such atrocities to occur....and do they survive it? 
Ernst Jünger's life is especially fascinating because he fought in both World Wars and wrote extensively about it. The known and most popular works of the writing he did is, yes, a bit controversial due to the fact that he was on the "losing" side of things but also because he, to some, seemed to glamourize it. But here in the words of his journal you are able to get to know the man behind some of the most iconic writing. His writing is almost casual at some times, and heart-wrenching at others, you see him write about how he wrestles with some men in his attempt to do the right thing and avoid pointless brutality, and you see him come to terms with the death of his father, the death of his colleagues, and the death of his son. He writes vividly about his days and the dreams he has and also writes blandly about others. It is his journal and it is expected that it should be a bit of both. But, personally, the thing I found most interesting was about some of the horrors he writes about and also the death of his son. It was almost therapeutic for me because I have experienced both and it was very, dare I say, refreshing (?) to get inside of the head of someone else who saw and was coping with continuing living with these experiences. 
I would not expect any reader to go into this book thinking that it will be riveting from front to back. Instead, this journal reads and mirrors much like the journey of life: it can be slow paced at times, have bits of joy contained, move quickly through other parts, it can be shocking at others, grief-strickening and devastating through most of it, and sometimes peaceful at others. 
The journal itself is its own kind of journey. And if you're interested in the content and know a bit about Ernst, it is a journey I would recommend you take.
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Junger was a well-known German author and officer during World War II who "met intellectuals and artists across the political spectrum" while living in occupied Paris. As such, he can be considered part of a Franco-German dialogue, if not "alliance." I personally was interested in this book because I wanted to know the atmosphere of Paris under German domination. Apparently "Junger frequented the Thursday salon of Paris editor for Harper's Bazaar, Marie Louise Bousquet," wife of the playwright Jacques Bousquet. Pablo Picasso and Aldous Huxley also attended those meetings. I am just getting into the book and realizing that nothing is black and white--life is always varying shades of gray. Junger, for instance, judged the brutality of fascist sympathizer Ferdinand Celine's vicious character harshly. It is amazing to see who dallied at these "salons." In visiting the George V hotel, he would have been conversing with Cocteau and the publisher Gaston Gallimard. This may help you keep reading: "When Junger saw an opportunity to help save Jews at an acceptable level of risk, he did act." His help proves he had a conscience despite Cocteau's comment that he had no hands.  I think it is wonderful of Columbia University Press to publish Junger's journal. It will help scores of researching writers and anyone interested in what German officers were doing while in  Nazi-controlled Paris. #NetGalley #ColumbiaUniversityPress (less)
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#AGermanOfficerInOccupiedParis #NetGalley

The promotional material for “the war journals” describes Ernst Jünger as “one of twentieth-century Germany’s most important—and most controversial—writers.” Some aren’t attracted to Jünger for his literary talents. Jünger has found a receptive audience among young people, including some dubious readers whose names on web sites are in Fraktur typeface for reasons you could guess. Several young fans of Jünger view the author as a “badass” (a comment on Reddit), partly for the number of his war wounds, which exceed most of the warriors in “Game of Thrones,” partly for his youthful participation in the Foreign Legion, and partly because Jünger was friends with the father of LSD, Albert Hoffmann. One can also find delusional fans of Jünger on web sites such as, who proclaim that the post-WWII Jünger was, to them, admirably “apolitical.” Jünger is apolitical in the same sense that Van Gogh’s most famous paintings are achromatic.

It’s possible to make your way through this collection and have a grand ole time, enjoying the moments when Jünger encounters celebrities like Picasso, or when Monet’s daughter-in-law gives him the key to the gardens at Giverny for his own private tour, or when he describes another gourmet meal with the well-heeled of Parisian society: “The salad was served on silver, the ice cream on a heavy gold service that had belonged to Sarah Bernhardt.” Jünger relishes his name-dropping and his contacts with the upper crust. He sees himself as one of the Übermenschen: “In this country the superior man lives like Odysseus, taunted by worthless usurpers in his own palace.”

While looking down on others, Jünger is aware that lesser people can occasionally be of use. For instance, on 3 June 1942, he writes: “You talk to these simple people the way you talk to children, without creating any subtle disparity between words and their meanings. In times like these, it is desirable to keep a small coterie of such people. There are situations in which they can be more helpful than the rich and powerful.” The “apolitical” Jünger is not above Realpolitik.

The notebooks in this translation extend from 1941 until the Allied invasion reaches Jünger’s doorstep in the Hannover region of Germany in the first half of 1945. Many scholars regard Jünger’s notebooks as the foundation for his reputation as a writer, though readers need to be cautioned that these notebooks are not like diary entries or journals in the usual sense. As Elliot Neaman, a leading Anglophone scholar on Jünger’s works and the author of the introduction to this translation, writes, “Jünger’s journals represented a departure from the conventional form of the diary genre. Instead of offering the reader unadulterated glimpses into the everyday activities and reflections of the author, Jünger used his private experiences [and dreams] as raw material for creating polished literary accounts in the guise of everyday observations.” Other scholars use stronger language, such as that Jünger “sanitized” his notebooks to put himself in a better light politically. However, Neaman’s use of “guise” is telling, for Jünger, along with his heroes Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger, practiced esotericism. Given that his main role during the writing of these notebooks was as a censor, Jünger would be familiar with the tools for hiding one’s thoughts in writing, and for constructing a deliberate exoteric persona. Imagine that every sentence in the notebooks has been assessed for its contribution to a legacy, something not difficult to imagine with an author steeped in death, both by war and by intellectual inclination. Below are a few samples of Jünger’s dance with death:

    5 Nov 1941 – Jünger quotes one of his prime sources for living, Nietzsche: “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.” Jünger supplements immediately with his own line: “And what kills me makes me incredibly strong.”
    28 Jan 1942 – “The mail included a letter from Schlichter containing nine drawings for One Thousand and One Nights. An image of the City of Bronze is wonderfully successful—full of mourning for death and glory.”
    19 July 1942 – “Life lies in death like a small green island in the dark ocean. To fathom this – even at the edges and tidal zones – means real knowledge, compared to which physics and technology are mere trifles.”
    14 Oct 1942 – “We have to revert to the absolute, and this possibility is offered to us by death.”
    3 June 1943 – “There is only one maxim, namely that we must befriend death.”

The preoccupation with death is not meant to be the author’s alone. Jünger’s beliefs about death are meant to have consequences for others, including you and me. Some may have to die to allow others to have “new growth”: “We send out different, more spiritual organs, aerial roots, into the void – naturally at the expense of individual lives. All of us benefit from this new growth.” Readers should not underestimate Jünger’s wish to fashion a specific future based on his death-centric Weltanschauung. Following Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, Jünger accepts that sacrifices are necessary to breed the higher man. As confirmation of the point, consider this portion from his entry on 18 May 1942: “It is certain that only such characters who understand the fundamentals of power on which the world is based, and are dictated to ‘from above,’ are capable of confronting the horrible popular revolution that is destroying the world.”

As one of the “characters who understand,” Jünger grounds his view in racist thinking, such as this entry from 16 Aug 1942: “Add to this the frequently noted superiority of the Norman genetic material, which is more favorable for the creation of a leader class than the common Germanic stock.” The member of the leader class who is the author of these notebooks and “one destined to rule” lives a privileged life given the circumstances surrounding him. For one moment in 1942, he writes down recognition of that fact: “Never for a moment may I forget that I am surrounded by unfortunate people who endure the greatest suffering.”

The suffering follows Jünger. The translated notebooks include not just items from Jünger’s time in Paris. As a captain in the German Army, he has duties elsewhere. He travels to the eastern front, at first to complain that what is supposed to be a first-rate hotel in Russia does not have running water. While visiting that front, he hears the tales of desperation on both sides, including cannibalism. Jünger’s notebooks contain reports of what happens with his family back in Germany. He takes leave there, traveling to Berlin to consider how to help his son Ernstel, who had been imprisoned after a spy charged that Ernstel had said that if the Germans wanted peace, they would have to hang Hitler. Ernstel denied the charge. He spent a few months in prison, and then was released on condition of “voluntary” service in northern Italy, where he was eventually killed in battle. Jünger travels back to Paris to be on hand when the Allies invade France, and the conditions in the city worsen as food shortages increase and Allied bombings begin.

The appearance of this translation of Jünger’s notebooks coincides with an English-language flurry of Jünger publications, including the recent republication of Jünger’s most famous book, The Worker, accompanied by glowing blurbs from scholars who are part of the contemporary Heidegger crowd. Jünger admired Heidegger and corresponded with Heidegger frequently. Volume 90 (2004) of Heidegger’s official Collected Works is devoted to Jünger, mainly to Heidegger’s notes and writings during the 1930s and 40s about The Worker. Even though Heidegger did not consider Jünger a “thinker,” Heidegger found plenty of fascoid affinities in Jünger’s writings.

To head off a wholesale celebration of Jünger, it seems important to remember the lessons laid out by Walter Benjamin in 1930 in his review of a collection essays about the World War of 1914-18 edited by Jünger entitled War and Warrior. Benjamin possesses a keen ear for the questionable principles asserted by Jünger and his friends. Benjamin writes: “For him and his friends it is not so much some doctrinaire schema that lies behind this [adopting a principle of pacifism] as it is a deep-rooted and – by all standards of male thought – a really depraved mysticism.” That depraved mysticism continues in these notebooks through Jünger’s fondness for horoscopes, symbolism, mythology, prophecies, and magic. The author himself gets lost in the fog of mysticism and confesses that in an entry labeled 26 Aug 1942: “At times I have difficulty distinguishing between my conscious and unconscious existence. I mean between that part of my life that has been knit together by dreams and the other.” One of Benjamin’s key criticisms in “Theories of German Fascism,” his analysis of War and Warrior, has to do with how out of touch with reality the contributors are. The contributors lapse into “thoughtless obtuseness.” Unfortunately, Benjamin’s assessment was not the nail in the coffin for Jünger, his friends and admirees (e.g., Nietzsche and Heidegger), the White Walkers who happen to be real, and whose agenda is anything but “apolitical.”
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I really struggled with this boom. It may be really great for others,but it wasn't for me. I figure I would have my kindle read to me maybe making it more interesting,and sorry to say no!! I'm sure this person is a wonderful writer but the story not my cup of tea. I have read a lot of Nazi stories but sorry to say I was bored.🐨
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Thank you NetGalley and author for an ARC. This book was amazing. I would recommend this book. It has a wealth of great information.
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A collection of Jungers journals, the book is an excellent resource for historical research.  As an entertaining read, it is a bore.  The foreword and endnotes were very helpful in understanding the fullness of the book though.  They are indispensable.
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A German Officer in Occupied Paris by Ernest Junger, is not a optimistic or hopeful book about humanity despite all the wonderful art and philosophy.. The subject matter is very dark and will not leave you untouched by what he has to say. However I highly suggest anyone who wants to understand the war and what brilliance German intellectual culture was before the war to read this book. It is a classic by one of the foremost intellectuals in Europe, but it presents a moral challenge that no one will find easy to come to terms with.

Germany between the 30 Years War (1618-1648) and the Second World War (1939-1945) had the ideal and mythos of being a land of Poets and Philosophers (das Land der Dichter und Denker). This tradition never went away but it was diminished in the shadow of the horrific and brutal Nazi regime that lasted twelve years and made the world unrecognizable with brutalities that rival or exceed the worst that history has to offer. That regime and its brutal love of death conjured into existence a world very different from what came before, and has made our cultural understanding of Germany distorted. 

This book will help you see how that transition and eclipse came from the depths of hell with atrocities that can never be forgotten. It does this by being the journals of one of the most erudite, philosophical and astute thinkers and cultural commentators in German that you will ever read. Ernest Junger describes his life as an officer in Occupied Paris who was transferred to the Russian front before being transferred back to Paris. 

Here the devastation is laid bare, you can't deny the holocaust and war of extermination that was the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Junger gives full account of what happens. However in all of this mass homicidal madness Junger somehow floats above this. He is a man of high culture, sensibilities and taste who has his days filled with thoughts of high art and philosophy and his nights full of nightmares where the moral judgment is all too clear. Junger survives with his sanity by knowing full well to stop thinking of the high ideals of life, art and the moral certainties of religious faith is fatal. To dwell too precisely on what is happening he would succumb in a moment; broken by the devastation moral and physical all around him. 

As the artist Coteau said of Junger, "some hands were dirty with atrocities, some had clean hands, but Junger had no hands at all". One is reminded of Dante's Divine Comedy (Inferno Canto III):

"Of Angels, who have not rebellious been,
Nor faithful were to God, but were for self.
 The heavens expelled them, but hell will not take them.
Even the damn souls in hell glory over them"
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This was a difficult book to get involved in. Very detailed in his childhood, and young adult life. I kept losing concentration and head to re-read paragraphs.
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Ernst Jünger - A German Officer In Occupied Paris
I have recently read a number of books by writers addressing the difficult situation faced by fictional ‘good Germans’ striving to do their job and, at times, even exist in Nazi Germany and thereafter. I therefore came to this actual document of such times with some anticipation.
Unfortunately I have struggled with both the content and form. There are caveats set out in the introduction regarding the distance of the writer from the actuality of events taking place – the discipline of a military man.
Whilst that may be a factor, and the author will have been conscious of the tenor of what was being written,  I have to admit that he does himself no favours by effectively recording a life quite separate from that being endured by others. I am not alone in taking this view, albeit from an earlier and quite different perspective :
“The mail included an almost illegible letter from Tronier Funder, who, it seems, had to leave Berlin in a hurry. There was also a review of Gardens and Streets by Adolf Saager from the journal Büchereiblatt [Library Journal] from 19 July 1943. In his piece I read, among other things: “The naïveté of this anti-rationalist writer proves itself to be advantageous during the reality of a military campaign. To be sure, he conducts himself correctly, even humanely, but despite his delicacy of feeling, he gets chummy with all sorts of Frenchmen, as if nothing had happened.”
Whilst too there are intimations of an anti-Hitler bent this does not seem to take any really tangible form. A comment on others ironically also seems to apply to Jünger himself :
“On the train, conversation with two captains who offered the opinion that this year (Hitler) was going to attack using new methods, probably gas. They did not exactly seem to condone this, but restricted themselves to that moral passivity typical of modern man.”
The book though gets over some of the horrors of the Allied bombing campaign with, for example, descriptions of the quite horrific effects of phosphorus bombs and the grossly inadequate and dangerous bomb shelters available to civilians. Hearing the author recount inbound bomber warnings from the local radio station was sobering.
The writer can shift from game-changing events like the D-Day landings or the retreat from Paris in an instant to consideration of some entomological or etymological point. Worse, much of the text is taken up with the dreams the author has had. It is a continuing question as to whether these are meant as parables or just an exploration of the human mind.
It would have been interesting to have had “A German Officer In Occupied Paris 2.0” crafted with the aid of a good editor but alas that is obviously not possible.
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