A German Officer in Occupied Paris
The War Journals, 1941-1945
by Ernst Jünger
Pub Date 18 Dec 2018
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Ernst Jünger was one of twentieth-century Germany’s most important—and most controversial—writers. Decorated for bravery in World War I and the author of the acclaimed memoir from the western front, Storm of Steel, he frankly depicted the war’s horrors even as he extolled its glories. As a Wehrmacht captain during the Second World War, Jünger faithfully kept a journal in occupied Paris and continued to write on the eastern front and in Germany until its defeat—writings that are of major historical and literary significance.
Jünger’s Paris journals document his Francophile excitement, romantic affairs, and fascination with botany and entomology, alongside mystical and religious ruminations and trenchant observations on the occupation and the politics of collaboration. Working as a mail censor, he led the privileged life of an officer, encountering artists such as Céline, Cocteau, Braque, and Picasso. His notes from the Caucasus depict chaos and misery after the defeat at Stalingrad, as well as candid comments about the atrocities on the eastern front. Returning to Paris, Jünger observed resistance and was peripherally involved in the 1944 conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. After fleeing France, he reunited with his family as Germany’s capitulation approached. Both participant and commentator, close to the horrors of history but often hovering above them, Jünger turned his life and experiences into a work of art. These wartime journals appear here in English for the first time, giving us fresh insight into the quandaries of the twentieth century from the keen pen of a paradoxical observer.
Ernst Jünger (1895–1998) was a major figure in twentieth-century German literature and intellectual life. He was a young leader of right-wing nationalism in the Weimar Republic, but although the Nazis tried to court him, Jünger steadfastly kept his distance from their politics. Among his works is On the Marble Cliffs, a rare anti-Nazi novel written under the Third Reich.